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A Case Study in 4 Financial Services organisations.

Sales is a profession where performance and efficiency are crucial outputs. Particularly so in the Financial Services Industry. Under the expert supervision of Katarzyna Kloskowska – Kustosz, a leading Mental Toughness practitioner, 4 Business & People carried out a study to examine whether salespeople who achieve the highest sales results differ from less well-performing salespeople in terms of mental toughness and its individual factors. And to assess whether some of the mental toughness factors are more significant than others?

The study looked at 60 salespeople from 4 large Polish Financial Services organisations (2 Banks and 2 Insurance Companies, between them employing 4350 salespeople). Each organization randomly selected a number of their best and their poorer performing salespeople.

The Performance element was based on sales income generated in the three months prior to their assessment. The results were compared with a random sample of 377 people working in positions in the organisation other than as salespersons.

Mental Toughness was assessed using MTQ48 measure and the 4Cs Mental Toughness model. Mental Toughness being “ a personality trait which determines, in large part how we respond to stressors, pressure, opportunity and challenge”

It assesses “how we think” which a key dominant of “how we act”. It embraces our understanding of Mindset and Resilience.

Two interesting and valuable observations emerged:

A high level of Mental Toughness emerged as a significant factor in distinguishing salespeople as a professional group from other groups of employees in the same organisation/sector.

The study clearly showed that salespeople as a group have comparatively high Mental Toughness as compared to other employees in the same organisation.

Salespeople’s scores were higher than other employees on several scales: Confidence in Abilities, Commitment, Interpersonal Confidence and Control.

One observation suggests that creating sales teams from “back room” staff without reliable selection and targeted development activity may not always give satisfactory results even though those individuals will have relevant knowledge and background.

Two distinguishing factors of a good salesperson are high levels of Commitment and Confidence

The study confirmed what we see in many other studies. Looking at the overall Mental Toughness of salespeople is not sufficient to guarantee success. The mental toughness profile is important.

The study appears to confirm that high performance in salespeople is mainly determined by commitment and confidence which are two of the 4 Mental Toughness constructs. Effective salespersons, in terms of their mindset, are confident about their knowledge and skills, manage relations well with others, while at the same time being goal orientated and persistent in achieving their goals and objectives – even where there are difficulties and obstacles to their attainment.

An interesting observation is that less effective salespeople often had higher Control scores particularly in relation to other Mental Toughness factors. This might indicate that salespeople who have a strong sense of “can do” (agency) but who do not have a good self-awareness of their mental toughness, and have not learned how to manage this, may find that this can hinder their sales effectiveness. Self-awareness is very important.

It may also be a strong “can do” approach is not always appealing to a client. Financial services clients might prefer contact with experts who are professional in their approach – certain of their knowledge and skills. Where they do “go the extra mile”, a salesperson’s high level of commitment may come in handy, as long as it’s without excessive pressure. Again indicating the importance of self-awareness.

Where Mental Toughness is generally seen as a positive quality (and it very often is) as with many positive qualities without self-awareness this can be misdirected. The Mentally Tough will have the inner strength and out orientation to succeed in a challenging profession but do need to understand and reflect on how this is received by others.

The study is broadly consistent with observations from the application of MTQ in assessing more than 200 staff in a large Middle Easter Back. Performance and Aspirations were closely related to Mental Toughness scores.

A recent development of the Mental Toughness concept has led to the creation of the 8 factor MTQPlus which enables users to “dig deeper” in understanding the mindset of an individual particularly around risk orientation and learning orientation. These have emerged as key qualities in dealing with new clients and new situations and responding positively to all outcomes – including setback and rejection.

These are summarised in the image at the top of the post.

For more information about MTQPlus, contact