Unmasking the High-Performing Salesperson

June 1, 2014

Christophe Fournier, PhD (France)

Stock photo of a woman in front of a home for sale

One of a sales manager’s primary responsibilities is to maximize retention, productivity, and overall performance of her sales team. In an increasingly global and competitive selling environment, salespeople are often driven to operate at a frantic pace, managing tasks and time across current clients and future opportunities.

Managers and salespeople in the real estate context experience these same pressures. This article is written to help “unmask” the qualities of high-performing salespeople in the context of task and time management preferences to help managers and agents achieve the greatest business outcomes. Additionally, understanding an agent’s task and time preferences can help increase the agent’s work-life quality by reducing role stress and enhancing sales performance.

The Attributes of Task and Time Management

Polychronicity is defined as an employee’s preference for switching between multiple tasks within the same block of time. A real estate professional who can accomplish several projects simultaneously (e.g., engaging in client meetings, writing-up contracts, prospecting, all within the same time period) might be classified as polychromic. Conversely, a salesperson who prefers managing his tasks in a singular fashion (e.g., writing up a series of new contracts for an hour, then prospecting for hour, then spending the afternoon in client meetings) may be classified as monochromic.

Additionally, an agent may prefer to have some control over the way her time is managed, particularly in the way her schedule is set and tasks are allocated and prioritized. While some salespeople may enjoy the ability to manage project and task schedules independently (autonomy), though, others may prefer more clear direction and guidance in terms of time management (dependence).

Ambiguity the ways agents prefer to handle task management and time management can present challenges for managers. In light of the pressure put on managers and salespeople to optimize business outcomes, we sought to study the impact of task and time management preferences on role stress and job performance.

What Makes a High-Performing Salesperson?

Data were collected from a US-based sample of 166 account executives working in the broadcasting industry. A survey measured participants’ task management preferences (polychronic vs. monochronic) and time management preferences (autonomy vs. dependence). Additionally, the survey measured salesperson performance and tension/stress related to their role as a salesperson.

Based on these data, we uncovered a couple key outcomes. First, we found that salespeople with a polychronic task management profile tend to perform better and experience less role stress in their work than their monochronic colleagues. Additionally, salespeople who prefer an autonomous, self-directed approach to time management and scheduling perform better and experience less role stress than those who are dependent on input/guidance from others.

Consequently, this empirical investigation underlines the critical impact that an individual’s task and time profile has on his job performance and work-life quality.

Implications for Real Estate Professionals

Our research has several practical implications for real estate professionals who serve in managerial and/or agent roles.

Stock Photo of a business meeting

  • Train for Success. Offer task and time management training programs to strengthen agents’ abilities. And while you may not be able to convert a monochronic individual into a polychronic individual, helping agents recognize the qualities of high performers can help set aspirational ideals among employees. Equipping agents with tools and resources to be most effective will help yield the outcomes you desire for your firm.
  • Recruit and Select Judiciously. When recruiting some new salespeople, have a clear picture of your job requirements and how job responsibilities relate to task and time management profiles. Use a series of questions or a short survey in the interview process to identify the applicant’s time and task profile to help select a candidate that best aligns with the role. Additionally, strong attention should be given to the way the job is advertised. Communicate expectations and job requirements clearly in terms of task and time management abilities. A clear job description will allow your firm to attract strong, qualified applicants, which will limit recruitment errors. Clear role definition and strong recruitment can have a positive impact on performance and turnover.


Real estate professionals are under pressure to perform at the highest level in a global and competitive marketplace. Understanding the impact of an agent’s task and time profile can help individuals and organizations perform to their greatest potential, while producing favorable job satisfaction among employees.

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Recommended Reading

Fournier, Christophe, William A. Weeks, Christopher P. Blocker, and Lawrence B. Chonko (2013), “Polychronicity and Scheduling’s Role in Reducing Role Stress and Enhancing Sales Performance," Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 33(2), 197-209.

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About the Author

Christophe Fournier, PhD
Professor of Marketing, Montpellier II University (France)

Christophe Fournier is Professor of Marketing at Montpellier II University in France. Dr. Fournier focuses on direct marketing and e-commerce, and is strongly engaged in the field of sales force management. His research focuses on different types of populations such as commercial vendors, department managers in supermarkets, and telemarketers. Dr. Fournier’s research has appeared in international journals, including Journal of Direct Marketing, Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing and national journals, including Research and Application in Marketing, Journal of Marketing, and Journal of Marketing French.