Enneagram and Sales: Personality Profiles

I am endlessly fascinated by the connection between psychology and sales.

What makes a salesperson tick? Are some personality types more likely to be successful salespeople? What insights can we gain from personality profiles that will help us to be better salespeople?

enneagram_colorOne of my favorite personality profiles is the Enneagram. Here’s the summary, according to Wikipedia:

The Enneagram of Personality, or simply the Enneagram (from the Greek words ἐννέα [ennea, meaning “nine”] and γράμμα [gramma, meaning something “written” or “drawn”), is a model of human personality which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. … As a typology the Enneagram defines nine personality types (sometimes referred to as “enneatypes”), which are represented by the points of a geometric figure called an enneagram, which, it is believed, also indicate some of the connections between the types. There are different schools of thought among Enneagram teachers, therefore their ideas on some theoretical aspects are not always in agreement.

The Enneagram of Personality has been widely promoted in both business management and spiritual contexts through seminars, conferences, books, magazines, and DVDs. In business contexts it is generally used as a typology to gain insights into workplace dynamics; in spirituality it is more commonly presented as a path to higher states of being, essence, and enlightenment. It has been described as a method for self-understanding and self-development.


The 9 Enneagram personalities are:

1 – Reformer

2 – Helper

3 – Achiever

4 – Individualist

5 – Investigator

6 – Loyalist

7 – Enthusiast

8 – Challenger

9 – Peacemaker


While I am far from an expert, knowing my Enneagram number has helped me to identify, for instance, why I take a “no” so hard. As a 3 on the Enneagram chart, I am wired to want people to like me and think that I am valuable because of how I serve them. As a salesperson, this means that I am going to take very seriously the need to meet my client’s needs. If I bring them solutions, I can’t understand why they won’t take them. And often, I’ll take it personally. Knowing all of this about myself helps me to take healthy steps of handling areas of personal weakness.


Here’s a great chart from the fantastic Enneagram In Business showing how different people think about sales, according to their Enneagram number:

sales personality



According to this site, the best Enneagram numbers for sales jobs are 2, 3, 8, and 9. Want to figure out your number? Take one of these Enneagram tests.



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Come back tomorrow for an article about a bunch of things I wish my sales manager knew.


How to Great Your Day

I used to drop my second daughter off at elementary school on my way to the office. Over time, we developed our own way of saying goodbye as she got out of the car. She would lean forward and give me a kiss, and I would say, “Great your day, Charleigh.” And she would reply, “Great your day, Dad.”

if-you-work-really-hard-and-youre-kindI don’t know how we replaced the much more common “Have a great day” with our own version “Great your day,” but somehow we did. A few years ago, I would often spend the rest of my commute thinking about this little exchange. And I decided that it was a powerful interaction. Words create worlds.

“Have a great day” is passive. It makes my day – and my attitude about it – dependent upon the circumstances I encountered. On most days, there are lots of things that can make my day anything but great – traffic, the weather, coworkers, clients, quotas and budgets, just to name a few.

But “great your day” has a much different connotation. It indicates that I have some control over what happens to me. There are tons of things, most things in fact, that I can’t control. But I can influence how I react and respond to them.

So, to preserve some chance of staying positive, I developed an an acronym to remind me to “great my day.”


Greet My Team

I half-jokingly refer to myself as an antisocial extrovert. I could easily get to the office and disappear into my computer. But in reality, I feed off of the positive energy of others. On days that I grab a cup of coffee and say “hello” to my teammates, I tend to get off to a much better start.


Review My Gameplan

When I do sit down at my desk, I ask myself a series of important questions: What are the goals I’m working toward? What are the critical things on my to do list (which, hopefully, that I made the night before)? How quickly can I achieve Inbox Zero? What are the projects that are imminent and/or inspiring to me?


Execute Without Excuses

I can always control my activity, so I need to make sure I don’t let common excuses keep me from doing so. If I’m tempted to think I’m too busy, I go back and review my gameplan again with an eye to identifying my top priorities. If I’m tempted to say I’m too inexperienced in some way, I try to figure out what questions I need answered so that I can succeed. I remind myself that I own my own education. If I’m tempted to be apathetic, I’ll rehearse one of my favorite motivational phrases – squeeze your own adrenaline gland.


Always Be Kind

One my heroes of positivity is Conan O’Brien. He unceremoniously and unfairly had his dream gig of hosting The Tonight Show taken away from him. On his final night as host, he graciously made a statement that has become a personal credo, “But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” Those are words to live by.


Take Time to Be Grateful

The best antidote to negativity that I’ve found is gratitude. I have so much to be thankful for. On days that I make a list of things for which I’m grateful, I can’t help but be positive.


I’m not a positive Pollyanna kind of person by nature. I tend to be pretty cynical and more than a little sarcastic. I recognize this about myself, and it can frequently keep me from having great days. But when I remind myself to “great my day,” I’ve got a much better shot at actually having a great day.


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Next week, our theme will be tips and strategies for closing sales.


The Two Things You Can Control: Attitude and Activity

There are a lot of things that impact a salesperson’s life that are simply outside of his or her control:

3482ac5A client’s schedule.

