Hire For Attitude, Train For Sales Skills
Recruiting and hiring future sales reps for your organization requires a different criterion than it did in the past. Do you believe in the mantra, “Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill?” In a world where the skills required for success are changing rapidly, it’s time sales leaders start looking for different qualities in their sales hires if they want to stay ahead of the curve.
One quality that is becoming increasingly important is attitude. In a fast-paced and constantly changing business environment, attitude is everything. The ability to adapt to change, take direction well, and maintain a positive outlook can mean the difference between success and failure.
As per the leadership IQ survey: “46% of new hires failed within 18 months and 89% of the time reason was attitude, not the lack of skills.” Of course, skill is still important. But with the right attitude, employees can be trained to develop the sales skills they need to be successful. And in an ever-changing business landscape, those who can adapt quickly will be the ones who thrive.
Can They or Will They Do the Job?
Every job description provides an overview of the sales role an organization is trying to fill. In each situation, the organization wants to know less if the candidate can do the job but rather if they will do the job. Picking up the telephone and calling prospects is not physically demanding. Doing so with a positive attitude and passion can be a challenge for some individuals.
“In our business, we feel that if you have a great attitude and you’re passionate about taking care of customers, we can train you to do just about anything,” says Jose Colmenares, the former Southwest’s senior manager of inflight operations training. It’s a mindset that we echo at Janek. We can train you to be a high sales performer, but attitude and passion are outside of our control.
Look For The 2Ps: Potential and Performance
One core element of a sales rep’s job is to prospect for new business opportunities. Hiring managers often seek out candidates with an extensive history of successful prospecting because they believe (rightly so), that reps with a proven track record are more likely to be successful on their team.
However, relying too heavily on past performance can lead you to overlook great sales reps who have the potential to be top performers on your team. It’s important to remember that while skills and experience are important, attitude is just as crucial for success in sales.
Here, 2Ps can be crucial in your hiring decisions:
Potential: A great sales rep doesn’t necessarily have to have a long history of successful sales. Instead, look for reps with the potential to be successful. Factors such as intelligence, work ethic, and determination are more important than experience when it comes to predicting success.
Performance: Even if a candidate doesn’t have a lot of experience, you can still get an idea of their potential by looking at their performance in other areas of their life. For example, did they excel in school or sports? Are they persistent and resilient? Do they take initiative and follow through on tasks? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then there’s a good chance they have the potential to be a top sales performer.
There are two options when hiring a potential sales rep. Hire strictly on experience, which is expensive, or hire potential and train the sales rep in the skills needed to be successful.
Experience May Be Over Emphasized
Very often organizations post job listings that require sales reps to have a certain amount of experience. The problem with this sales hiring practice is that it often leads to organizations hiring the same type of sales rep, which can limit the diversity and creativity on a sales team. Sadly, we see this all too often when every sales rep is a male, college grad, with similar backgrounds.
Furthermore, requiring too much experience can also lead to overlooking hidden talent. Just because a candidate doesn’t have X amount of sales experience doesn’t mean they can’t be a great sales rep. In fact, in many cases, it may be better to hire a hungry and coachable newbie than an over-confident veteran who is set in their ways.
Think about your past sales hires. How many experienced reps have you hired that you thought would be a great fit for your organization, but it turned out they were not? The very best sales reps are sitting successfully in their current sales role, with a pipeline full of prospects and deals they know they are going to close. These reps are great at what they do, and they are too busy closing deals to be looking at job listings.
When an organization has a strong sales training process, they can lower their experience requirements and access a pool of untapped and fresh sales talent. Candidates with the right passion and attitude, given an opportunity and proper sales training, can be as successful as an experienced sales rep.
The EQ vs IQ Dilemma
Imagine as a sales leader, you are sitting across your desk from a candidate who’s telling you their impressive educational background and how they graduated top of their class. They rattle off their past accomplishments and list impressive GPA and test scores. So far, everything checks out. But then you start to ask them questions about their motivation and why they are interested in the sales role, their answers get short, vague, and lack any real substance.
This is where EQ (emotional intelligence) comes into play. Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware and understand emotions (both your own and others), and to use that information to guide your thoughts and actions. In sales, emotions are contagious. Emotions are powerful and play a bigger role in sales than IQ alone.
Contrary to popular belief, EQ is not something you are born with—it’s something that can be learned. And in the world of sales, EQ is often more important than IQ. That’s because the ability to build relationships, navigate difficult conversations, and handle rejection are all essential sales skills that require a high EQ. Think of emotional intelligence like a muscle–the more it is used and trained the better it performs.
Need more evidence on the value of EQ? Emotional intelligence is “the most distinguishing trait of outstanding performers,” according to Harvard Business Review, and it is the primary differentiator between employees with comparable IQs and technical abilities. According to a 2015 Talent Smart research, EQ accounts for 58 percent of your job success, and 90 percent of top performers have a high EQ. So, when you are assessing sales candidates, don’t just focus on their book smarts—look for signs of high EQ as well. Pay attention to how they interact with others, how they handle difficult conversations, and whether they seem coachable.
For sales reps to be successful, they need to have perseverance and determination. How often are we great at anything when we first start out? After all, selling can be a challenging position for new hires. So, organizations need to look for candidates who are not only coachable but also have the perseverance and determination to develop their selling skills. When a sales rep comes to work every day with an attitude of perseverance and determination, success is a foregone conclusion. It’s not if they will be successful, but when.
Hunter Attitude is Old School
One of the most common misconceptions about selling is that the best sales reps are “hunters.” The thinking goes that the best sales reps are those who are constantly on the prowl for new business, always looking for their next deal. Instead, trusted advisors should be considered the best salespeople in modern sales.
The best sales reps are those who can build strong relationships, based on trust, with their clients and customers. Without trust, sales reps end up selling on price. This places them in the lowest category–commodity selling.
The best sales reps are also the ones who can understand their clients’ needs and pain points, and then develop solutions that solve those needs. They can build trust and rapport with their clients, and they are always looking for ways to add value. It is the exact opposite of a hunter, who is looking to take value from the client.
In other words, the best sales reps are trust builders. They are always looking for problems to solve, not clients to close. Closing isn’t something sales reps should do to prospects or something that magically happens at the end of a sales conversation. Closing is the natural progression of the sales process when a salesperson and client mutually agree that working together is in their best interest.
Worthwhile Activities Take Effort
In sales, as in most things in life, the most worthwhile activities often take the most effort. Hiring and training great sales reps is no different. It requires taking the time to find candidates with the right attitude and then investing in their training and development.
But the effort is worth it. Hiring sales reps with the right attitude and then training them in skills can lead to a more successful and diverse sales team. And that’s something every sales organization can benefit from.
The bottom line is this: Hire for attitude, train for skill. Look for sales candidates who have high emotional intelligence and who are coachable, then invest in their skill development by providing them with the sales training they need to be successful. By doing so, you’ll set your sales team up for success and ensure that your business can thrive now and in the future.
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