In the December issue of the Harvard Business Review, I came across a fascinating study on salespeople. Authors Lynette Ryals and Iain Davies observed 800 sales professions in live sales meetings and discovered eight types of salespeople. Here is an overview of the first four styles and ways to improve their results.

1. Experts make selling seem effortless, keep customers happy and consistently outperform their peers. Just 9 percent of people observed were in this group. These individuals should be given the opportunity to mentor high-potential sales people in a company.

2. Closers pull off some big deals. They are effective in dealing with customer objections, but their style puts some customers off. Thirteen percent of the sales people qualified for this category. This type of sales rep needs light-touch mentoring to improve selling of services. A strong motivation and reward system needs to be in place to retain them.

3. Consultants listen well and are good problem solvers. They develop solutions that meet their customers’ needs, but they tend to be one dimensional and forgo valuable case studies that could boost sales. This type accounts for 15 percent of the study group. Managers should mentor them to
integrate more dimensions into their sales approach and enrich customer interactions.

4. Storytellers are customer-focused people and love to talk about case studies. Unfortunately, they often talk too much and waste time in long meetings that don’t generate results. These people need training to focus their meetings and to become aware of their behavior.