Sales is a difficult role, I would argue the most difficult role, in any company.  The skill set and mind set required to be successful is rare in the general population.  Yet, strong salespeople are out there and hopefully on your team.

However, most teams that we assess have a salesperson (or more) who is not performing up to expectations.  This salesperson seems to have the tools, but something is holding him or her back.  The concern I always have, in this situation, is that they possess the most dangerous sales weakness.

Fear of rejection.

For sales, this is the big one.  This weakness can single-handedly neutralize any strengths the salesperson possesses.  The powerful issues with this weakness is that it can stop the salesperson before they even start.  Their fear of getting a “no” will paralyze them in difficult situations.

The key is simple, yet utterly difficult to overcome.  The salesperson must learn to separate their value from their performance.  Imagine an actor playing a role in a movie, the actor’s portraying someone else (i.e. a performance).  Sales requires a similar mindset – it is a performance that does not tie directly to their value.

I know, we want genuine salespeople, not fakes.  The separation of role vs. identity can be achieved while still maintaining an authenticity to the sales role.

The best advice I can provide – assess for this ability before you hire them.  We can help.

This economy is tough for everyone but especially for salespeople.  Money is tight, companies are delaying decisions and jobs are on the line.  Yet, through it all sales must continue…and they do.

One, well, macabre thought through this time is that this economy is a tool that separates the order takers from the closers.  If you think about it, the salespeople who have rested on a strong territory, one large customer or golden leads are now having to face a prospecting situation.  For some this is a nightmare of slasher movie proportions.

I have seen a company’s perception of a “strong” salesperson change dramatically during similar economic times.  This downturn is no exception.  You may find that some of your strongest, most-skilled salespeople are not necessarily the ones at the very top of your revenue spreadsheet.

This is a good time to take an inventory of your current team and assess their strengths and weaknesses.  I would even go so far as to suggest assessments, but only if delivered in the right manner.  In this economy, assessments to salespeople spell trouble in their world.  If used correctly, they can provide the sales manager with a path for getting the most out of his or her team.