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The “model” salesperson
Caliper Corporation
Caliper Corporation

You’ve seen them … job postings for sales positions that range between wishful and delusional thinking on the part of whoever posted it. The list of demands often reads something like:

“Must be a self-starter who is aggressive, competitive, and relentless about closing business as well as a relationship builder who is customer-service focused at all times. Must be a deadline-driven multitasker who is also highly detail focused and organized. Must have advanced knowledge of complex product lines and be an excellent project manager who can oversee installation. Must be team oriented and collaborative while willing to work independently and self-supervise.”

Sure, most hiring managers know this person doesn’t really exist. They are just hoping to hire as closely as possible to the supposed “model” salesperson, so why not ask for the moon?

But there are at least three immediate problems with posting a laundry list of unrealistic demands, as depicted in the example above:

·         Every job seeker who reads it will think “That’s not me!” in response to one or more of the demands and, as a result, might move on to some other company’s less-ridiculous job advertisement, which means the original posting risks eliminating potential top performers.

·         In the posting, the job demands aren’t weighted — probably because the Hiring Manager doesn’t know which competencies are critical for the role — so the list may have the unintended effect of attracting weaker applicants who are only strong in supporting competencies and not in the critical ones.

·         It puts the onus on the job seeker to explain away any alleged shortcomings instead of on the company to determine what actually works best in the role it is looking to fill.

The laundry-list approach does not describe a model salesperson; it imagines a supermodel salesperson. And, out of curiosity, have you ever gotten a date with a supermodel?

We all know that salespeople are the ones keeping the lights on. Discovering the qualities needed for sales success in specific roles not only increases revenue, but it reduces turnover and ensures a more profitable bottom line.

Job models are built from mixtures of performance competencies that have been identified, through scientific verification, to be critical success factors. The closer a job applicant matches the model, the more likely that person will perform well in the position.

Warning: There is no all-encompassing “good salesperson” model, nor are there all-purpose “hunter” or “farmer” models, either. In fact, throughout Caliper’s eight unique sales job models, qualities that point to success in one sales role could be performance inhibitors in another. Here’s a brief overview of the eight models:

Sales manager – Focuses on the dynamics needed for balancing leadership with managing one’s own book of business

New business development – Emphasizes the attributes associated with cold-calling, lead generation, negotiating, and reeling in accounts, often in a territory-based setting

Account development – Focuses on roles that deal with relationship building and account retention

Account service specialist – Used when client-services activities are blended with up-selling and cross-selling duties

Consultative selling – Focuses on roles that require a deep exploration of client needs and then partnering with them on solutions

Strategic selling – Employed when a complex understanding of a client’s business, relative to industry trends and market changes, is needed to address long-range or ongoing needs

Technical sales – Used when subject-matter expertise and analyses of complex technical needs are paramount to success

General sales – Focuses on the basic essentials for sales positions or on new roles that have yet to be fully defined

The key takeaway: the job-model approach provides far greater precision and predictive validity than the supermodel one.

The best part is that hiring managers can use the designated job model again and again as the sales operation expands, knowing they are hiring high-potentials each time. It’s almost like capturing lighting in a model.


About Caliper - For nearly half a century, Caliper has been helping companies achieve peak performance by advising them on hiring the right people, managing individuals most effectively and developing productive teams. The accuracy, objectivity and depth of our consulting approach enable us to provide solutions that work for over 25,000 companies. To find out more about how Caliper can help you identify and develop people who can lead your organization to peak performance, please visit us at  or call us at 609-524-1200. Email to contact Caliper.