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Why is Need for Achievement so Important in Sales?

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In our hiring recommendations to sales managers, we stress the importance of sizing up candidates relative to all three elements of Drive:

  • Need for Achievement
  • Competitiveness
  • Optimism

Learn why a high Need for Achievement is especially crucial during the vetting process and can mean the difference between having a banner sales year or a headache of a candidate on your hands.

Why is Need for Achievement So Important?

Need for Achievement is the insatiable desire to pursue excellence for its own sake, as described in the book, Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again. This desire is what keeps your team members actively pursuing the next sales goal no matter how many rejections they encounter.

Though Competitiveness and Optimism are vital components of successful salespeople, it is Need for Achievement that keeps them going in the long haul. A salesperson’s level of Need for Achievement directly impacts your bottom line.

When salespeople are low in Need for Achievement but high in either Optimism or Competitiveness, they will have periods of slow down. They will skip those last 10 calls on a hot afternoon or lose steam after they have calculated a loss in a competition.

Conversely, salespeople who are high in Need for Achievement will continue to work diligently and passionately.

Even after losing a competition and with no chance for an extra bonus, the salespeople with high Need for Achievement will continue to complete every sales duty. Every little bit of effort builds up over time and influences your bottom line.

Why is Need for Achievement an Elusive Quality?

Anyone hoping to get a sales job will act ambitious during the interview. Salespeople are natural talkers and like to talk big. Most know their audience and will tell you exactly what you want to hear.

While many interviewers can properly gauge Optimism and Competitiveness, they may have a more difficult time evaluating a candidate’s Need for Achievement.

To gauge this elusive quality, know which questions to ask in the sales interview.

Instead of asking something like, “Will you work hard for our company?” which has an obvious answer, ask an open ended question like, “What is the hardest goal you have set for yourself and hit…and how do you plan to top it?”

A candidate high in Need for Achievement will be eager to share his or her experience of working diligently over a long period of time to achieve a goal.

Need for Achievement is not something people tend to recognize about themselves, making it difficult to see in others. As children, people are often told about their levels of Optimism or Competitiveness. These are also character traits salespeople hear about in performance reviews or reference letters.

The Need for Achievement, however, is less recognized and works in the background of the other two.

Need for Achievement’s elusive nature is why it is important for hiring managers to use a sales test online to diagnose the trait in their candidates. While there are many self-diagnosing tests available, The DriveTest™ was created specifically for sales hiring managers to find this hidden quality in their potential candidates.

When Low Need for Achievement Costs You Money


The last thing any profit making organization wants is to leave money on the table. When you are churning out special promotions or competitions one after another, that is exactly what is happening.

Providing your candidates a sales goal is motivating, but what if you could give out half the compensation by simply dividing your competitions or special promotions in half?

By leaving more time between competitions, you can draw on the strengths of salespeople with high levels of Need for Achievement.

For example, if you provide a month end sales goal versus a bi-weekly sales goal, you will see an uptick in sales around the end of the month due to salespeople who are high in Competition working tirelessly to beat their peers at the goal line.

For those high in Need for Achievement, however, a longer lull period between competitions does not make as much of an impact on their drive to close sales. They will continue to work just as hard between competitions as they do while they are actively within them.

Need for Achievement is a more long-term focused trait than the other two. Salespeople who are high in this area are more likely to stay with your organization for longer periods of time. This cuts your on-boarding costs and helps you make more money in a more consistent manner.

How to Keep High Need for Achievement Candidates Happy


Those with high levels of Need for Achievement derive happiness largely from within themselves.

This means they will put in long weekends and have an almost unending amount of entrepreneurial energy toward their work. However, like all of us, they still need encouragement and acknowledgment of their hard work.

Salespeople with high levels of Need for Achievement will be motivated by year end awards or stats accrued over time. Therefore, you will want to have some sort of incentive in place for quality long-term work, like year-end bonuses or an award for achieving a baseline of sales each week.

Steady workers will appreciate that their consistent effort is acknowledged, and the naturally larger numbers accruing will also motivate your salespeople who have high levels of Competitiveness.

Research has shown that people with high Need for Achievement are not naturally gamblers and will only work diligently over time if they can impact their outcome. This is a positive quality for any salesperson in a position with performance based pay.

You can keep your high Need for Achievement salespeople happy and productive by reminding them about ways their work is directly impacting their desired outcome. For example, including quarterly status updates on a year end goal can keep them focused on the long term outcomes of their daily work.

Our sales aptitude test is finely tuned to find these high impact workers. We have carefully crafted sales interview questions to cut through the fluff and give you the insight you need to hire productive, long term salespeople.

Don’t leave money on the table. Find candidates high in Need for Achievement, keep them happy and watch your profits grow.

Which traits are you looking for when hiring sales candidates?

Sales Hiring Simplified!

Hire top-performing salespeople with The DriveTest®. Get started now with one free test.

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Sales Hiring Simplified!

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