The Hire Sense » The Subtle Requirements For Successful Sales Hiring

The Subtle Requirements For Successful Sales Hiring offers up an interesting article titled Do You Have the Right Talent?  First off, I love the fact that they advocating the pursuit of talent – that is the key to a successful sales hire (read:  not experience).  Second, the author strikes a chord that resonates with us:  There is no one-size-fits-all salesperson.  The right approach is to look at a salesperson’s abilities and see how well they fit into your sales model.  This approach is talent/skill-based, not experience-based.

Here is an excellent example of this principle in action (emphasis mine):

A client of ours is a partner in a construction company specializing in commercial ventilation systems. They have a good reputation and they bid on, and win, many commercial installation jobs.

A few years ago this company took on a new “product.” They felt that annual maintenance contracts for commercial building ventilation systems (not unlike an annual maintenance contract for a home furnace or central air conditioning) would be a relevant addition to their offerings. And they were right. But from a “need” point of view, these two sales jobs are completely different.

When the salesperson tries to illustrate why her company is the best choice for the construction side of the business, the need is known. That is, we already know that there is a building project going on. Without having to ask, we know there is the need for a ventilation system. The prospect does not have to use my client’s company necessarily, but they do have to have a ventilation system. The need has already been established before the sale even begins. But this is not true for the maintenance side of the business. Although there may be tremendous value to purchasing a maintenance contract, it is not essential. The need must first be created.

It is of course very common to have related product lines like this—it’s just good business. But in this example, the two sale types are very different for the salespeople, and certain things must be structured accordingly. This is why you have heard me say that you may well have several different sale types in one company—requiring different talents—and why many of you have had experiences where your salespeople just don’t do well with certain products or services that you feel are such “natural companions” to your core products.

The fact that the need has already been established is a subtle, but powerful differentiation in the sale.  This principle is true when hiring salespeople that have worked for a market leader in your industry.  The similarity is that the salesperson’s company has name recognition and market capitalization.  This market strength makes prospecting much easier.

Now imagine a smaller competitor hires a salesperson from the larger company.  The smaller company thinks they have scored a coup.  Yet, they find after a few months that this new salesperson is not getting appointments and, consequently, not closing new deals.  The skill set required at the smaller company is different than the larger, market-leading company. 

This hiring error occurs often in companies that believe they must hire salespeople from their industry.  Big, big mistake.  Yet, this conventional wisdom is ingrained in many hiring managers.  Talent and skill should be the first measuring stick for any sales hire.

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