A client’s budget.

A client’s fears and motivations.

A client’s decision making process.

A client’s organization skills.

A manager’s personality.

A manager’s leadership style.

A manager’s decision to change the compensation plan.

A coworker’s effort (or lack thereof).

A coworker’s attitude.

And on and on the list could go.

It is tremendously common for salespeople to get focused on these things and lose their motivation for their work. 


Stephen Covey in his classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People suggested that we all exist with two spheres in our lives: the sphere of concern and the sphere of influence. There are things that are of concern to us. Important things. Things that impact our lives. Things that matter. They keep us up at night. They are our concern. And then there are things that we have some influence over. They are the things we can impact, control, and effect. Successful salespeople have learned to spend their energy and resources on things that are within their sphere of influence.


I’ve identified two primary things that are within the control of a salesperson – your attitude and your activity.



It is easy to let our mood or attitude be determined by the things that are happening around us. If we get a “yes” or have a really productive meeting, we can be positive and upbeat. If someone is rude to us or we disagree with a management decision, it can ruin our whole day. For many of us, having a positive attitude is easier on sunny days. But Covey suggests that really effective people “take their own weather with them.” They don’t let their circumstances dictate their attitude. 

This is not an area of sales or life that I have mastered by any stretch. I have made some progress on making my days great, which I write about here.



The other thing that every salesperson can absolutely control is their activity. Even if your attitude is miserable, you can still keep putting one foot in front of the other and do the job. Make the phone calls. Send the emails. Do the drop-by visits. Nothing but your own reticence is keeping you from doing the work. You can absolutely control that, even when you don’t feel like it. In fact, more than once, I’ve been struggling with a bad attitude but forced myself to keep up my activity … only to have a positive interaction with a prospect or client that immediately changes my attitude and outlook. There is no substitute for activity, and there’s no really good reason to stop.


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Today’s there’s a double-feature. Make sure to read the article about making your day great.


The Single Most Important Character Trait of a Successful Salesperson: Resilience

Not long ago, I spent the better part of my day calling on roofing companies. The result? I was unable to get a single meeting scheduled. A few weren’t interested at all. A few weren’t available at the time. A few want me to call again later. It was one of those frustrating days of putting in the work with little results … days that every single salesperson has had.

churchill (2)When we experience those kinds of days, it is easy for us to simply want to give up.

There are many things about being a salesperson that make giving up a real and present temptation. We’re all wired differently, but the biggest things for me are these three things:

Fruitless Prospecting – I get excited about an idea and hit the streets, only to hit a brick wall. It’s discouraging.

Answer Limbo – I make a great presentation, but then they’ve got to decide. I wait on pins and needles, usually way longer than I want to. It’s maddening.

Micromanaging – Most of the time, my sales job affords me the kind of freedom in which I thrive, but when over-the-shoulder watching begins, I have tendency to shut down. It’s deflating.


Whenever I start feeling this way, the most important thing I can do is remember what makes a truly great salesperson. It’s not product knowledge. It’s not flashy PowerPoint presentations. It’s not years in the business. It’s not charisma.

The single most important and desirable character trait of really successful salespeople is resilience.

Resilience. Perseverance. Stamina. Endurance.

We can’t give up. When we’re doing the right thing in the right way, we’ve got to keep doing it until we get the right results.


Here are five things I do to keep my motivation when I feel it slipping:


Make a plan for tomorrow.

If today sucked, it’s easy to feel like tomorrow will suck too. But researchers have found that when people end today by making tomorrow’s to do list, they are more likely to get things accomplished. On a particularly discouraging day, I like to make a plan for the next day so that the funk doesn’t have the chance to take root. If I already know what I’m going to do when I get to my desk the next morning, I’m much more likely to hit the ground running.


Do some four-legged calls.

Making cold calls with a colleague is often the shot in the arm I need when I get down. We end up laughing together. We feed off each other’s energy. We learn from each other’s techniques. An afternoon spent with a trusted coworker is a great way to keep my motivation up.


Take a great client out to lunch.

It’s easy to let the bastards grind you down. When that happens, why not give some special attention to one of your favorite clients? Take them to coffee or lunch and spend some time rehashing what has worked. Brainstorm ideas for their business and see if it might spark some energy that spreads to your other clients and prospects.


Get a good night’s sleep.

There is nothing quite as important for our overall demeanor and outlook than a good night’s sleep. The day just looks different after you’ve been able to get the restorative rest you need. So, do whatever it takes to make it happen, but see if some “sweet dreams” don’t help your be more motivated.



In our house we say that sometimes everybody needs a “mental health day,” a dedicated time of self-care that is about resting and relaxing so that you can get back at whatever task is before you. People of faith call this a “sabbath.” Enjoy a good cup of coffee. Take a walk. Smoke a cigar. Intentionally give yourself permission to decompress from the pressure of sales. It will make a world of difference.


Stay after it. There is no substitute for activity. Don’t give up. Be resilient.


bowtie profile.001Join the Bow Tie Sales Guy community on Facebook. Like our page here and submit questions which will be answered in an upcoming podcast.

Come back tomorrow for an article about the two things you can control as a salesperson.


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