Why New Sales Hires Frequently Fail
One of the most frustrating experiences for sales managers is hiring “hunter” salespeople who produce lackluster results in spite of their stellar interview performance. Unfortunately, this phenomenon occurs all too frequently and results from insufficient scrutiny of candidates in the recruiting process. One of the most common mistakes companies make in this area is failing to screen candidates effectively before moving them into the interview phase.
As part of the screening process, testing is an excellent way to help make sure we are not spending time interviewing low-potential candidates, and hiring managers frequently use some kind of sales test to screen candidates for characteristics such as persuasiveness, relationship skills, and industry knowledge. Make no mistake, these are all important predictors of success . . . but they are also teachable. We have found that high-performing “hunters” share three non-teachable traits, without which they are unlikely to succeed over time. These traits are:
- Need for Achievement – The desire to continuously raise the bar on their own performance and pursue excellence for its own
- Competitiveness – The desire to win the prospect over to their point of view and be the best among their
- Optimism – The certainty that they will succeed and the resiliency to persist in the face of rejection.
Collectively, we refer to these characteristics as Drive . . . the perfect storm, psychologically, for a salesperson. By the time a person is in their early 20’s, these traits are hardwired. Drive is also the toughest trait to rate in an interview and the easiest for candidates to fake (sales candidates can talk a good game). So, it is critical that we, as hiring managers, test our sales candidates rigorously for Drive prior to the interview. Using a well-constructed sales test for Drive helps to weed out the “professional interviewers” early, allowing us to spend our precious interview time focused only on high-potential candidates. Of course, the subsequent interview must continue to verify Drive, as well as cultural fit and the other core skills essential for the position. Following this process carefully dramatically increases our odds of hiring high-potential salespeople and avoiding the underperformers whose best (and sometimes only) sale occurs during the recruiting process.
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