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Toward an understanding of the personal traits needed in a digital selling environment

Karen M. Peesker (Ted Rogers School of Management, Toronto Metropolitan University, Toronto, Canada)
Lynette J. Ryals (Centre for Strategic Marketing and Sales, Cranfield School of Management, Bedfordshire, UK)
Peter D. Kerr (Shannon School of Business, Cape Breton University, Sydney, Canada)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 1 March 2024




The digital transformation is dramatically changing the business-to-business (B2B) sales environment, challenging long-standing views regarding the critical competencies required of salespeople. This paper aims to explore the personal traits associated with sales performance in a digital selling environment.


Using template analysis, the researchers captured and coded over 21 h of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with senior sales leaders from various industry sectors, exploring their perceptions of the personal traits now required of B2B salespeople in the digital landscape.


The research identifies three high-level trait types critical to sales success within a digital selling environment: “analytical curiosity” – the natural motivation and ability to gather and synthesize sales-related knowledge, “empathetic citizenship” – the ability to establish initial rapport while building long-term trust and “disciplined drive” – the exertion of selling effort in a highly focused and methodical manner across all stages of the sales process.

Research limitations/implications

The present data came from interviews with sales leaders in Canada. A more global sample may lead to additional insights. Moreover, the sample was drawn from long-cycle B2B sales environments; conclusions may differ for short-cycle or business-to-consumer markets.

Practical implications

This paper presents a framework for hiring and developing salespeople in the digital sales environment, identifying personal trait types that sales leaders should look for when hiring: analytical curiosity, empathetic citizenship and disciplined drive. The paper identifies how these trait types influence sales success, suggesting that sales leaders could coach and educate their teams to make the best use of them.


This paper presents a conceptual framework for hiring in the digital sales environment and introduces the trait of analytical curiosity not previously discussed in the literature.



The authors acknowledge and thank Willy Bolander for his early contributions to the research. Authors also thank the Canadian Professional Sales Association for their research collaboration. This work was supported by Mitacs through the Mitacs Accelerate Program (IT18920).

Funding: Mitacs; IT18920.


Peesker, K.M., Ryals, L.J. and Kerr, P.D. (2024), "Toward an understanding of the personal traits needed in a digital selling environment", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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