The Search for the Perfect Salesperson
If your company needs help finding the perfect salesperson, this article is for you. While the perfect salesperson may be as elusive as a Leprechaun, knowing what to look for will help in the hunt. Based on our extensive experience working with salespeople across all industries, we try to answer this important question. Regardless of whether you are an experienced sales manager or a brand-new hiring manager, this article will help you in your search for superstar sales talent.
The Myth of Perfection
Before you begin your search for the perfect salesperson, we must recognize that perfection is a myth. The myth of a perfect salesperson is something many sales managers pursue because the need for high-performing sales reps is greater than ever. Sales leaders are becoming increasingly frustrated at their inability to find top talent. To make matters worse, keeping top talent from leaving is a constant challenge, which makes finding new sales talent a constant challenge.
The problem with searching for the perfect salesperson is that many sales leaders ignore the fundamentals. Superstar salespeople are made, not born. Discounting the value of training, coaching, and developing your sales hires is what perpetuates the myth of finding a superstar. In other words, talent alone is not enough to ensure a high-performing sales team. An indication a company has bought into the myth of perfection is the high turnover among the sales force. “We hired you because we thought you were a superstar, but you are not producing like a superstar, so we have to let you go.”
Reject the Perfect Salesperson Myth
Once we reject the myth of finding the perfect salesperson, that leaves the sales leader with one option: To find the best talent available and then develop that person to their fullest sales potential. For most organizations, the sales force is their primary revenue driver. That means the difference between a poor hire, a good hire, and a great hire can have significant ramifications on profitability. Once a sales rep is hired, it is the responsibility of the sales leader and company to maximize the sales performance of the new hire. In a previous article, we discussed in detail how sales managers can onboard new hires the right way. The fundamental philosophy is that high-performing sales reps are not born sales superstars. High performing sales reps are developed. If we hire the right sales talent and they fall short of expectations, the sales leader should ask themselves first what they could do better, prior to looking for their next salesperson.
Attributes of Top Sales Talent
Every sales leader knows the key personal attributes they are looking for in their next sales hire. Things like motivation, persistence, confidence, positivity, competitiveness, and team player all come to mind. However, these are the obvious characteristics every hiring manager is looking for. But what about the hidden traits top salespeople have in common? Here’s a list of not-so-obvious attributes to look for to separate the great salesperson from the good sales rep.
Sales Resourcefulness: A great salesperson is resourceful. That means they can maximize the resources the company provides, even if they don’t have everything they need. There may not be a more important attribute for high-performing sales reps than resourcefulness. A resourceful sales rep will find a way to meet their numbers even if the path to success is difficult. Average reps will close most of the easy deals, while high-performing sales reps find ways to consistently close difficult accounts with their resourcefulness. A resourceful sales rep is not worried about the resources they don’t have, but how they can fully leverage the resources they do have.
Sales Creativity: The companion attribute for resourcefulness is creativity. The two go hand-in-hand. High-performing sales reps will always find creative solutions to existing challenges. This does not only apply to current problems, but they will also look for opportunities to improve their workflow and sales processes. Creative sales reps are information gatherers. They have mentors and coaches and access to diverse information. Sales is all about change. High-performing sales talent have likely experienced a setback or two in life and had to come up with creative ways to overcome them.
Big Picture Thinking: A great salesperson sees the big picture. In other words, they see the “why” behind the company. This understanding keeps them optimistic and persistent in the face of adversity because they see value in what the company brings to their clients. When a sales rep sees the big picture, they are willing to coach other sales reps. They are not lone wolves. Instead, they realize that when the team wins, everyone wins.
The Most Overlooked Attribute: One of the most overlooked traits of high-performing sales reps is that they are willing to go the extra mile, whereas average sales reps typically won’t. It’s a common theme in companies everywhere: people are doing their minimum job requirements and expect praise. High-performers are comfortable doing things beyond their job description. They are willing to do the things average sales reps are unwilling to do, whether that means burning the midnight oil to complete a complex RFP response or mentoring a colleague new to the job. This characteristic is often called grit or growth mindset. Whatever you call it, high-performing sales reps have it and average sales reps do not.
Company Role in Top Sales Talent
High-performing sales talent is a two-way street. It requires belief and aligned vision between the sales rep and the organization. This level of clarity does not happen because of a job posting. It’s part of the day-to-day culture of the sales organization. Many organizations hire top sales talent only to lose them (or worse, turn them into average sales talent), because their day-to-day actions did not match the company’s mission statement.
For example, sales reps know better than anyone in the organization how clients are treated. It only takes a handful of upset customers to demoralize a motivated sales rep. When clients complain, they may cancel. When sales reps lose accounts for reasons outside their control, they feel powerless. For salespeople to maximize their potential, they must feel empowered.
To be clear, the problem in this example is not losing clients. Losing clients is part of day-to-day business. The fact is that clients leave for numerous legitimate reasons. However, if a company minimizes, rationalizes, or justifies the cancelation, these become costly cancelations. When a company treats lost clients as disposable, top performing sales talent will see this and start looking for another position. Losing clients can be an opportunity of the highest order. It provides a chance for everyone to acknowledge the problem, correct it, and learn from it. Failure is important feedback in sales.
Room to Experiment
Another duty of the sales leader and company is to give their sales talent room to experiment. If we agree that high performers are resourceful, creative, and pro-active, then it is critical to create a culture that values those characteristics. In sales, situations can change fast. Sales reps need to feel safe so they can experiment without fear of being punished. Top sales talent will see solutions others fail to see. If you want to develop your sales reps to their top potential, they have to feel secure to make creative decisions.
Creating a high-performance sales organization is not easy. Finding high performing sales talent is a challenge for every company today. The challenge can be addressed by taking a strategic approach to hiring. There are specific characteristics that are often overlooked that can help hiring managers with their search.
The purpose of this article was to get you to think about the non-obvious attributes of high-performing sales talent. It is a combination of attitude and actions, both on the part of the individual and the company. The sales rep and the company work in tandem to produce high-performing teams. The idea that a company can hire the perfect sales rep and all their sales challenges will be solved is a myth. Hiring managers and sales leaders should be careful to remember not to confuse high-performance with perfection. High-performance can be achieved with training, coaching, and development. Perfection is a myth and the enemy of high-performance sales teams.
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