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Assigning Sales Territories by Personality Traits?

One of our clients from Minnesota told me about a fascinating Wall Street Journal article about regional personality traits across America.   From the article:

“Certain regional stereotypes have long since become cliches: The stressed-out New Yorker. The laid-back Californian.

But the conscientious Floridian? The neurotic Kentuckian?

You bet — at least, according to new research on the geography of personality. Based on more than 600,000 questionnaires and published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, the study maps regional clusters of personality traits, then overlays state-by-state data on crime, health and economic development in search of correlations.”

Minnesota, for example, ranks 5th in extroversion, 2nd in agreeableness, 22nd in conscientiousness, 41st in neuroticism, and 40th in openness.  New York, where I lived until 2006, ranks 37th in extraversion, 5th in agreeableness, 42nd in conscientiousness, 3rd in neuroticism, and 2nd in openness.  (Aha! This explains a lot!)

What bearing might this have on how effective a salesperson is who sells in a state where buyers’ characteristics are considerably different from their own?  I don’t know of anyone who has studied this.  If you have, please let me know.  But I can tell you that in my early days of selling, some customers in the deep south didn’t like my New York style.  (Some still don’t!)  Two CEOs even asked the CEO of my company to “send someone else down here.” 

Over the years I learned to better understand regional, national and other personality and cultural differences. But I never thought about it in the way the WSJ presented it.  Should this analysis be taken into account when hiring?  When assigning geographic territories?  I curious about those of you in other parts of the world as well.  Please let me know your thoughts.

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One Response

  1. For sales people, this is a matter of style, not substance. I firmly believe all people have the same needs and traits. These “regional personalities” are just the culturally accepted ways to express oneself, not significant difference in personality.
    My company talks much about hiring people who are a good “fit” for a region, when the real trait they should be looking for is a salesperson’s ability to adapt to a customers style, not impose their own style on the customer.
    I was a born-and-raised Italien New Yorker who worked in New Mexico for 13 years with some success. It would be hard to find two places more different in behavior. I just treated people as they wanted to be, not as I wanted to treat them. So I slowed down, asked questions not statements, and (easily) learned to love red and green chili!

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