Is Need for Cognition Associated with Sales Performance?

   What are the personality characteristics of a successful salesperson?   This is an
important question concerning the psychology of selling for managers who may be
hiring salespeople.   Being friendly, talkative, and empathetic would seem to be good
attributes to have if you have a job in sales.   Having these personality attributes may
help you to achieve rapport with customers.   However, it may seem less intuitive that
a salesperson should like to engage in effortful thought.   Need for cognition reflects a
person's enjoyment of effortful thought.  Would people who are high in need for
cognition achieve higher sales performance?
    Deeter-Schmelz and Sojka (2007) found that need for cognition was positively
correlated with self-rated sale performance.  In other words, people who were high in
need for cognition, on the average, had higher self-rated sales performance than people
who were low in need for cognition. (1)
    Some sales situations may require effortful thought.  Some customers may have
challenging questions and objections in which there are no ready-made answers.   
Thus, it is possible that people who are high in need for cognition may be better able to
address a customer's questions and objections in an effective manner.
    However, we cannot make causal conclusions for this correlational finding.   Other
possible explanations for the finding cannot be ruled out.  
    In their study, the people rated their own sale performance.  Thus, it is not clear
whether a similar finding would be achieved if sale performance was rated by an
supervisor.   Nonetheless, it may be a good idea for a manger to consider an applicant's
need for cognition in his or her hiring decisions for jobs involving sales.   Need for
cognition could be considered as part of the sales personality.


1.  See their article for other findings.


Deeter-Schmelz, D. R., & Sojka, J. Z.  (2007).  Personality traits and sales
 performance:  Exploring differential effects of need for cognition and
Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 15, 145- 157.