Why Hiring Sales People is So Hard, Part 2

When hiring sales people there is one trait that predicts success more than all the others. Read on find out what it is and how to measure it.

hiring_sales_peopleIn Part 1 of this series we looked at some of the reasons behind why a new sales hire may not perform like you expected them to. They seemed to have everything needed for success, but the numbers just didn’t materialize.

In Part 2, we’re going to look specifically at the key traits for success for that role of a hunter or a rainmaker. The sales person who goes out there and consistently brings in new business.

Last time, we cited some research, and our own experience, that showed that extroverts don’t necessarily make the best sales people. Mounting research, in fact, suggests that it’s the more balanced person on the extroversion/introversion scale that performs better in a sales role. As we suggested in that post, though, there’s another, more important, trait to be looking at when evaluating a candidate for a sales role.

When we look at our own research and the results from working with over 1200 clients around the world, we see trends emerge. The most common trait we see in successful hunter-type sales people is a high level of dominance. People with high levels of dominance are competitive, risk takers, results-driven and highly motivated. They thrive on challenge and they’re not happy unless they’re achieving results. Someone who scores high here is actually motivated by failure, it pushes them to try harder to achieve sales targets.

This last point is incredibly important. Statistics show that 80% of sales require at least five follow-up calls while 44% of sales people stop after one follow up. This is the trait that allows someone to persevere in the face of frequent rejection without letting it slow them down.

The other interesting thing about this trait is that it’s the one most ingrained into our nature. That makes it the hardest one to fake and compensate for. Our experience shows that, while a person can stretch to be more dominant for a time, the stress of this is ultimately too much for them. It’s not something that you can develop for and hope to change them long-term.

That’s why you may see all the right characteristics from someone in an interview, and they may even show the right stuff early on in a job, but they ultimately fail if they are not naturals in this area.

How do you find your ideal hunter?

As we noted in Part 1 of this series, the challenge for hiring managers is determining who really possesses the traits required to be a successful hunter. It’s not the interview that will tell you. A study done by Michigan State University found that interviews are only accurate predictors of future performance 14% of the time, but they’re used to make hiring decisions 90% of the time.

The elements of the dominant trait are particularly difficult to assess in an interview. A candidate may be very engaging and build rapport quickly, but that doesn’t translate to being good closers and doing what it takes to make the sale.  You can’t see how they’ll react to rejection or how motivated they are to go after their goals.

HR and hiring managers need a way to identify a candidate’s natural disposition in order to be certain they’re making a good hiring decision. 

Behavior-based interviewing can help. Behavior-based reference checking can be even more useful. And scientifically sound assessments can provide an even higher level of insight. A valid assessment will give you an idea of a person’s true behavioral makeup to support your decision-making. It’s not a magic bullet. You still have to do all the other things required in a good recruiting process, but it can give you an advantage when it comes to the final decision.

One of those other key steps in the process is knowing what you need and having a profile to measure candidates against. Know if you’re looking for a hunter and what that looks like. Alternatively, know if the right kind of sales person is more of a farmer who needs to patiently cultivate relationships like an inside sales person might. Here’s a free tool you can use to help you do that.

For a deeper look at how assessments can help you avoid hiring another sales failure who looked great on paper request for a free demo and get a copy of the report to yourself.


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