By Tom Reilly, author of Value-Added Selling

The art and science of picking winners has been around since the first horse race. Picking sales winners is no different. Testing for selection is a billion dollar industry. Every testing company claims to have the right formula to identify top sales talent. This phenomenon began at about the time the human relations movement took root in management psychology. The earliest attempts at picking winners focused on two variables: aggressiveness and empathy.

Variably, aggressiveness has been called task orientation, goal orientation, the drive to get things done, results orientation, and for salespeople, a concern for closing the sale. Variably, empathy has been called people  orientation, concern for others, relationship orientation, responsiveness, and for salespeople, concern for the customer.

Psychologists have studied the interaction of both. Salespeople who score high on aggressiveness and low on empathy come across as pushy. Salespeople who score high on empathy and low on aggressiveness (concern for the sale) come across like the rush chairperson for a fraternity or sorority. Salespeople who score low on both come across as retired but still on the payroll. Salespeople who score high on both are ideal candidates. The results of these studies points to a reality for salespeople.

You can be as aggressive as you want in pursuing a piece of business if you balance it with an equally strong measure of empathy. Empathy keeps you out of any problem that your aggressiveness gets you into.

If you’re concerned that customers will recoil at your aggressiveness, say this, “Mr. Customer, I realize I am aggressive in pursuing your business. There is an upside to this. I will be just as aggressive in assuring that we deliver the value we promise.” Make your aggressiveness a real value to the customer.

Who can object to such refreshing candor?

Tom Reilly literally wrote the book on Value-Added Selling. He is also the author of Crush Price Objections.

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