How would you respond to the question: Who’s your sales type?
I recently read that the cost of a bad sales hire is 7 times (7x) the annual salary of that position. You would think that such a stiff penalty would provide sufficient incentive for hiring managers to do a much better job of specifying their requirements for an open sales slot, as well as identifying and hiring the right candidates. And yet, sales managers and CEOs repeat the same sales hiring mistakes time and time again.
The problem usually resides with the hiring manager, whether that is a CEO, owner or sales manager. While the job description for a sales opening might say all the right things about the skills, experience and personal qualities the company is seeking in a candidate, the informal list in the CEO’s and sales manager's minds is usually boiled down to stereotypical qualities like these:
In a recent interview in the Harvard Business Review, Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.com was quoted as follows:
"We don't make money when we sell things; we make money when we help people make purchase decisions."
To me that is a compellingly simple and accurate description of what selling is. And from that description I can derive four personal characteristics for a sales person that generally speak to helping their prospects make good purchase decisions:
Now let's go back and review that list of characteristics that hiring managers typically are holding in their minds while they are looking to hire a sales person. "Hunter, Closer, Outgoing, Aggressive." Which of those aspects specifically speak to helping customers make purchase decisions? Any of them? Of course not.
I vividly remember my first sales training course for my first sales job out of college. I was dispatched to a two-week long introductory sales training class in Pasadena, CA. I was going to be trained to sell business computer systems.
My classmates were mostly people who exhibited the stereotypical sales behavior frequently associated with used car salesmen that you would see in a movie or TV show. Firm handshakes, ingratiating insincere smiles and the ability to bull-rush an objection clean out of the prospect’s mind.
At the end of the class, we were sent back to our branch offices with a sealed envelope that contained the class instructor’s evaluation of our classroom performance and our potential for success in sales at the company. I duly handed my envelope to my branch manager, Brian, upon my arrival at the office and returned to my shared desk in the sales bullpen. A minute later, Brian stuck his head in the room and motioned for me to come to his office. As I walked in his door Brian was leaning back in his chair with his feet up on his desk, reading my evaluation.
"So how do you think training went?"
That sounded like a trick question but I took the bait. "I thought it went well. I thought I did well."
"That's interesting you say that because your instructor, Jim, recommends that we…," Brian paused as he scanned down the page with his finger to find the appropriate sentence,"... fire you."
A pregnant pause. I could feel the blood rushing to my face and this sense of impending doom swept over me. (At that moment I remember thinking that I didn’t know which would be worse: losing my job or telling my parents I had been fired from my first job after less than a month.)
"Yep, Jim believes that you will never be successful in sales because you are too…analytical."
Brian swiveled in his chair and made a show of dropping my evaluation in my personnel folder in the credenza behind his desk. Then he turned and looked at me. "Well, what are you waiting for? Get outta here and go sell something!"
There is an obvious danger in generalizing about sales types. If you have the responsibility to hire sales people don’t hire a stereotype of a salesperson. Make it your priority to identify the candidates who possess the skills and experience that best support your customers’ requirements to make an informed purchase decision in the shortest time possible.
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