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Archive for May, 2007


Each week we highlight a specific sales trait with definitions of how that trait manifests itself as a strength and a weakness.  We do this for one simple reason – there are aspects of selling that can’t be taught.  In a sense, certain traits are hardwired into top-performing salespeople.

And the only way to truly measure these traits is to use objective assessments.

An adept interviewer is able to ask insightful questions and drill down on the candidate’s responses to get to some understanding of the truth.  Rarely is it objective truth.  The information is presented by the candidate in the best possible light to the candidate.  This approach should always be expected in an interview.

But how do you know if the sales candidate sitting across from you has the hardwired aptitudes to succeed in your role?  The candidate has presented their past experiences (in a good light), their successful sales (in a good light) and their theoretical approach to selling.  However, only an objective assessment can provide measurements of:

Emotional control
Handling rejection
Practical thinking
Problem solving
Self-starting ability

These are just a few hardwired traits that are not clearly observable, yet alone measurable, in a face-to-face interview.  The better process is to measure these traits before the interview and then pursue these topics for more clarification in the interview.

Know What You Need

I’ve commented on this before, but please don’t do this. From an ad I read this morning:

Customer Service / Sales Representative

Responsibilities will include the development of new prospect business in addition to growing the current company House Account business through assisting customers with their orders from the quotes stage through the delivery / billing stage.

These are two vastly different skill sets. There are very few people who are good at both customer service and new sales development. Odds are you are not going to find a person with this skill set. Typically, candidates will be strong at one to the detriment of the other.

The better approach here is to profile the sale and determine what is truly needed – a customer support/farmer or a business development/hunter. Any attempt to blend these two positions into one person is pointless.

Sales Traits Series – Self-Discipline

Remote offices are the rage amongst a geographically dispersed sales force.  Yet, this distributed structure requires salespeople who have the self-discipline to work effectively on their own.  The only method to measure this trait when hiring is to assess.

Self Discipline And Sense of Duty
This is a measure of the strength one has in the norms with which they rule their own conduct. They feel a need to be consistent and true to themselves in their actions. It is the compulsion that one feels to be true to the ideals they have set for themselves.

A salesperson with strength in this trait will have an inner strength which enables them to weather the most difficult situations. This strength is internal €“ it does not come from an external force such as society or a supervisor. This ability provides a sense of strength which the person will be able to use to bolster their belief in a chosen direction or course of action.

A salesperson with weakness in this area does not tend to focus on an internal belief structure. The lack of an innate guide can result in a tendency to lack commitment to a chosen path or course of action. In difficult situations, such a person may begin to question their own actions or be easily swayed off-course.

What Are You Afraid Of?

The Hammer’s recent post, The Trick to Talent Upgrades, brings up a touchy subject for some sales managers. What if the talent upgrade includes people with more experience or with seemingly superior skills to those of the sales manager? If I upgrade the talent I manage, where does that leave me?

Unfortunately, these types of scenarios make our role rather difficult. We have encountered more than a few instances where these situations have derailed strong candidates. This derailment has happened despite the sales manager’s stated goal of upgrading the skills and experience of the sales force.

In these types of situations, I find it helpful to make myself go through the old “T” exercise.

  • Draw a large T on piece of paper.
  • Across the top, write the nature of the dilemma.
  • On the left hand side of the vertical line, write the negative impacts.
  • On the right hand side, write the positive outcomes and the possible actions to overcome the negative items.

I know it sounds silly, but it does bring clarity to your situation AND helps you quantify the pros and cons.

In addition to this process, I strongly suggest you consider a Sales Manager assessment to complement sales person assessments. Using assessments to understand communication styles (your’s and your team’s) alone can justify the exercise. You’ll also gain a wealth of knowledge about yourself, your existing sales staff and potential new hires.

If knowledge is power, then you’ll empower yourself with a new understanding and a plan to actually pursue and hire upgraded talent. If not, keep doing what you have been doing – but expect the same results.

Feedback and suggestions on this topic are welcome!

The Truth About Candidates

This line is straight from a email blast:

The record shows that the job goes not necessarily to the perfect candidate, but to the person who knows the most about how to get hired. So let€™s get busy€¦

I hope that gives you pause. That’s their bolding too. This approach – knowing how to get hired – is the backbone of bad hiring. Bad candidates can still know how to appear strong, adapt greatly or Google deeply to masquerade through your hiring process.

The fix is to use a process that limits your reliance upon your gut since that is how they pull it off. Use a focused process, rely on objective assessments and use multiple interviewers and you lower your risk of a pretender landing on your payroll.

Results-based Work

From Seth Godin’s post Who should you hire?

There is a fundamental shift in rules from manual-based work (where you follow instructions and an increase in productivity means doing the steps faster) to project-based work (where the instructions are unknown, and visualizing outcomes and then getting things done is what counts.)

