I am a psych major. As my mother likes to say, “I’ve never met a psychologist who didn’t need their own services.” Although I am not a psychologist, I get the gist of her commentary.
In that vein, I was revisiting some of my antiquated text books in search of a professional explanation for why “bad” sales candidates can often smoke good interviewers. I give you self-presentation or impression management. The definition from Social Psychology-Understanding Human Interaction by Baron and Byrne:
…they flatter others, pretend to agree with them about various issues, or feign great interest in what they are saying – all in an attempt to create a favorable first impression. Not surprisingly, persons who are skilled in self-presentation often make better first impressions on others than persons who are less adept in this regard.
That sounds just about right, doesn’t it? The real hook, in my opinion, comes from the next section:
While skillful self-presentation often involves tactics such as the ones listed above, it may also rest, to an important degree, on the effective use of nonverbal cues. As we noted above, certain facial expressions, patterns of eye contact, and specific body postures or movements convey liking or positive reactions to others. Persons who are successful at self-presentation seem to be well aware of this fact. Thus, they often seek to manage such impressions by controlling their own nonverbal behavior. While interacting with target persons (ones they wish to impress), they smile frequently, lean forward, maintain a high level of eye contact, and nod in agreement on many occasions. The result: they often succeed in producing positive first impressions.
Exactly. This fact is why we use a system for selecting sales candidates that incorporates phone screens and objective assessments before we ever meet the candidate. Bad salespeople, ones who couldn’t sell ice water in the desert, can sometimes have these deceptive abilities.
The more dangerous candidate is the one who is mired in mediocrity. These candidates often have decent to strong self-presentation abilities but they lack the overall sales abilities to succeed in your position. Think of a salesperson who cannot qualify money, who chases dead-end deals or who has a tremendous need for approval. These are the salespeople who bog down sales teams with underwhelming results.