Being an effective sales leader requires many skills. It most certainly requires coaching, development, sales training, leadership and administration skills. Dependent on the level of leadership, it may also require an ability to build sales processes, handle commission and territory planning, create channel strategy, manage sales incentive planning etc. In its totality, all these disciplines comprise roughly only 60% of what a sales leader needs to manage a sales staff with impact. So what about the other 40%? Frankly, it comes down to one essential skill: Hiring.
Time and again, when issues arise in a sales organization, it often boils down to the performance of sales representatives. Either the wrong people are being hired who are not good cultural fits for the organization or no accountability for substandard selling performance exists and therefore that condition rules the day. Often, a wrong-minded sales leadership team is in place, impeding sales results. Or perhaps people are simply unclear about what is needed to be successful in the selling role. There is a multitude of reasons for why selling issues exist. Many are tied to how staffing requirements are filled. I would like to lend perspective to some considerations that should be weighed out when making your next sales hire.
We’ll start with this truth:
Great sales reps come in many forms… but with skill sets that may be incompatible with what you are trying to achieve as a sales organization.
It is important to understand that there are different types of selling mindsets that professional salespeople operate comfortably in, each of which brings their own set of strengths and challenges to the ability to perform well within the confines of what the larger sales unit is trying to accomplish.
For Part I of this article, I have broken these mindsets out into four archetypal types. Later, we’ll work to outline critical considerations for making successful sales hires while providing realization on how having a command understanding of these selling mindsets will help you make solid hiring choices.
Lead Generation Mindset:
Strengths: Ability to make a large, repetitive volume of calls without tiring and tends to be the most fearless when it comes to matters of rejection. They are best able to identify with the concept of sales as a numbers game. Tangible production is very important to them and this type of rep is often very conversational and outgoing. They place a heavy emphasis on friendliness to advance limited causes, such as setting sales appointments or selling products that are “transactional” in nature. They are comfortable with working on the phone without necessarily getting to know the customer on a face to face basis.
Challenges: Very much focused on production, their personal selling process is often limited to what is needed to close the deal and they are centered on meeting or exceeding more immediate term sales goals.
Prospecting “Account Executive” Mindset:
Strengths: Probably not the biggest fan of outright cold-calling, representatives with this makeup often use creative ways to gain appointments with customers. Networking is often a favorite prospecting activity. The tendency is to work towards personal meetings and salespeople operating in this mindset show only a somewhat limited fear of rejection. They can usually hold their own quite well when not a lot of complication is required in the selling process and they also place great stock in building very friendly, face to face selling relationships. Very comfortable showing “hustle” for business.
Challenges: In part due to the typical nature of their compensation, this type of sales rep is also focused on production concerns. Sometimes the organization’s goals may collide with the salesperson’s goals, leading to conflicting purposes. The selling approach can lean towards being “transactional” in nature without a desire for thinking about longer-term customer ramifications.
Account Manager Mindset:
Strengths: These type of sales representatives genuinely enjoy having a central role in problem-solving for their customer(s) and providing a high level of customer service for them. The customer experience is important. They prefer the consultative approach to selling and love sharing in the success of their client(s) on an ongoing basis.
Challenges: Sales reps with this mindset like to be “introduced” to their customers and have some sense of a stable relationship with them. These sales reps like to form selling relationships based on meeting on relatively equal terms. Calling on customer prospects unannounced might be problematic and a degree of support and planning may be required. Cold calling is almost universally NOT a skill preference that this type of sales rep possesses. Because they are so intimately passionate about the long-term success of their customers, rejection is a very personal proposition.
Inside Sales/Telemarketing Mindset:
Strengths: This type of sales representative is comfortable with working on the phone to build a selling relationship. However, they do not typically possess the same ethos as the salesperson with a “lead generation” mindset. Personal style is usually a cross between the “prospecting account executive” and the “account manager” with the difference being that the typical inside sales rep is comfortable with not meeting a customer face to face.
Challenges: It can be hard to determine what type of selling mindset this representative truly possesses because it can run the gamut. However, the desire for gravitating to an inside sales position often indicates a desire for stability in their selling work and a lack of propensity for prospecting. This is because the nature of inside sales often produces warm leads to convert… an important appeal for the role.
So what does this mean for hiring purposes?
In each of these types, there are success stories and a level of sales greatness that can be readily achieved, but the mindset needs to match the selling role. The key to hiring is NOT to go in with the expressed purpose of passing judgment about what actual selling experience the sales representative has previously held…. but rather to find out how they like to sell if they had a preference. What is important to them? This reveals their selling mindset and once you find this out, it then becomes a matter of matching that mindset to the responsibilities of the position.
Coming Soon – Part II:
How do you minimize risk in the hiring process, significantly reduce attrition and hire to gain outperforming sales results? And what are “sales engineers” and how does their role contribute to the larger selling organization?