Salespeople, by their nature, are chameleons. They are superior communicators, they’re convincing and…well, they just sell themselves well. Putting aside the great presentation, the question we all try to answer when evaluating a good salesperson is twofold…can they bring passion and energy to our clients and will they be committed to us, and to our product?
Clearly, previous performance is an excellent indicator of future productivity so you can ask questions about meeting quota, their sales process, the type of activities used to generate meetings, sales planning etc. However, just as important as the salesperson’s ability to meet quota is how their inner instinctive drivers match with your company, your product and your type of sale.
Ask yourself the following questions and make sure there is a natural connection with the needs and the expectations of your salespeople. Without that match, getting out of bed in the morning will be a hard slog for them each and every day.
Who do you sell to?
Some sales are directed to C-level individuals in an organization while others are made to purchasing departments. Some sales entail long- term relationships that are built up over many years, and others are transactional where you fill out an RFP and deliver the products as required. Each of these sales has a different rhythm and a different ‘high’ that has to synch with the salesperson’s inner needs.
How are leads generated?
Are you hiring salespeople to catch the overflow of new business from an already busy salesforce or are you hiring them to increase market share at the expense of the competition? Maybe it’s a combination.
The sales rep who is successful with cold-calling and lead generation may have very different skills from the sales rep who excels at sustaining client relationships. The former views prospects as people they simply haven’t met yet and welcomes the opportunity to make a connection. The relationship builder, on the other hand, may not be comfortable working with strangers.
Is this a channel or a direct model?
Channel managers need to understand how their client’s sales methodology works and are often involved in their channel partner’s sales opportunities. They need to be able to qualify and forecast opportunities in their channel partner’s sales pipeline. They do NOT, however, control their channel partners or their sales opportunities as their channel partners will do things for their own reasons… not because they have been told to do so. Successful Channel Management is about influencing channel partners and involves a completely different stimulus-response than does a direct sale.
Is there much networking involved?
Do you expect sales staff to network? Personality plays a huge role in determining when people will network and their degree of success. If your business culture assumes salespeople will attend large events and expo’s to generate leads, then hire people who are outgoing and group-oriented…they love that stuff. Hire a more reserved individual and you may be disappointed by that person’s performance in the large group settings but thrilled with how they make everyone comfortable in small groups and one-on-one presentations.
How sophisticated is your product or service?
Different sales complexities demand different sales skills. When selling commodity-like items the make-or-break sales skills come down to persuasiveness and negotiation. When selling services, you need to have bone deep product knowledge, listening and analytic skills and a keen ability to learn and think on the fly. The more sophisticated the sale, and client, the greater the intelligence needed by your salespeople.
How long is your sales cycle?
Consider the length and complexity of your selling cycle. Sales for big-ticket capital items often take a year or more to close. Industries such as health care and government may have longer sales cycles.
Salespeople skilled with transactional sales and shorter sales cycles – the rabbits – become impatient when results are not immediate. On the other hand, relationship builders and consultative sales reps – the tortoises- become frustrated with what they perceive as the micromanagement of monthly sales quotas.
The moral of this story is that each sale cycle has its own unique characteristics and each salesperson gravitates towards what gives him/her strength.