There's a widespread belief among many sales leaders and within their respective sales organizations that tall salespeople have an advantage and consequently sell more. Therefore, when selecting between candidates for a sales position there is a natural tendency to hire the taller person. But, is it true that taller salespeople perform better than their shorter counterparts? I recently conducted a study of over five-hundred sales professionals across the United States who shared thoughts about their height in relation to their sales performance to answer this question. This study was part of a much larger research project on the Personas of Top Salespeople.
Study participants were grouped into three separate categories based upon their self-reported height. The “tall” category included salesmen six foot two and over and saleswomen five foot nine and above. The “average” height category was composed of salesmen five foot ten to six foot one along with saleswomen five foot six to five foot eight inches tall. The “short” category included men five foot nine and under and women five foot five and under. Twenty percent of salesmen were categorized as tall, 70 percent as average height, and 10 percent as short height. Eighteen percent of women were categorized as tall, 50 percent as average height, and 32 percent as short height.
The Salesperson’s Ideal Height
The study participants were first asked what they believe is the ideal height for a salesperson of the same gender. The most frequently mentioned answer for salesmen was six feet with slightly more than one out of three respondents selecting this height. This was nearly three times the second-most mentioned answers of five foot ten and six foot one. Overall, eighty-two percent believe the ideal salesman’s height is between the range of five foot ten and six foot two inches.
The most frequently mentioned ideal height by saleswomen was spread out more evenly. Five foot five, five foot six, and five foot seven inches were each selected by about one out of five saleswomen. Furthermore, 92 percent believe the ideal saleswoman’s height is between five foot four and five foot eight inches tall.
Perception of Height and Sales Performance
The participants were then asked if the ideal salesperson height they gave was exactly the same, taller than, or shorter than their own height. Over half of the salesmen selected “exactly my height” while just under half of the saleswomen selected “taller than me.” About one out of ten salesmen and saleswomen indicated the ideal height was shorter than they are. Meaning, they consider themselves to be taller than normal.
Most interestingly, saleswomen who answered “shorter than me” averaged 114% of their previous year’s annual quota, compared to 88 percent who answered “taller than me” and 89 percent who answered “exactly my height.” It could be inferred from this statistic that these self-described taller women outperform their shorter counterparts. For salesmen however, the previous year’s quota performance was nearly identical across all three responses suggesting there isn’t any correlation.
Annual Quota Attainment by Height
A more definitive pattern emerges for salesmen when previous year’s quota performance is analyzed further. The average previous year’s quota performance for tall salesmen was 105 percent, average height was 102 percent, and short was 98 percent.
Another important metric is the percentage of salesmen that met or exceeded their annual quota. Fifty-seven percent of tall salesmen achieved their annual quota compared to 54 percent of average height and 55 percent of short salesmen. Both of these measurements indicate there is a relationship between height and sales performance for salesmen.
The results don’t show such a clearly defined relationship between height and performance for saleswomen. For example, the previous year’s quota attainment average for tall saleswomen was 98 percent, average height was 93 percent, and short saleswomen 96 percent. Furthermore, when saleswomen were asked to estimate their average quota achievement over the course of their career, short saleswomen had the highest average of 82 percent. For tall and average height saleswomen it was exactly the same at 77 percent.
Some companies go out of their way to hire tall salespeople. The implied belief is that taller salespeople have a competitive advantage, which results in more revenue. Could this be true? While there is no way to know with absolute certainty, different sets of data suggest it is actually true for salesmen and may be true for saleswomen (because women wear high-heeled shoes their results are subject to interpretation as well).
Finally, there is another interesting measurement that should also be considered when discussing the topic of height from the salesperson’s perspective. When asked to rate their overall career on a grading scale from A to F, 50 percent of short salesmen graded their careers as an A compared to 42 percent for both tall and average salesmen. Sixty percent of short and tall saleswomen graded their careers as an A compared to 52 percent for average height saleswomen. The high percentage of A career rankings confirm what sales professionals already know. Sales is a truly great career choice regardless of your height.
A special thank you to Velocify for sponsoring this research project. Velocify sales team management software helps sales teams keep pace with the speed of opportunity and increase revenue by driving rapid lead response, increased selling discipline, improved productivity, and actionable selling insights.
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