Supposition – something that is supposed; assumption; hypothesis

Think of supposition, in sales parlance, as being synonymous with stereotyping.  This is a dangerous approach to sale in that once you start making assumptions, you start derailing your qualifying skills.  In most prospect situations, once you stop truly qualifying you are headed towards prospects that are welded on your forecast 90 days out.  Eternally.

Proposition – the act of offering or suggesting something to be considered, accepted, adopted, or done

I suspect you are thinking of value proposition which makes sense.  I read an interesting post that turned that term upside down.  The author suggested selling to the customer’s value expectations rather than your value proposition.  I agree.  They went on to postulate that this approach leads to listening rather than proposing.

Supposition, in partner with proposition, leads to sloppy qualifying.  Salespeople with these two habits tend to assume what is needed by the prospect without asking the right questions.  This mental supposition then leads to them proposing what they feel is the best solution for the supposed problem.  Circular and twisted logic all in one fell swoop!

The two better habits for salespeople in any sale is investigation and observation.  Investigation – ask the right questions to get to the truth.  Observation – simply put, listen…and watch body language, tonality, eye movement, etc.  Salespeople with these habits are far more efficient qualifiers and typically are far more productive.

If you need help finding these types of salespeople, we can help.

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.

Hiring salespeople is the difficult combination of science and art weighted perfectly to select the right person for the position’s requirements.  Obviously, knowing the position’s requirements is the preeminent step.  Many sales managers believe they know what it takes to be successful in the position and they do to a certain extent.  Yet, their knowledge often consists of themes as opposed to specifics.  This reason drives us to profile the sale as the very first step in our sales hiring process.’s Is Hiring Mediocre Good Enough? approaches a hiring process with some valuable insight and other items I wouldn’t recommend.  First, the reason astute hiring is mission-critical to corporate success (my emphasis):

According to a 2004 study by HR, more than 1 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP) or $105 billion is lost every year to “poor hiring and management practices.” The Society for HR Management found the cost of a poor hire can range from $20,000 to more than $300,000—as much as 15 times the employee’s base salary.

Of course the hidden cost of a bad sales hire – the opportunity cost of losing good prospects to your competition – is immeasurable.

This approach from the article is one we don’t use:

“We evaluated each of the most successful ‘A’ performers in a particular position according to intellectual, behavioral and occupational interests,” says Vancini. “Using that as the standard, as candidates were interviewed, they were screened and matched against those known ‘A’ performers. It made the decision process easy and fact-based.”

Cloning may work for other positions, but I do not recommend it for sales positions.  The strongest sales teams have a variety of styles and abilities.  That variety is what gives the team strength.  There are core sales abilities that transcend positions and companies (e.g. handling rejection, qualifying skills, Utilitarian motivation, etc.), but most cloning involves behavioral styles which is not a predictor of success in a given sales position.  Don’t fall for this conventional wisdom.

Companies like to be inclusive, inviting as many peers and associates into the process as possible. Yet these interviews are not well thought through, and do not dig in and measure critical skills, which results in marginal feedback. This can stall the hiring process for weeks or months. Feedback from the myriad of interviews needs to be collected and easily available to provide detailed but focused feedback.

Drilling down on candidate responses; having clarity about their answers is the essence of good interviewing.  Yet, most prospects that we encounter over-rely upon the interview.  Using bad interview techniques as the backbone of your hiring process is the ultimate recipe for disaster.

If you are facing many challenges when it comes to hiring successful salespeople, we can help.