And yet, we’re still trying to hire people who have shown an ability to follow instructions.

A great point from him especially in terms of hiring strong salespeople. “Project-based work” has been more common in sales since salespeople tend to have some freedom, or latitude, to achieve results. Sales is typically the easiest position to measure success. If a salesperson is above quota, they are an entrepreneur. If he or she is below quota, they are grist for the sales manager’s mill.

I would categorize sales as results-based work. The salesperson has to interact with a wide variety of individuals and creatively qualify them for a solution, if any.

If your sales hiring process involves ranking candidates based primarily on their ability to regurgitate talking points from their resume, you are greatly limiting your ability to hire results-based salespeople.

I Wouldn’t Call It a Skill or Hobby

From the Special Skills/Hobbies section of a resume (my emphasis):

Athletic in football,baseball,hockey and can play pool very well. Other hobbies include hunting,fishing,horseback riding, drinking, and reading.

That definitely falls under the TMI section of communication (Too Much Information).

A High-Maintenance Generation

According to this quick blurb from the Pioneer Press – Talkin’ ’bout Y Generation (emphasis mine):

Generation Y is coming of age, and “manage” – as in telling them what to do and how to do it – appears not to be in their vocabulary.

Gen Y was born between 1977 and 1995, and Fortune (June 4) says the 20-somethings really are different. “This is the most high-maintenance work force in history. The good news is they’re also going to be the most high-performing,” the magazine reports.

Companies that want to attract the stars of this highly competitive generation must be creative. At JPMorgan, for instance, job candidates can play Fantasy Futures, a virtual trading game in the fantasy football mold. Spotting a Gen Y member isn’t especially difficult, says Fortune. Just look for the boombox earphones, hipster clothes, designer coffee, BlackBerry, iPod, laptop and digital camera.

We have a customer who refers this generation as “wired.”  An apt description.

The Trick To Talent Upgrades

Great article at from my friend Bob Rosner titled Working Wounded: Recruiting Top Talent for Your Organization. Recruiting top talent takes an incredible amount of work to be successful. Bob’s article hits on 3 important topics to any hiring process.

DO identify top talent.
DO ask: Why would top talent work for us?
DO showcase your talent.
DON’T abuse top talent.

All are good tips and you can read his description under each topic. I wanted to point out his section under his second point:

Does your company pay a higher salary than the average for your industry and community? Do you let workers control as much of their job as possible? Do you offer great benefits? Do you offer opportunities for personal growth? Do you have a group of managers who know how to reward a great performance? If you could only answer yes to two of the questions above, you have some work to do before you’ll realistically be able to recruit top talent to your organization.

This subtle topic is extremely important in regards to retaining top talent. Just like candidates can masquerade through the interview process, companies can present a less-than-authentic appearance of the culture.

An important point – hiring a superstar will push a company in new ways. We are constantly explaining this fact to our clients. If you have never hired a superstar or if you don’t have any on your present sales team, you are in for a surprise. Superstars, through their successes, strain companies in a good way.

Superstars tend to look for efficiencies in all processes. They desire to sell and move to the next prospect. Any underperforming areas in your internal processes are likely to be discovered by the superstar and pointed out to you for correction.

Companies that have always performed in a certain manner struggle with these issues. At times it appears that these companies want to grow profitable revenue without making internal adjustments to fuel the desired growth.

We always recommend companies make strong hires, but you have to be prepared to handle the new directions that the superstar will take your department and company.

Sales Requires Mobility

What is your company doing to accommodate remote employees? That question is becoming more common in each subsequent interview I run with our customers. Sales has always been an “outside-the-walls” position, but now that truth is being taken to new levels. From’s Get Competitive, Get Mobile (added emphasis):

The study polled more than 500 executives globally on whether or not their organizations had implemented mobility initiatives and how often those initiatives were being used. The results show that business mobility is now implemented in most companies and executives report that one fifth of their employees are mobile, spending at least one day a week working outside the office.

Reasons behind the mobility trend overwhelmingly point to retention incentives and brand reputation (75 percent). Other benefits of office mobility include:
* Competitive advantage: 36 percent
* Improved collaboration: 27 percent
* The ability to work with multiple partners/suppliers: 12 percent

This is an international poll and business practices in Europe are quite different than here. The results are still notable in that remote offices are a retention incentive for employees. That’s true. 80% of the national sales positions I am working on right now are mobile (home-office based). Salespeople working in the office environment are also looking for mobile accessibility. If you have salespeople covering a specific, local geographic territory, it is often more effective to have them base out of their home instead of the office.

In regards to hiring, the topic of mobility is now discussed in almost every interview. The savvy sales candidates want to know what tools are provided to allow them to spend their time in the field with prospects and customers as opposed to in the office. If this topic as not been addressed at your company, I strongly encourage you to start today.

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