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Customer Success vs Sales Roles: personality differences in data

Jun 18, 2024
8 min read

Customer Success and Sales / Account Executive roles are pretty similar, but still different in terms of what kind of ‘characters’ are attracted into each role. For sure they are closer to one another, just looking at bare data, in comparison to Customer Success vs Customer Support personalities. This is a reflection in part of the structure of these job categories with CSM being more akin to “Account Managers”, and with Sales and Account Executives capturing a wider set of job titles in sales in the economy (although we focused on sales in tech: inside sales, SaaS sales, tech sales roles).

Either way, our research at Gyfted, based on our data, highlights key trait differences between individuals in these roles. Understanding these differences is crucial for aligning personalities with job demands, impacting both job performance and personal fulfillment.

Customer Success and Sales are both similar and distinct roles

Customer Success Managers (CSMs) and Sales Representatives operate in different environments with different objectives, although most CSMs tend to also focus on upselling and renewing customers.

CSMs focus on long-term client relationships, proactive engagement, and strategic growth in sectors like SaaS and enterprise solutions. Daily tasks include account management, upselling, and personalized problem-solving. A CSMs’ goal is to ensure customers derive maximum value from products, fostering loyalty and retention (ie. retaining revenue).

Sales Reps and Account Execs, on the other hand, aim for direct sales and client acquisition, often in high-pressure environments. They work across various industries, from retail to B2B sales, and their primary objective is to meet sales targets and drive revenue. Their tasks involve prospecting, pitching, and closing deals. Energy, positivity, drive (often described as ‘hunger’) and self-discipline matter a lot for success in these roles.

Comparing Personality Traits

Our data from over 1.8K applicants reveals notable personality differences between these roles per below. Understanding these personality traits helps in placing individuals in roles that suit their strengths, enhancing job satisfaction and performance.

Extraversion

Sales roles exhibit much higher extraversion, with more polarized results towards the extrovert end of the spectrum. This aligns with the need for energetic and outgoing behavior in sales interactions that decreases the distance between sales reps and prospects, but also keeps sales folk going in spite of usually extremely high numbers of rejections that they have to face.

Conscientiousness

Sales roles show lower average conscientiousness with a wider distribution relative to CSMs. This reflects varied approaches to diligence and reliability within sales, indicating diverse role demands, and a higher focus on consultative selling by CSMs. Were we to compare enterprise sales vs CSMs, we can bet we would see more similar personalities and conscientiousness in these two roles.

Agreeableness

Sales representatives are slightly more agreeable, facilitating positive client interactions and negotiations – especially when it comes to building trust upfront when there’s more uncertainty in the interpersonal relation.

Neuroticism

Sales roles show slightly higher neuroticism, indicating a higher propensity for emotional fluctuations, possibly due to the high-pressure nature of sales targets.

Openness to Experience

Sales folk are slightly less open to experience, possibly suggesting a lesser inclination towards creativity and new experiences, focusing more on tried-and-tested methods. Perhaps, although this difference is small and reflects variety in this job vertical more than in the CSM / account management vertical.

Implications for Hiring and Training

  • For CSM roles, seek conscientious extraverts who thrive in proactive, relationship-focused environments. It’s good to foster creativity and proactiveness in CSMs to enhance problem-solving and stronger client relationships.
  • For Sales roles, look for individuals who are extroverted and tend to be more agreeable, capable of handling varied and dynamic sales situations. Provide stress management resources for Sales representatives to handle the high-pressure environment.

Note though that it is crucial, and empirical research shows this, to strive for diversity of backgrounds and characters in team settings, as varied personalities, varied thinking styles and varied working styles can significantly boost team performance. Introverts and extroverts are found in sales, customer success roles and are really successful. There are no ‘ideal’ personalities, and certainly take into account the nature of your product and customer. For example, if you’re selling into DevOps, for instance, perhaps product-savvy introverts could excel in this role, as well as in CSMs working with customer DevOps teams.

Advice for Job Seekers and Career Changers

Understanding your natural traits can guide you to a more fulfilling career path. If you’re exploring careers in customer success or sales, consider your personality traits. Conscientious and extraverted individuals might find fulfillment in both customer success and sales roles that require proactive problem-solving and relationship-building. Those higher in agreeableness and extraversion could specifically excel in sales, where continuous, intense interaction and persuasion are key to success.

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