It’s the question that keeps sales leaders up at night: what are the best personality traits for B2B sales jobs? Lucky for them (and us), research provides us with some clues.

Here’s what the data tell us are the 5 best personality traits for B2B sales jobs.

Keep this handy infographic nearby!5-best-personality-traits-b2b-sales

1. Adaptability


Adaptive selling is the ability of a salesperson to use his or her knowledge of selling situations, customer types, and selling strategies to tailor their message to each buyer’s unique needs and preferences. These adaptations may include:

  • differences in a salesperson’s reactions to comments
  • differences in a salesperson’s answers to questions
  • changes in a salesperson’s body language

Research by Professors Franke and Park found that adaptive selling is correlated with:

  • supervisor ratings of sales performance
  • objective sales performance
  • job satisfaction

2. Learning drive


A salesperson’s learning drive is his or her intrinsic interest in their job characterized by:

  • a preference for overcoming selling challenges
  • an eagerness to master selling skills

Research by Sujan and colleagues found that being high in learning drive motivated salespeople to work smart (e.g., plan strategies and develop knowledge about sales situations) and to work hard (i.e., increase their levels of effort and persistence).

3. Achievement drive


A salesperson’s achievement drive is their tendency to work hard, persevere during obstacles, and achieve superior sales performance.

Professors Vinchur and colleagues found that salespeople’s achievement drive correlates:

  • .25 with supervisor ratings of sales performance
  • .41 with objective sales performance

In comparison, Professors Franke and Park found that years of sales experience correlate:

  • .21 with supervisor ratings of sales performance
  • .26 with objective sales performance

4. Empathy

Empathy is considered to be central trait of emotional intelligence. An empathetic salesperson is able to take his or her buyer’s perspective. This ability to “walk in someone else’s shoes” requires the ability to accurately perceive, express, and manage your own and other people’s emotions.

Empathy has been found to be correlated with:

  • sales revenue
  • salary

5. Competitiveness


Salespeople’s competitiveness consists of three main tendencies:

  • Personal victory: winning for victory’s sake
  • Enjoyment of competition: taking pleasure in the positive emotions of competition
  • Conflict: taking risks and entering into situations that could result in either victory or defeat

Research by Valenti on salespeople’s competitiveness found something interesting: salespeople who are very competitive and salespeople who are not competitive outsold salespeople who are moderately competitive.

Valenti speculates that this may be because competition acts as either motivation or distraction.

The takeaway

There is no silver bullet for selling success, but if you’re a salesperson who’s adaptive, empathetic, competitive, and is driven by your love of learning and achievement, then you’re probably a great fit for a B2B sales job.

Are you looking for a sales job? Use Ideal Candidate and let the employers come to you. Find your match and make more money. Sign up now!

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices and data-based HR. She writes about trends and research in talent acquisition, people analytics, and workplace diversity.
Ji-A Min