Hiring and managing salespeople are the two most important—and most difficult—things you will do as a sales manager. Finding effective salespeople can feel like a never-ending cycle of hiring, training, and inevitable disappointment. Even worse, this revolving door costs your company thousands of dollars with every turn. The main problem, says Dr. Chris Croner, psychologist and sales retention and recruitment expert, is that traditional hiring techniques are terrible at identifying the one crucial quality a successful salesperson really needs: drive.
According to Croner, “Less than 20% of the population has drive, the non-teachable personality characteristic that enables a salesperson to succeed. And you can’t depend on interview performance or past job history to reveal these rare birds.” But Croner says it is possible to identify and retain driven salespeople, and the first step in doing so is realizing that the industry’s so-called “best practices” are, more often than not, sales management misconceptions. “Traditional hiring practices haven’t been refined and tailored to suit sales, so the managers who employ them are often faced with disappointment,” according to Croner.
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10 Sales Hiring Mistakes and Misconceptions
Croner identifies 10 sales management mistakes and misconceptions and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Thinking “I have a golden gut.”
A sales candidate is typically on their best behavior during the interview, and someone who is likable for a short period of time can deceive your gut instinct. This brief interaction won’t indicate whether your candidate can sustain high performance in the tough world of sales, so, it’s critical to implement a scientific hiring process that consists of a sales assessment and a well-conducted behavioral interview to get past the initial impression and to discover what’s really under the surface.
2. A sales presentation during an interview predicts success.
A sales presentation during the interview can tell you whether your candidate did their homework, is able to put together and deliver a presentation, and how well they communicate. But what it won’t tell you is if the candidate will be able to consistently bring in new business. A sales presentation will show you if the candidate can sell, not if they will sell. It’s important to know the difference.
3. Salespeople from big companies are better.
Small- to medium-size companies and/or managers hiring their first salesperson may think that if they just hire a salesperson from a large company, surely they’ll be successful. Spoiler alert: this isn’t always true. Sometimes, a well-known brand brings in its own customers rather than requiring salespeople to go out and source new business. Instead, look for salespeople who have:
- Two to three years of sales experience, to ensure they know the selling basics
- Experience selling for a business similar in size to your company
- A high level of drive
“A highly driven individual with two to three years’ experience at a similarly sized company is much more likely to sell successfully for you than one from a large company,” Croner says.
4. Churn and burn is the best approach to hiring.
As a hiring manager, you may have been disappointed one too many times and concluded that churning and burning through salespeople is the best approach. Unfortunately, a bad salesperson has a ripple effect. Their presence and lack of performance could negatively affect your client relationships, company culture, and bottom line. So, while it takes a bit more time up-front to develop and implement a strategic hiring process, the payoff is far greater than the risk.
5. Anyone can be trained to hunt.
To be a successful “Hunter,” aka new business developer, your candidate needs to have drive, which consists of three traits—achievement, competitiveness, and optimism—that can’t be taught or changed past the age of 21 to 22. The difference between a salesperson who can sell and a salesperson who absolutely will sell is drive.
6. Money is every salesperson’s top need.
A common belief among sales managers is, “I need to hire a salesperson who is motivated by money.” But external financial pressures such as mortgages and student loan debt are temporary. A salesperson motivated solely by money will flatline once those motivations are gone. This is why you should hire salespeople based on their core personality traits and not their current motivations. High-drive salespeople look at sales as points on the scoreboard, so they will never be OK with just hitting a certain number and quitting.
7. A motivational speaker can increase my team’s motivation and drive.
Remember, drive is the non-teachable personality trait shared among successful Hunter salespeople. Hiring a motivational speaker to increase your team’s drive is wishful thinking. That speaker may boost performance for a day or two, but over time salespeople will return to their normal behavior. “Consider bringing in a skills trainer instead,” advises Croner. “This person can assess the team’s current skills and help them improve from there.”
8. A great salesperson will make a great sales manager.
Many sales execs want to give their high-performing salespeople a sense of career progression, so they promote them to the role of sales manager. This can be hazardous because these top performers, who are used to bringing in their own business, are now reliant on the success of others. No longer being in control of their success can make them miserable, and it may even mean a pay cut due to lack of commissions. So, before promoting one of your best salespeople to a sales management position, know that this role requires an entirely different skill set and personality.
9. Generalized personality tests are sufficiently predictive of sales performance.
Measuring someone’s overall personality can be important and is OK to look at when hiring in other roles. But when hiring Hunters, you need to use a sales-specific assessment calibrated to measure personality traits that will affect sales performance. Instead of asking, “How personable are you?” with answers on a scale of 1 to 10, a sales assessment will produce an in-depth sales personality profile.
10. A cheap assessment is good enough.
One common misconception about assessments is how much they should really cost. In doing research, you will find that assessment prices vary drastically, with generalized personality tests starting as low as $20. When shopping for an assessment, it’s just like buying anything else ... you get what you pay for. Safeguard your company from wasting thousands of dollars on an underperforming salesperson by taking steps in the beginning of the hiring process to implement a sales-specific assessment.
Hiring effective salespeople can be a frustrating task, but you can stop the revolving door by learning to successfully identify candidates who possess drive. “Identifying driven candidates will save time and money while relieving managers from the headaches of constant hiring and training,” says Croner. “Once you start taking a strategic approach, it’s a huge relief. Your life will definitely improve, and obviously so will your sales.”
Dr. Christopher Croner, principal at SalesDrive, is a psychologist and sales retention and recruitment expert. He is also coauthor, with Richard Abraham, of the book Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again, which details research and practice in identifying the non-teachable personality traits common to top producers. Dr. Croner developed the proprietary DriveTest online sales test and The Drive Interview, both used for hiring “Hunter” salespeople. To learn more visit the SalesDrive website.