Understand Staff Personas to Improve Productivity

C. Lee Smith, CEO of Salesfuel

In today's marketplace, a good salesperson can find a new manager more easily than a manager can find a good salesperson. Gone are the days when a sales manager could just develop a management style and demand their reports adapt – “or else.”

In fact, the best management style is often no style at all. Just as sales has become more consultative or customer-centric, sales management must become more individualized or employee-centric. We are entering the era of what I call consultative management.

In sales, the highest performers know and understand the unique persona of the buyer – what they like, what they don’t like, how they like to receive information, how they like to share information and what motivates them. Once a salesperson determines this, it’s much easier to establish a connection, adapt their storytelling to the buyer and play a more consultative or advisory role.

It’s just as critical for the sales manager to know and understand the persona of his/her direct reports. How can you motivate your protégés to get what they want from their job if you don’t know what they want? This kind of discovery empowers the manager to adapt how they train, coach and give direction to each rep in a manner that cuts through all the noise.

While every individual is different, data tells us that there are only 15 common behavioral personas found in the modern workplace. This kind of profiling is by no means a new concept. Hippocrates was reported to have studied how humans fell into a handful of behavioral patterns as early as 400 B.C.

What is new is what a sales manager can, and needs to, do with this information. Below are three example personas. For information on all 15 personas, click here.

The Influencer is a typical persona for account managers or outside salespeople. Influencers enjoy working with others. They are viewed as friendly, even as they seek to accomplish their personal goals. They often gain the respect and support of others. They aspire to positions of authority and it is important that they look good to others. They like variety in their day. Managers need to watch out for the likelihood they can be too optimistic and tend to believe they can influence others more than they actually can. Progress toward sales goals can often be viewed through rose-colored glasses – they truly believe it and will try to make you believe it too. Influencers often need analytical support to offset their tendency to proceed without all the facts.

The Networker is a common persona for the sales development rep (SDR) or business development specialist. Networkers are optimistic, outgoing and social. Imagine them working a room or a bar stirring up leads. They promote with enthusiasm and draw on their contacts to help them achieve their goals. They are quite optimistic. Managers need to be mindful that Networkers may not consider the negative consequences of gut decisions. They may not drill deep enough because they fear asking the wrong question might hurt their budding friendships, which can lead to misjudging others. They can also be prone to over-selling.

The Driver is the persona you’re likely to see from sales managers. Drivers display strong self-confidence that may be viewed as arrogance. They will pursue options that challenge them to achieve goals. They truly are driven to get things done. They like difficult tasks, unique opportunities and seek positions of authority. Upper management should watch for Drivers being too critical, overstepping bounds or exhibiting a lack of sensitivity. To Drivers, rules can be viewed as loose guidelines. They can become impatient and critical with more methodical and analytical people. In the extreme, they can appear abrasive to others.

Use Assessments

The good news is it’s actually easier for the manager to assess the persona of an employee than it is for a sales rep to determine the persona of a buyer. The employee’s persona is best determined by a scientific assessment like DISC or Myers-Briggs. Not every company uses assessments – and many of those that do only use them for candidate screening. Then, once the candidate is hired, the assessment is often just shredded or filed away, never to be seen or used by the new employee’s direct supervisor. Such a wasted opportunity!

Granted, the manager needs to be able to read the assessment and understand what it reveals – and what it doesn’t. For this, you’ll need a talent development platform, a behavioral analyst or an executive coach certified in reading assessments. But that’s a small price to pay for better communication, developing reps for success and retaining them longer.

Understanding your employee’s persona is just the first step in uncovering the hidden secrets to developing their full potential. You also need to know what motivates them, how they make decisions, how they learn and how they might conflict with other personas on your team.

Sales are often won or lost in the discovery stage. The same is true for sales management.

C. Lee Smith is the CEO of SalesFuel, a company that leverages data on prospects and employees to help sales teams close more deals, develop talent and increase revenue. Lee’s team recently introduced TeamKeeper, a data-driven talent retention tool.