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What Kind of Sales Dog Are You?


Moving into 100% commissioned sales in my 30’s was one of those “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger” moments in my life. Truth be told, it wasn’t a moment, it was a journey. I remember trying to learn all I could from the veteran salespeople on my team, but when I read the book Sales Dogs I began to understand that the answer was not to be found in trying to copy the talents of other salespeople, but to learn how to leverage my own unique mix of talents.

There are core sales talents that people need to be successful in sales. Yet even the most talented salespeople will have a unique mix of those talents, and how they play out in practice is as different as one dog to the next.

What Kind of Sales Dog Are You?

Which traits of the five sales breeds do you recognize in yourself:

Pit Bull – This is the most aggressive and stereotyped breed. Their success comes from their ultra high command and fearlessness. They will follow a lead like it’s their last meal, but may not care if it’s prime rib or ground beef. They have a high closing ratio with clients who want someone who will take charge, but often leave a mess for support staff to figure out and clean up. 

Golden Retriever – This breed is everyone’s favorite. They win their clients over by chasing any bone they throw them. To the retriever, customer service is everything, and they often need to be reminded to sell what they are giving. Their sales pitch’s strength is the amazing specific value they offer.

Poodles – This breed is the show dog. The poodle is at home in the world of class and networking. Well connected, they are eager to introduce new contacts with the other people they know. Preferring a fast-pace they often have the newest toys and gadgets. Their sales pitch’s strength is their classic style. And they often gravitate to the sale of big ticket items.

Chihuahua – This bread may fool you by their small size. They are bright, and often a technical wizard about the products they offer. They have a tendency to talk too much, and their high intake of caffeine doesn’t help. Their minds are racing with possibilities for the client. Their passion, knowledge, and understanding of the processes is unrivaled. You don’t need to tell this breed, “Why don’t you just Goggle that?” because they did yesterday, and made a correction on the Wikipedia article while they were at it. 

Some aspect of each breed is needed to succeed, but which of these resonates most with your strengths:

  • The pit bull secures the appointment.
  • The golden retriever finds and gives what the client needs.
  • The poodle goes in for the big “ask” without hesitating.
  • And the Chihuahua is the one best suited to figure out the deliverables.

There’s still one more breed, often portrayed by the veteran salespeople on the staff.

Basset Hound – This breed is the classic, dependable, laid back salesperson. Seldom polished, or exhibiting much passion, they are rarely ruffled, and have a tenacity you don’t notice unless you look for it. The strength of their personality and the strong relationships they form draws people to them. They rarely spend more time or energy on any project than they absolutely need to. They are distinctly humble in their low-key approach, but their tenacity paired with how they “look you in the eye” is the key to their close.

What lessons did I learn?

Rather, what lessons am I still learning? For me the Golden Retriever was a real eye opener. My drive for incredible customer service was getting in the way of selling enough to grow. I had something to learn from the Bassett Hound about not spending more time on a project than was necessary. I realized that my high level of service was  a unique strength, and one worth paying for.

The other lesson was that my technical career prior to sales had made me a refined Chihuahua. I knew my shit, so to speak, and that was another strength worth asking people to pay for. Sure I’d never have the blind command of a pit bull, but as soon as I realized that my high level of knowledge and service were what my clients needed, I started asking them to pay for it. 

How about you? Where do you see yourself in the sales breeds?

Suggested Coaching and Action Items for Each Breed:

Pit BullWhen in doubt, do something, do anything! Focus on actions that put you in front of people. Pit bulls are pioneers and ready to break in a new territory. This is one breed where the numbers game can be leveraged.

Golden RetrieverAlways be the first to give. This giving comes naturally, and small offerings early in the process tip the scales in their favor.  Their best prospects for new business are often their existing clients. Retrievers need to be coached to upsell and cross-sell their additional services. 

PoodleLearn to speak well to groups, practice as often as you can. Poodles can be the most effective marketing dogs. They like to be the order-taker, and by marketing their own brand, they will keep prospects coming to them.

Chihuahua Let prospects know what you have learned related to their needs. In this day of high-tech and fast changes, product and process knowledge are often critical to both the close and account management.  This breed needs to be looking, listening, reading, and taking notes.

Basset HoundMaster the art of building rapport. This breed intertwines relationships and transactions like an art. With their dependability, consistency and integrity, they need to get in front of people to “look them in the eye” whenever possible.

Do you see yourself or see your salespeople here? How can your leverage your strengths and manage your weaknesses to become a top performing salesperson?

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Topics: Talent, salespeople