Jose Palomino

Hiring Great Salespeople Part Two: What You Don’t Know

December 3, 2013

hiring great salespeople

Image credit: salvez on flickr

Yesterday I gave a quick overview of studies that can inform how you hire when hiring salespeople.  Today I wanted to add a new study to the list:  The Dream Team study from Don Fornes at Software Advice.  Don keeps an informative blog over there entitled The New Talent Times BlogStrategies for Building and Managing Today’s Workforce.

The Dream Team

Don, his Managing Editor Holly Regan, and psychiatrist Dr. James Maynard contributed to a study of overall team traits — meaning it wasn’t just about the salesperson, but about looking holistically at all types of personalities that make up your office “Dream Team.”  It’s one of the only studies of its kind and a refreshing take.

A salesperson is not an island — or, at least, the top salespeople are not islands.  And as corporate culture increasingly moves towards a horizontal structure versus a vertical one, it just makes plain sense to think of the team whole when hiring.

So what’s the Dream Team made of?

  1. The Givers are your marketing strategy or customer service people. “Their overarching mission is to give to the company, and they put the company and their co-workers ahead of themselves.”

  2. The Matrix Thinkers are your creatives, developers, or CEOs.  “They don’t just “think outside the box,” they think about where the box came from, why it’s there and how it could be designed better.”

  3. The Savants are your researchers, analysts, and engineers.  “Savants flourish when they find the one thing they’re best at and focus on it intently. They are creative, humorous and often brilliant.”

  4. The Champs are your salespeople.  “Champs are high-energy, optimistic and love engaging with people. They’re also extremely skilled at reading people”

The Champ

Today we’ll focus on the Champ.  A Champ can be defined by confidence, energy, and astute relational engagement.  This jives with some of the research we looked at earlier.

You’re also looking for a slight ego and a small chip on the shoulder, according to the study (and these two things — especially “the chip” — remind me of the Challenger study we looked at yesterday).  This is where you have to pay close attention to your hires and your gut.  If you hire an immature Champ, it might take you some extra coaching to reign them in as their ego or chip could get the best of them (and you have to ask: do I have TIME to coach this person into greatness?  Or do I just need an immediate fantastic sales hire?).  However, if you end up with a mature Champ — or at least hire an immature Champ with great reception for coaching — then you’ll hit a home run.

In the Interview

Knowing the types of personalities you are looking for is all well and good, but without some practical application, you won’t be able to use this information to hire great salespeople.  Combining what we’ve learned previously with this new study, here are some things to look for during the interview and hiring process:

  • Stories:  During the interview process, frame a few questions that will require your interviewee to share stories of past success — then pay attention to how they frame these stories.  Who is the hero?  Are they self-aware of their strengths/weaknesses?  Do they challenge the status quo while remaining teachable?  What personality traits stand out in their stories?

  • Affect:  Don’t just pay attention to the answers of the questions — look for their personality to come shining through during the interview.  Are they confident yet realistic?  Outgoing yet thoughtful?  Self-disciplined yet a team player?

  • References:  Beyond merely making sure that your applicant’s resume is accurate, ask a few more questions of their references.  Has your applicant had teachable moments?  How have they grown?  What do they bring to team that others don’t?  Although you can’t rely on references 100%, you should take the opportunity to learn more about your applicant’s personality.

Ultimately, you’ll know what salespeople work and don’t work within your specific sales context, but since turnover can be such an issue for employers, it never hurts to look over what the studies have shown us.

  • What’s your method for hiring great salespeople?

  • Have you ever hired based on studies?  What was the result?

  • What types of personalities tend to be your top performers?

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