I spent most of my professional life as a sales manager in some form or another. I had my share of successes and … not such successes. Most of these were related to the hiring and development of reps. I gave up managing 12 years ago largely because I was tired of the stress. Selling is much more fun!
Certainly, if I were to hire and develop salespeople today, you would have to be an idiot to not take advantage of today’s technologies like hiring software, videos, and video conferencing. There is just so much more that we can do before a face-to-face meeting.
Call it the gift of hindsight, spending time away to reflect, or both but … I would sure do a lot of things differently today and here are the three biggies …
Let’s start with the success triangle which states that all salespeople are made up (in degrees) with three distinct qualities … attitude, skills, and knowledge. The last two can certainly be developed. The first, attitude … if you weren’t born with the right attitude, whatever you have is very deeply ingrained and will likely not be changed. Even if it could be, I don’t have the energy to try.
The success triangle would suggest that you can have a good salesperson with two out of three. Three out of three is a superstar. As long as one of those elements is attitude, I think that you have something to work with. Without that, you don’t.
What I can’t train …
- Drive – They have to be self-motivated and self-starting.
- Urgency – This includes being proactive and highly responsive.
- Competitiveness – Confidence, resiliency, a thick skin, and an easy-going yet aggressive manner combined with a good sense of humor. Hates to lose.
- Communication skills – Listening and clarifying, asking good questions, manners, body language, and eye contact. Some of this might be trainable but, they are largely innate.
- Focus – Detail oriented and organized, excellent time management skills, a goal setter and achiever.
- Honest and trustworthy – Good character. Not afraid to ask for help or to say … I don’t know but … I will find out.
- Trainable – Not only a willingness to learn, they have to demonstrate a need to learn and a track record of self-development.
How do I measure those?
- Observation – During interviews and throughout the hiring process.
- Research including social – If it’s public, I’m going to look at it. LinkedIn will show me their business persona but, Twitter and particularly Facebook (and others) are where I will discover their character.
- Defined questions – This is probably where I need the most help. Now, in my day, we didn’t have Google. Today we do!
Assessment testing – Full disclosure … I represent a company, TTI, who provides these. The important thing is that we can assess behaviors, motivations, and skills. If you have created a position benchmark, you can match candidates against your ideal match.
They are also great to use during the interview as they create in depth discussion points. Sure, you will make a dollar investment in these assessments but, they are one hell of a lot less expensive than hiring the wrong person. These, along with everything else, will allow to go much deeper into the “what makes them tick” stage.
What I can teach …
Selling skills and product knowledge … anybody can learn these if they have the drive and the desire to learn and they have the attitude (see above). I suppose that I could also train tech fundamentals, if needed. Selling today has evolved with technology and salespeople have to be comfortable, and anxious to take advantage of, these tools.
The bottom line is that they are applying for a sales position. If they can’t display strong sales-related behaviors during the hiring process, who will hire them, and us, for our services?
Training / Coaching
These activities, and responsibilities, could be a book by themselves. In fact they already are. Dave Brock’s excellent book, “Sales Manager Survival Guide”, would be my blueprint. Run, don’t walk, and order one! This is, without a doubt, the best book I have read … ever.
You’ve hired a new salesperson. How long do you let them hang around before you let them go? What are you watching for?
When I think back, and I have hired probably 100’s of salespeople, if there were things about them that just didn’t quite feel right, not one of them made it. I should have learned to listen to my gut but, we desperately want our new hires to succeed so we ignore the obvious signs and I hung with too long.
Obviously, accountability is an important aspect and that includes activity reports and deal reviews. I can’t think of any other way to determine why and where a salesperson may be struggling. For example, if they aren’t prospecting, that’s a huge red flag. If they are but, they are not getting anywhere, this we can work with.
Regardless, it comes down to effort. If they can’t or won’t make the needed effort, in all aspects of their training, I can’t and won’t do it for them. One thing that I have learned is that, when I let someone go, that has always been best for both me and for them. The right job is out there for them, it’s just not here.
How about you? If you had it to do all over again, what would you do differently?