This Steve W. Martin Sales Research Article Originally Appeared in the Harvard Business Review
I recently conducted a fascinating research project to determine how geographic location impacts a salesperson’s selling style. The study group was segmented into four geographic regions resembling a typical sales organization as shown below.
The study results show there are regional differences of work fixation. Salespeople were asked what percentage of time they find themselves thinking about work on nights and weekends. The average for the West region was 57 percent; South, 49 percent; Northeast, 45 percent; and Midwest, 44 percent. This order also matches the previous year’s annual quota attainment average for each region from highest to lowest, suggesting there is an association.
Are there regional differences as to why study participants pursued a sales career? Midwest reps seek control, Northeast reps aren’t afraid of hard work, and a career in sales was more likely to happen by circumstance for salespeople in the South.
A salesperson’s personality will impact his or her selling style. One aspect of personality is whether someone is more likely to be a short-term practical planner, someone who dreams about the future, or a happy-go-lucky person.
At the foundation of all sales is a relationship between people. But the study results indicate there are regional influences in the type of relationship salespeople develop with customers.
Customer Interaction Strategy
Just as a doctor must sometimes prescribe a painful treatment to heal a patient, in some sales situations, salespeople must control prospective customers to help them. Conversely, at other accounts salespeople must align with the customers’ business strategy and follow their decision-making process explicitly. The concept of “situational dominance” is a personal communication strategy and selling style by which the customer accepts the salesperson’s recommendations and follows his or her advice.
Deal Pursuit Risk
Deal pursuit risk can be defined as a salesperson’s natural propensity to work on certain size deals that is commensurate to his or her appetite for risk. Study participants were asked if they would rather pursue a medium-size deal that has a higher probability of closing than pursue a much larger deal with a lower chance of winning. The results indicate the big deal hunters are more likely to be in the West and Northeast regions and least likely to be in the South region.
New Account Penetration
One of the toughest tasks in all of sales is penetrating new accounts and securing meetings with busy prospective customers. The results show that there are regional prospecting preferences. South region salespeople prefer to prospect earlier in the week. Northeast region salespeople like the middle of the week and West region salespeople like Fridays and Wednesdays more than any other region.
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