Sales Leaders, Ditch Your Outdated Ideas about Hiring

Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.netA lot of sales leaders let old myths about hiring get in the way of finding superstar candidates.

The myths I’m talking about are based on the idea that certain characteristics or qualities can magically help you identify your next top performer among a pool of potential hires. For example, how many times have you heard people endorse job candidates by saying things like:

“He’s a hunter.”
“She’s a great networker.”
“He’s an ‘activity’ guy.”
“She’s a road warrior.”
“She used to be an athlete.”
“He’s a cold calling animal.”

These things are all well and good, but something about the language reminds me of the book Moneyball, in which baseball scouts would make decisions about players based on assessments like, “He passes the eye candy test. He’s got the looks, he’s great at playing the part.” Again, I’m not saying these things are negative. But can you really tell how good a player someone will be from the fact that he somehow looks the part?

As a sales leader, do you really want to make a hiring decision based on the fact that someone has been described as an “activity guy” or has a background in sports? It’s awesome if a candidate used to be an athlete (I used to be one, myself). He or she is probably very competitive and has thick skin. These are two traits that help a lot in sales – but those aren’t the only traits you need to be successful in a sales position, and they’re no guarantee that a former athlete will succeed in your particular selling environment.

Sales managers tend to get hung up on these myths because they have no real idea about what makes their top performers tick. As Moneyball showed, however, a methodology can help you assess new hires more accurately and change the game. In my organization, for example, we identified the Top Performer personality traits of our most successful reps as:

  • Listens well, but can also engage in two-way dialogue.
  • Offers a unique perspective and is intellectually curious.
  • Is comfortable discussing money and can push the customer.
  • Understands the customer’s business and can identify economic drivers.

I put this to the test by giving the Top Performer personality survey to my entire organization. No surprise that our top reps matched the personality traits of the Top Performer. Now I have a real way to identify and measure top reps – and I can hire an army of them.

As a sales leader, you have to watch out for descriptions of potential hires that are just empty words. Hunter. Networker. What do these words really mean? Dig a little deeper so you can identify whether or not a candidate has the specific traits that track to success in your organization. When you use methodology instead of myth, you’ll be able to spot the true gems.

Mike Nelson
Mike Nelson is Vice President of Sales at ON24, a cloud-based Virtual Communication software provider. He has more than 15 years of sales and business development experience in the SaaS, Cloud Software industry, with a focus on Enterprise as well as Channel. He was recently a featured expert during a Webinar on sales enablement strategies.
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