How do you hire successful sales professionals? Why do so many entrepreneurs fail to reach their sales goals? What should you do during the interview to find the right sales talent for your team? Why interviewing for strengths can help your business grow!
I’ve interviewed and hired many high performing sales professionals in my career. Many have gone on to be extremely successful. Many are in the top 5% of sale professionals in their fields. These sales leaders have gone on to be the best salesperson in large corporations and startup companies.
These people have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. I can think of several who have generated over $100 million in sales in a single year. Several have even gone on to lead sales efforts for multibillion dollar organizations.
What’s their secret of success in selling? I believe it comes down to a single factor that is overlooked in so many sales interviews I’ve sat through. Many entrepreneur are so busy asking questions they miss the bigger picture. What are the sales professionals’ key strengths?
The question entrepreneurs should ask sales professionals is, “what are your key strengths and how can you apply them in your new role?” Maybe include a quick follow up question like, “how long do you expect it to take?”
Many of the best sales professionals I’ve interviewed and worked with have known their strengths and their limitations. They uncovered their strengths and then learned how to develop them to their fullest. They don’t work on improving their weaknesses. When sharing this with early stage entrepreneurs I almost always get push back.
How do I define your strengths? Great question. For many years, I’ve coached using a strengths-based model for my clients. Talent multiplied by time investment to improve skills equals strength. I learned this many years ago from Don Clifton of Gallup and I’ve used it ever since. He taught me no one is born with completely formed strengths.
All strengths are developed through repetition and work. Part of our work as sales leaders is to help identify and develop others’ and our own strengths. Successful sales professionals know what they do and don’t do well. They have a high level of self-awareness.
I’ve seen more sales professionals fail because their strengths don’t always translate well in new roles and organizations. In many cases, I find that the entrepreneur is so impressed by the resume they fail to completely understand what made a sales person succeed. Great success in one role may cause them fail in their next position. We will explore how to interview to find out what a sales leaders strengths are in a future blog.
Let’s see if I can give you an example. Let say a person works for a global leader in their industry. The company’s salespeople are the best trained in their market. They get into many meetings and RFPs simply because of the company’s name on the business card. At the beginning, this helps them build a large pipeline very quickly. They leverage this to increase their selling success. They are able to get meetings almost everywhere they go.
Today, sales is still a numbers game. This is changing but I’d bet the individual who talks with many clients will achieve success. As they improve their sales skills along the way, they begin succeeding in a bigger way. They become better at building relationships with key stakeholders in their client organizations.
Now, let’s put this same sales person in a role with a lesser known company or startup, selling in a new market or new products. The customers don’t know who the company is and the sales person struggles to stand out from the crowd with their value proposition.
Their company doesn’t invest much in marketing, thinking their sales professionals can carry the weight. The odds are 1 in 30 the sales professional succeeds. Most times they return to the better known companies in their industry. This happens more often than you would believe.
The person is the same person, but the situation is very different. Their strengths need to evolve to help them succeed in the new role. The client who knows them with the well-known company doesn’t always appreciate the new organization’s capabilities and limitations.
In many cases, clients are more comfortable buying from the bigger company in spite of the learning curve because they know the larger organization will stand behind whatever is sold to them. They also understand their sales people will continue to provide significant insight in how their products and services are being used successfully in other clients.
This creates a problem for the sales professional and his new company. Next week we will show how the sales person can adapt their strengths to this new selling opportunity.
See you next week.