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Why we need more cognitive diversity in sales teams

When you fill your sales team with the same kinds of people, you’ll only ever get the same results. Here’s why you need to take a broader outlook when it comes to hiring.

We talk a lot about ‘diversity’ in hiring at the moment. And rightly so. Hiring people from different genders, ethnicities and social backgrounds is the right thing to do. However, there’s a particular area of diversity which is essential when you’re building a high-performance sales team: cognitive diversity.

In this article, I want to look deeper at cognitive diversity and why it is a must when you’re hiring and running your team. Let’s find out more.

What is cognitive diversity?

I’m talking about the inclusion of people who think in different ways, have different viewpoints and diverse skill sets. This can be related to your background; someone who grew up on a council estate may have a different outlook on life to someone who grew up in an isolated country village, for example. But, really it’s about the way our brains are wired and the way we deal with challenges and opportunities.

Why we need cognitive diversity

As a hiring manager, it’s really easy to hire either someone like yourself, or a carbon copy of your top sales performer. When you hire someone like yourself, you know you are going to get on well with them. You know you are going to feel comfortable working with them, as they’re just like you. When you hire a sales team that all resemble your top performer, you know you will get good results (up to a point), because their skillsets will be the same. 

But, the easy way isn’t always the best way. Building a team of lookalikes leads to a lack of innovation. You end up doing the same things the same way all the time. This may be fine when things are going well, but when challenges arise, you need that little bit extra.

How to get cognitive diversity right

The first way to achieve cognitive diversity in your sales team is to be more conscious of who you hire. Cast your net wider as to who you interview and who you hire. I’m sure you would never turn someone down based on their gender or race, but what about their exam results or whether or not they went to university? Exam results reward certain ways of thinking, but not all. You could be missing out on some useful skills.

Design interview questions to get a handle on how people think, not just what they know. Ask them what they would do in certain situations. Or, get more creative. Ask them what superpowers they would like to have!

Once you’ve assembled your cognitively diverse sales team, use it. Let your team do things and think things through in their own special way. Play to their strengths. Getting different inputs from different people on the way they do things will naturally lead to more creative approaches and outcomes. 

Diversity in SDR teams

When it comes to SDR teams, having a diverse group of thinkers can be invaluable. There are so many opportunities to take chances, but you need people who will see them. 

For example, direct mail campaigns are emerging as an effective way to get prospects’ attention: the more creative, the better. Some people will be more comfortable than others at designing these eye-catching stunts. You’ll also have SDRs who are better at coming up with funny ideas for videos, or ones who are better at swiping objections away.

But where having diversity of thought in your team really becomes essential is when problems arise. When you have cognitive diversity, people will see the same challenge in different ways, which means you’ll have more ideas on the solution. You can evaluate all their approaches on their strengths and weaknesses.

So, stop hiring the same old types of people. Instead, cast your net wider. The results will soon speak for themselves.