That Sales Dog Don’t Hunt


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It’s not a new story. In fact, this book has been on the bestseller list for year and the plot is the same. Hard working sales manager or business owner hires a new salesperson. The resume is vetted, the candidate thoroughly screened and there are high hopes that this sales candidate is the one that can help the company achieve new revenues and goals.

The new hire comes on-board and “unpacks” his bag. After three months, the sales manager realizes that the person he interviewed—isn’t the same one that showed up to work. Business development efforts are sporadic and excuses are frequent. “Our company doesn’t have good marketing materials. Our prices aren’t competitive.” The sales manager believes the excuses and creates better marketing collateral and pricing programs. You are now at the six month mark and nothing has changed. There is pressure from the sunk cost of a base salary plus the time and energy invested in training and coaching. You can’t let this person go. Finally, you admit: This sales dog don’t hunt.

Has anyone had the leading role in this non-fiction book?

Let’s face it. Hiring good salespeople is tough; however, it’s not impossible. One area often missing in the hiring process is interviewing for emotional intelligence skills. While emotional intelligence has been taught and admired for years in the leadership arena, most sales organization have not actively incorporated such skills in their hiring and training programs. Here are a couple of soft skills, along with questions, to incorporate into your hiring program.

Test for Self Actualization. This type of salesperson is on a journey of personal and professional growth. As a result, she is always looking for ways to change, grow and improve. In a fast moving world, business is always changing, which means that salespeople need to constantly learn and relearn new products, services, approaches to business. Look at your business over just the last two years. Have things changed? There are new social media tools for business development, prospects that only text and don’t talk to live human beings and increased pressure from on-line competitors. If you don’t hire salespeople that like to learn and improve, your organization will soon be part of the sales dinosaur age.

Screen for self-actualization by asking salespeople the following questions during the interview process:

  • What have you done to invest in your personal or professional growth?
  • How have you changed the way you sell in the last two to three years?
  • What personal and professional goals have you set and achieved?
  • What is the last good book or audio you listened to?
  • Who are your mentors and peers that you seek advice from?

If a salesperson isn’t giving you good answers to the above, there is a good chance that she has settled for being in sales rather than choosing to be in the profession. Good salespeople like sales and invest time and energy in becoming the best at their craft. Learners are leaders and sales leaders are lifelong learners. They will be able to keep up with the constant change required to compete in a competitive business environment.

Test for Independence. Many companies, both large and small, are creating more virtual sales teams, where the salesperson works out of their home office. There are advantages to this model and there are also some disadvantages.

In order for a salesperson to thrive in a virtual sales environment, he must be self-directed, action oriented and doesn’t require outside stimuli to get up and get going in the morning.

We have seen m

ore than one company get “clobbered” because they didn’t vet the candidate for this skill. Yes, the resume was good and previous sales results were not made up or fudged. The problem is that your new sales recruit worked in an office, where there was hands on management, feedback, and peer support. Now, he is in a virtual office and struggling because he doesn’t have the direct support or worse, just plain lonely. (Everyone says they want to work out of their home office and yet, Starbucks is packed with people craving interaction with live human beings!)

Check to see how independent your sales candidate is by asking the following questions:

  • What’s the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make? (If they don’t have a good answer, you can bet this candidate either isn’t good at making decisions or relies on others to do it for him.) In a virtual environment, he will struggle making decisions on his own. In an office environment, there was someone to quickly ask and perhaps get the answer.
  • Tell me about your previous manager. Hands-on? Hands-off? This will give you an idea if the person was successful because he was tightly managed. Not necessarily a bad thing, however, if that is not your style, he may not be as successful under your direction.
  • Check for signs of helicopter parenting. This generation of hires can’t do anything without first checking in with their parents. It’s going to be tough to negotiate a deal with a prospect if your salesperson has to pick up the phone and call Mom for advice.

Interview for soft skills that can impact sales results. You deserve to find a sales dog that will hunt.

Good Selling!

Colleen Stanley

President and CSO

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colleen Stanley
Colleen Stanley is president of SalesLeadership, Inc. a business development consulting firm specializing in sales and sales management training. The company provides programs in prospecting, referral strategies, consultative sales training, sales management training, emotional intelligence and hiring/selection. She is the author of two books, Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success, now published in six languages, and author of Growing Great Sales Teams.


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