Watch CBS News

The 4 Types of Sales Professional

It's a myth that there is a "universal salesperson."

While ALL salespeople must, for example, be able to have a conversation with a customer, different sales jobs demand different personality types and skill sets, according to Howard Stevens, CEO at the Chally Group. He's identified four primary types of sales jobs and an ideal type that adapts well to those jobs.

This post describes these four basic types. Which type are you?

To see the first type, click the green NEXT arrow at the right.


Photography from
Type #1: The Closer
All salespeople must use closing skills at some point during the sales process. Here, we are talking about a personality type. This type starts with nothing and, therefore, must aggressively initiate customer contact. In most cases, one or two contacts are made with the prospect.

The risk of failure is high because there is little time to interact with the customer. Therefore, this type must not have a high fear of personal rejection. This sales environment requires that salespeople quickly establish a prospect's emotional desire and need for their product.

Demonstration sales, new high-tech equipment, trade show promotions, pyramid sales and high-ticket executive vanity items (like corporate jets) are examples. Type #2: The Consultant
Consultative sales situations usually are reserved for bigger ticket items, high technology items, or intangible "intelligent" services; for example, telephone systems, computer systems, consulting services, law services, etc.

Being successful at this requires both patient, interpersonal contact and a certain amount of aggressiveness as well. Forget the personal touch of the relationship, or fail to persist long enough for the deal to close, and a consultative sale will be lost.

The consultant performs extremely well with "prestige" and "image" products and services. This type of sales environment requires consultation with customers to meet their specific needs. Consultative salespeople are unusually career oriented. The consultant also tends to be more "academically inclined" than the other sales types.

That being said, the consultant is not, as a rule, a daring risk-taker. The best ones do take risks, but only after careful thought and calculation. They pay a high level of attention to detail and have an above-average level of aggressiveness.

However, the "super sellers" of this type are definitely able to handle personal rejection and the fear of failure. They exhibit self-confidence, patience, and the ability to quickly develop interpersonal relationships with all business prospects. Type #3: The Relationship Builder
Relationship salespeople like independence. They like the freedom of sales, the feeling that they are their own boss. They exercise discipline and take responsibility for their actions. Not surprisingly, relationship salespeople become resistant if management tries to control their actions too much, or if management tries to change the rules.

Relationship sales requires great patience over a long period to finally cement a customer. This practically eliminates one's concern with failure on a day-to-day basis because the sale is heavily dependent on the relationship between the salesperson and customer.

A "good" relationship will generate at least some business eventually. Many industrial selling situations and both territory and route sales typify relationship sales. Relationship selling is characterized by the ability of salespeople who move to a competitor to take business with them. Local stock brokers, industrial suppliers, distributors, etc., typify Relationship sellers. Type #4: The Order Taker
Order takers help the buyer to buy after some kind of display (in store, catalog, or web) has already convinced them to buy. This kind of selling requires little personal involvement, relatively little risk of personal rejection, and a compensation or reward system that does not depend on actually completing the sale.

This type of salesperson (a retail clerk, for instance) gets paid even if the customer fails to buy. Many retail salespeople fit this category, as do bank tellers and other salespeople who are on total salary and receive little or no commission. Some telemarketers (but not boiler room or high-pressure telephone sales) also sell from a catalog or a website and thus fall into this category.

Of course, there is nothing WRONG with being an order taker. Quite the contrary. They're frequently responsible for huge amounts of revenue. However, the skills required to be successful at it (like patience and a nice phone voice) are more common than the more rarefied skills need to be successful at the other three types of sales jobs.

IMPORTANT: Enjoy this post? Then you'll probably enjoy my new book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling available for purchase here.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.