Sales Superstars: Strategies for Recruitment, Coaching, and Team Integration
Everyone wants a superstar on their team. For football, basketball, and sales teams, superstars will always be in high demand. For sales leaders, the challenge is twofold: finding top sales talent and coaching high performers to expand their capabilities. If you have ever experienced this double-edged sword, this article is for you. Below, you will learn strategies to find top sales talent and how to incorporate their unique talents into your sales coaching session to unleash the entire sales team’s full potential.
The Definition of a Sales Superstar
By definition, superstars are rare. That means high performers are difficult to recruit, hard to replace, and provide revenue crucial for a sales leader’s success. Every sales leader wants more high performers on their sales team, yet most struggle to find one or two.
“Why are sales superstars so hard to find?” you may frustratingly ask yourself. This is the wrong question. A better question sales leaders can ask themselves is, “Why do we fail to weed out sales reps who appear to be high performers from actual high performers?” Think about your hiring process and all the resumes you weeded through. No sales leader who hired anyone ever said to themselves, “This sales candidate will be average at best, but what the heck, I’ll hire them and hope for the best.”
Hiring top performers should be the goal of every sales leader. One way to weed out the actual top performers from all the candidates who appear to be top performers involves introducing constructive challenges early in the interview process. While this approach may prompt some HR managers to raise an eyebrow, it mirrors the realistic interactions they will face when calling people in sales. During the interview, a sales leader may initiate the discussion in the following manner:
Sales Leader: “So tell me why you see yourself as a sales superstar.”
Candidate: “Uh, well, I’ve been in sales for two years. I’m passionate about selling. I love this industry, and this is my dream job. I can see myself doing this for a long time.”
Alternatively, when high performers answer why they think they will be superstars, they talk about their accomplishments. It sounds like this:
“I’ve been in sales for two years and the top rep at my current company. I started at the bottom, and it took me six months to reach the top.”
Genuine high performers will have concrete examples of their accomplishments. When you probe, superstars can provide quantifiable data on their sales achievements, such as revenue generated, deals closed, or sales targets exceeded. This constructive challenge strategy is designed to test their competitive drive upfront and how they respond to challenges.
Every sales leader has likely asked themselves what it is that sets high performers apart from average performers. It’s not merely a matter of higher IQ or working harder. High performers demonstrate exceptional performance regardless of their IQ or work ethics. One thing that stands out is that they dare to innovate and take calculated risks.
Some sales leaders may say that the ability to innovate on a sales call is an innate skill that can’t be taught—you have it, or you don’t. But for sales reps to innovate, they need three specific attributes: competence, conviction, and confidence. These essential attributes form the bedrock upon which innovative thinking flourishes. And these three attributes definitely can be improved with coaching.
With this understanding, sales leaders can coach to expedite this developmental process. As sales coaches, we shape this learning environment by prioritizing education as a fundamental aspect of performance. Through targeted sales training and tailored approaches, sales leaders can empower sales representatives to accelerate their journey toward proficiency, self-assurance, and high performance. By honing these critical sales attributes, sales teams can unlock their full potential and drive transformative results.
Challenges of Coaching a Sales Superstar
In a perfect world, when a seasoned sales coach steps into the training room for the first sales training session, there’s an air of anticipation. One of the top sales reps will introduce themselves and express the team’s eagerness to learn. They will openly share how they love being coached to acquire new sales skills.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Usually, it can be the exact opposite. The sales team is apprehensive or flat-out rejects coaching. Often, the top sales reps are spreading a negative narrative about, “Here we go again, more time-wasting.” High-performing salespeople who reject sales coaching frequently believe the following myths:
- Coaching is for beginners.
- We already know this.
- We can coach ourselves.
In my experience as a seasoned sales trainer, I’ve found that dismantling these barriers among high performers is the first step in effective sales coaching. Coaching begins by establishing a nurturing and conducive environment for learning for all sales reps. This encompasses all factors that impact a sales rep’s attitudes and beliefs. Until each sales rep has a mental “buy-in,” the impact of sales coaching will be limited.
Phil Jackson said this about coaching superstars, “The essence of coaching is to get the players to wholeheartedly to agree to being coached, then offer them a sense of their destiny as a team.“ What he didn’t do was go in and say, “There’s a new sheriff in town, and we are going to do this my way or the highway.”
When sales leaders encounter individuals resistant to sales coaching, they should recognize a need for a paradigm shift in the sales rep’s mindset. This includes a strategy for gradually fostering coachability. Given the entrenched nature of their resistance, we know we have to be innovative.
When top performers buy into the process, it fosters teamwork and collaboration. This collaborative environment encourages knowledge-sharing and the exchange of best practices. Repetition is crucial in solidifying new skills. Engaging in regular coaching sessions reinforces the learning process, ensuring that the new sales skills become ingrained in the reps’ repertoire.
Improving Team Performance with a Sales Superstar
As sales leaders, we understand that highly accomplished sales professionals can come with an inflated ego. Managing this dynamic can be a challenge. The objective is to leverage the expertise of your top sales performers to elevate the collective performance of the entire sales team. Phil Jackson called this philosophy “surrendering the me for the we.”
Top sales reps often command a high level of respect from managers and senior executives. This is because they possess the three Cs: competence, conviction, and confidence, and produce superior results. However, at times, their elevated status may generate demanding behaviors that can potentially impact the broader sales team. Careful management by their sales leader is crucial to prevent any toxic repercussions.
Overachieving salespeople who turn toxic often grapple with underlying insecurities stemming from their success. They feel compelled to perfectionism. They view this as a great character trait. Unfortunately, it pushes others on the sales team away, and they become lone wolves.
Some sales leaders may be comfortable allowing lone wolves to operate independently, and that’s fine. However, more discerning sales leaders recognize the importance of harnessing the collective knowledge of the team, especially in complex sales environments. An innovative sales team creates a competitive advantage and is no match for a team of sales clones.
If we agree that high performers are more innovative and that bringing their knowledge to the sales teams creates value, how can sales leaders get superstars to share their knowledge? Creating cohesion among a diverse group requires open and honest communication. The coach must bring the superstar’s ego down a level, so they are equal to the team.
Constructive feedback sessions are effective coaching techniques. This approach allows for reviews of the team’s performance without them feeling personally attacked. Because most superstars desire public praise, their performance can be used as an example for the team. Constructive feedback sessions serve as a framework for continuous learning, emphasizing the opportunities for growth rather than moments of critique.
During these sessions, the superstar can be used to enhance the team’s understanding of innovative sales strategies. This is not about individual performance but elevating the team’s collective success. This approach is not only effective at improving tactical strategies like how the superstar handles a price objection but also fostering unity and igniting team spirit.
Pursuing sales superstars is a common goal for every sales leader, as they play a pivotal role in driving revenue and ensuring a team’s success. However, identifying true high performers amidst a sea of candidates can be a daunting task. It’s imperative to employ constructive challenges early in the interview process to distinguish genuine superstars from those who merely appear to be.
Furthermore, coaching high-performing sales reps presents its own challenges, as they may initially resist the benefits of coaching. Establishing a conducive learning environment and gradually fostering coachability are essential steps towards breaking down these barriers.
Ultimately, leveraging the strengths of a sales superstar can have a transformative impact on the entire team’s performance. By embracing a collaborative approach and encouraging open communication, sales leaders can bridge the gap between top performers and the broader team, creating a cohesive and high-achieving unit.
Remember, the journey to unlocking a sales team’s full potential begins with recognizing the hidden value of high performers and nurturing their growth to benefit the entire sales team. With the right strategies, sales leaders can cultivate a dynamic, innovative, and successful sales force.
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