Optimism and Street-Smarts: Identifying and Improving Salesperson Intelligence

Sujan, Harish
June 1999
Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management;Summer99, Vol. 19 Issue 3, p17
Academic Journal
Based on Sternberg's (1985) theory of human intelligence, the nature of salespeople's street-smarts--one of three aspects of intelligence this theory defines--is evaluated. It is suggested that salespeople's adapting to their environment, selecting to be in a more appropriate environment and shaping or molding their environment, the three elements of street-smarts, all contribute significantly to not only their performance but also their happiness (satisfaction). Further, it is suggested that although there may be a tendency among salespeople to focus on just one of the three aspects, because people like doing what they are best at, a balance among the three aspects of street-smart intelligence is more desirable. The motivational and personality roots of these forms of intelligence are also examined. Optimistic thinking is suggested to be a core, individual characteristic that fosters salespeople's street-smarts. Consequently, while recruiting salespeople sales management ought to evaluate the optimistic tendencies of the prospective employee. Further, while training and managing salespeople, sales management ought to devote considerable effort towards developing optimism among their employees. Since inexperienced, new recruits may be most amenable to optimism training and since this training may inoculate them from later career pessimism, training and managing optimism is particularly critical for rookie salespeople. Overall, this review paper appeals for an emphasis in sales research on understanding salesperson intelligence and how it can be developed.


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