THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Eat and kill: Are you ready for sales?

It's clear to me that emotional intelligence is the most important skill for success in adult life. And the consummate career application of emotional intelligence is the sales department. I connect easily on ideas, and can close a sale because the idea exchange is so rewarding.

There's another kind of salesperson, though. The kind that can hit numbers, close tough deals with demanding customers, and compete effectively against the most cutthroat of their peers.

I am fascinated by this type of person. When I was flying two or three times a week, I sat beside a lot of sales guys. And it is mostly guys. First Class is always full of men when you travel between smaller cities, and the odds of sitting next to someone in sales on any late-in-the-day, weeknight flight, is very high.

I talked with sales guys a lot, and mostly I learned that I don't think like they do. So it should come as no surprise that my company just had to hire one of these sales guys: Justin Rheinhardt. That's his name. I loved hiring him because I knew my days of having to be a cutthroat closer were over. Justin is that. But also I loved hiring him because I learned so much from him in just two weeks.

For example, Justin was in recruiting, which makes sense because we are selling services that help recruiters. So I asked him why he wants to do sales instead of recruiting.

And he told me that if you're a sales guy, you can't be a recruiter, because good recruiters really care about placing the candidate where they fit. Good recruiters build relationships to help people over a long period of time— helping that person build their career on a path that works for them.

Justin just wants to sell, so he was closing instead of counseling. For Justin, the rush of the close is what drives him. Which I totally believe, because I don't really have that. I have the rush of a good idea.

I talked to Richard Goldman, COO of Birkman International, a company that helps businesses make intelligent hires by using the Birkman Method for personality assessments. Goldman says, "If you're a great team player, you probably don't belong in sales. Salespeople are in it for themselves. They eat what they kill."

I asked Goldman if he thought I could develop these skills, and he says that our underlying needs are set by age five or six, and our usual behaviors are set by age 22.

So it's pretty clear to me that I'm not a salesperson, and I'm not an eat-what-I-kill sales person, plus I'm not going to become one either. I'm more of a convince-someone-else-to-go-out-and-do-the-killing person.

Also, Justin has a rule that you make your calls list at the end of the day, so that you can start calling right away in the morning. That calling part seems really hard to me. You have to be really driven to kill to be able to sit down and make calls every day.

But I know that if you want to be an idea person, you should sit down and write an idea first thing in the morning. And now, come to think of it, maybe you can tell who you are by what you require yourself to do first, every day.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.