What do most great sales professionals have in common?
One of the most frequently asked questions by our revenue performance management clients is, "How do you identify and hire great sales people?".
Before attempting to answer that question, it is important to identify and analyze what characteristics almost all great sales people share that makes them outstanding performers. When combined with a solid understanding of the habits and techniques of your company’s top performers you can develop the ‘ideal hiring profile’. When examining the ‘best practices' of your company’s top sales people you should identify product or service specific sales techniques that they follow that will benefit the entire sales organization, and help you develop your sales hiring profile.
To answer the first question, in general there are five key characteristics that I have found which lead to outstanding performance from sales professionals:
1. Desire & Attitude
Salespeople cannot succeed on desire alone but they will not succeed without desire and the right attitude. This characteristic, unlike the others, hasn’t changed over the years.
2. Sales Activity
Successful sales people have adapted to the faster pace of information consumption by their target prospects in today’s Web 2.0 world. Sales activity today has become very technology driven. Sales Force Automation, social media and a plethora of Web 2.0 tools have changed how a great salesperson manages his/her activity and therefore their time, but they are not slaves to it. Successful sales people drive technology and use it to improve their efficiency; they see it as a tool to direct and focus sales efforts.
Today’s successful sales people are utilizing social media and the web to replace yesterday’s sales activity such as cold calls, meaningless first appointments, and a never ending barrage of prospect letters. Your company’s marketing automation should generate leads and nurture them until it is efficient for the salesperson to actively manage the opportunity. Sales activities must be about opportunity management. There simply isn’t enough time for salespeople to be engaged in manual lead generation.
3. Sales Skills
Sales skills are still an important ingredient to successful selling however the nature of the skills has been changing as prospects have become more demanding. They expect the sales professional to go beyond the basic problem solving. The prospect interaction is no longer about outwitting and masterful handling of objections; it is about creating value for the prospect through professional competence.
The best salespeople are skilled at listening and understanding their prospects needs, including the how and why the prospect will buy. Yes they still have the basic sales process methodology in place, but they also interact at a high emotional IQ level, a requirement to be consistently successful today.
4. Product Knowledge
The highest sales achievers not only know their product or service but their competitor’s as well. They are very familiar with their customers' businesses. Good news; bad news! The effective salesperson needs to absorb a lot of information quickly, but the good news is that so much more is readily available on the internet today.
5. Sales Strategy
Every great salesperson has a well thought out game plan. You just cannot expect to win a competitive evaluation today without a sound strategy. Strategies most often are developed at the account and opportunity levels and involve all relevant ranks of both the prospect’s and your organization.
When hiring sales professionals remember to combine these habits with those which may be unique to your company’s top performers before developing your ‘ideal hiring profile’. Use your profile religiously and I’ll guarantee you will see an improvement in your sales hiring!
How do these 5 key characteristics line up with your 'ideal hiring profile'?