Groom sales staff into top revenue-makers


By Pete Van Baalen
Indiana Newspaper Advertising Executives Association

There is a tradition in my house every February that dates back a few decades.

This custom signifies that spring is coming.

It’s not Groundhog Day, but rather the Westminster Kennel Club championship from Madison Square Garden in New York.

The amount of time spent training and grooming these beautiful dogs is enormous, and the payoff shows when they make the Westminster finals in New York.

My favorite session is the grand finale, where the winning pup from each division is brought out and the top dog of the year crowned.

Such a wide variety of dogs, from little lap dogs to hunting and working dogs. And one person has to judge the full spectrum of dog traits to determine the best. I would think that is a tough job!

Being that final judge at Westminster has similarities to working with your sales staff. Each member has his or her own personality, and to see the very best of each one you have to know the types of personalities on the team.

I was having dinner with a former sales rep, and she had me read an article titled “The 5 Breeds of Sales Dogs: Which One Are You?” (Google “5 Breeds of sales dogs” for the full piece.)

The author suggests that sales people can be categorized into five types, which have similar characteristics to dog breeds – pit bulls, golden retrievers, poodles, Chihuahuas or basset hounds.

A pit bull is aggressive, the stereotypical sales person.

This sales rep is ultra-aggressive and shows no fear. This type of sales person will make more calls and deal with rejection more than the other breeds.

Golden retriever sales types are the loyal, over-the-top customer service sales reps.

The success of this sales person comes from understanding the needs of prospects and current customers. They get lots of customer referrals for being so responsive to their customers’ needs.

Reps who are highly intelligent and keenly aware of their personal appearance are poodles. This type looks good and wouldn’t think of getting dirty to get the sale. Poodles do a good job of networking and are up on the latest trends.

Sales reps that are tech savvy are Chihuahuas. They have a keen awareness of product knowledge and are very process-oriented. But as we know, Chihuahuas are high energy and yappy dogs that can bark and bark and bark!

The final sales rep type is a basset hound. They are the most faithful, with a humble sales approach. They play upon your heart and sympathy and are very willing to beg and say “please” to get the sale.

Do any of these hit home and describe you or your sales staff?

For me, I found this to be a very easy way to better understand sales reps.

My former employee who introduced this to me was a cross between a golden retriever and poodle. She provided extraordinary customer service, was highly intelligent and always wanted to look good throughout the entire sales process.

Better understanding the type of sales people you have is something more than just categorizing them by dog breed.

The successful handler at the Westminster Kennel Club championship handles a Chihuahua much differently than a pit bull. Different breeds have different needs, as well as different strengths, weaknesses and ways to be motivated.

Would you have a basset hound type be in charge of your new business development program? Maybe not.

That type of sales rep might not have enough sense of urgency to get things done as quickly as you’d like.

You might find that working with auto dealers could be best suited for the pit bull on staff, able to handle the wheeling and dealing that can sometimes be associated with that industry.

By doing some quick analysis of your team, and the needs of your sales organization, you can have a better understanding of your sales reps’ personalities. That will help you to become a better manager and retain your staff.

The main reason employees leave a company is a bad relationship with the boss, according to Susan M. Heathfield’s article “Top 10 Reasons Why Employees Quit Their Job.”

Often times that relationship is strained due to poor communication. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your team members and understanding why they do what they do because of their underlying personalities are keys to better communication and better motivation.

Better motivations leads to a higher degree of goal achievement and revenue generated.

And that makes us all as happy as a dog with a bone!

Pete Van Baalen, publisher of The Elkhart Truth, is a member of the HSPA board of directors and president of Indiana Newspaper Advertising Executives Association.