Sales is a career with enormous opportunity. For those who are ambitious sales is an extremely attractive profession. A sales career offers high income, personal freedom, and limitless opportunities.
With all of these benefits why is it so hard for companies to attract, recruit, build and maintain a highly productive sales team? With all that the sales profession offers it should be easy to attract and hire the best and brightest talent. Why then do most companies experience high turnover, complacency, mediocre production and poor attitudes with their sales teams?
The reason that companies experience these things is that 4 out of 5 people now should be doing something else for themselves, for their company, for the profession and certainly for the sake of the prospects they encounter. Because these people do not have the natural talent, they try to fake it and in the fast-talking process, sell themselves and the rest of us short. Of the 80% of people now selling – 55% of them should be in another profession because they have neither the emotional or psychological talents to succeed in selling.
Another 25% who are selling are miscast. That is they are selling the wrong product or service. They are trying to sell a product for which they are not suited, i.e., they are an outside salesperson when they would be better suited to be an inside salesperson. Or they are selling an intangible when they would be better suited to sell a tangible product, etc.
So how do companies find themselves in this situation? It can all be traced back to ineffective recruiting practices and processes. Let’s take a look at the typical recruiting practices of companies.
Typical recruiting practices usually fall into one of 2 categories: the traditional approach or the warm body approach.
In the traditional approach, companies emphasize such selection criteria as previous experience, age, race, sex, or education although none of these have been validated as any predictable indicator of success in selling.
So what does it take to succeed in selling?
Without a doubt, desire is the key to success. Without an internal burning desire to succeed nothing else matters.
In addition, there are 5 qualities that make salespeople great.
They are Empathy, Ego Drive, Service Minded, Self Image, and a Utilitarian Attitude. All of these can be measured and documented. Let’s look at each of them:
- Empathy – according to Herb Greenberg, CEO of Caliper and author of “How to Hire Your Next Top Performer”, “empathy is the ability to sense the reactions of other people. It is the ability to pick up the subtle clues and cures provided by others in order to accurately assess what they are thinking and feeling. Empathy does not necessarily involve agreeing with the feelings of others, but it does involve knowing what their feelings are.”
- Ego Drive – should not be confused with desire or motivation to succeed. It is an emotional need of gaining self-acceptance that is fulfilled by persuading others to our point of view. Top salespeople get their “fix” or “high” when they successfully persuade someone to their point of view. When someone buys our product or service it is a validation of self.
- Service To Others – is similar to Ego Drive in that the salesperson derives acceptance for having done a job well. It has more to do with receiving customer or manager approval or appreciation than for having made the sale.
- Self Image – This characteristic has to do with how much an individual likes himself or herself. It is an individual’s ability to feel good about himself or herself to accept rejection and failure as part of life. The person with a strong Self-Image has the ability to leave rejection behind and go on without being emotionally crushed or internalizing it. Salespeople with a strong Self Image are emotionally resilient. They are motivated by failure not crushed by it. They can’t wait for the next opportunity. Someone with a low Self Image is paralyzed by failure and avoids any experiences that may produce failure.
- Utilitarian Attitude – is characterized by an interest in money and what is useful. Someone with a high Utilitarian Attitude wants to have the security that money brings not only for themselves but also for their present and future family. A person with a high Utilitarian Attitude is likely to have a high need to surpass others in wealth.
In the warm body approach companies will hire most anybody and pay them little or no salary, promise them high commissions, provide little or no training and put them on the street. It’s the “throw a lot of mud on the wall” and see what sticks approach.
Using either of these two approaches is sure to produce mediocrity at best. At worst, because incompetent people are put on the street, it educates prospects that salespeople are unprofessional, ill-trained, high pressure, con artists. It is also the reason that the sales profession is the butt of many jokes.
So what’s the solution to this problem?
Companies must change their thinking. They need to view recruiting as a process, not an event. It should be on going and continuous. Recruiting to the sales manager is what prospecting is to a salesperson. Just as a salesperson should have a pipeline of qualified prospects so should the manager have a “bank of people” he/she can engage in the recruiting process.
Here are some steps a manager can take to keep the recruiting pipeline filled:
- Develop a sales profile of the position you are looking to fill. Determine what percentage of the job requires opening new accounts versus servicing existing clients. How long is the sales cycle of our product or service. Will the salesperson do the prospecting or will they be provided with leads. Who will they call on. How much technical background do they need. Will they sell a customer and move on or is it sell and customer development. How much sales management pressure will they receive. What is the compensation plan. What skill sets do they need, What is the emotional and psychological profile for a successful hire.Once these things are outlined it is a matter of recruiting someone who matches up to at least 80% of the Profile. The bottom line to sales success is job match. Sales Winners win because they are doing what they are naturally programmed to do. Sales Losers lose because they are trying to perform in a role that they are not naturally programmed for. No amount of coaching, training or mentoring can change someone’s natural programming. The hiring decision is the most important decision a sales manager will ever make.
- Set a goal to interview a specific number of people a month (even if you don’t intend to hire). This ensures that you always have a fresh group of people to talk with. This “practice” will help keep your interviewing skills sharp.
- Advertise on a consistent, regular basis. This helps to keep the pipeline full.
- Offer recruiting bonuses and incentives to your salespeople. After all they know what the job requires.
- Use Pre-Hire Assessments to identify the emotional and psychological makeup of a potential new hire.
- Develop more effective interviewing skills. Since most sales managers don’t interview regularly they don’t keep their skills sharp. Interviewing, like any other skill, requires constant practice to stay sharp.