About 5 years ago, I hired an individual for a sales role. He looked like a perfect fit. He was a recent college graduate. He had worked his way through school with a job off campus. He participated in competitive sports at the college level and his grades were good but not too good. He checked all the boxes.
After 2 months, he was a total failure.
What Did We Do Wrong?
What did we do wrong? We forgot to account for the fact that salespeople are different. The Profession of Selling is different. It’s different because it requires certain skills and attitudes that no other role in your company requires.
Think about this! Imagine you’re hiring someone for an administrative, finance or other non-selling position. You identify the role. You set the expectations. You tell them what you need them to do and give them the tools they need to be successful. You tell them who the people are to talk with to get some help if they need it and away they go. Most of the time it works out and everyone benefits.
You do the same thing for your new salespeople, right? Is it just as common for them to work out? Why not? What’s missing?
What Makes Sales Different?
There are several unique skills and attitudes necessary for a salesperson to be successful that are not necessary in any other role in your company. I’ll identify three. Your chances of a successful sales hire go down quickly if you don’t account for these, both in your hiring process as well as your onboarding and training process.
First is the ability to deal with Competition. On a daily basis, salespeople deal with competitors whose number one job is to see them fail. And many competitors will go to any lengths, even lying, to make that happen. Do your other team members have obstacles to deal with? Of course, they do! But if the phone system or the internet goes down, or you can’t get a call back from an underwriter, those kinds of things are frustrating obstacles to success. It’s not the same as dealing with people whose purpose in life is to see you fail.
Second is the ability to deal with Prospects. For purposes of this article, let’s define a Prospect as someone who has a genuine need for what we’re selling and the ability to pay for it. A successful salesperson knows this is not enough! Any salesperson making outbound calls faces the fact that even the best prospects are resistant to change. They may even be hostile. Rarely are prospects waiting for the salesperson’s call and it’s common that they will resist being sold to even if it is in their own best interest. As the old saying goes, “no one likes to be sold but everyone likes to buy”.
Lastly, sometimes it’s the salesperson him or herself who gets in their own way. Things like Self-Limiting Beliefs, the ability to handle rejection and not take it personally or having an appropriate need for approval. It’s what goes on between their ears that will make all the difference. We’ve identified 6 core competencies that constitute what we call “Sales DNA”. These have proven to be strong predictors of sales success.
Hiring for Success
So if your goal is to hire salespeople who will be effective selling your company’s products and services despite all these challenges, make sure to utilize a hiring process designed to quickly find, identify, attract, interview, hire and retain top sales talent. Don’t use the same process you use for other roles.
I’ll give you one more old saying. “It’s the unspoken objection that kills most deals”. In a similar fashion, it’s what you don’t know about that potential sales hire that will make or break them as a sales success story. The question is this: Would you rather find out before they’re hired, or wait a couple months, like I did?
Remember that new hire I mentioned at the beginning of this article? Luckily for us, we had an opening in another, non-selling role. He was moved to that role and is today an AVP and a very valuable member of the team. Which proves my point. He was a good hire, just not a good SALES hire. Why? Because Salespeople are different.
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