Sales Talent: Do You Need Superman or The Hulk?

Dec 29, 2016, Written by Jim Miley

sales talent

We’ve been deep into the planning cycle for some time, therefore much of the conversation now centers around execution.

How are we going to accomplish our plans?
Do we have the talent we need to achieve our goals?
Is our sales effort primed and ready in order to execute our plans for the coming year?

If your business planning has led you to consider bringing on new sales staff, who are you looking for – Superman or The Hulk? 

What type of person will best serve your business, culture, clients and you?  What does your desired customer base need in order to be best-served in their purchase decisions?

Define What Sales Success Looks Like For You

For more than 25 years I have managed sales professionals across numerous markets, products and services, channels and sales cycles.  Effective sales professional resumes have included graduate engineering degrees and MBA’s to the school of hard knocks and everything in between.  Some have been polished communicators with a really good handshake, while others were quiet types who didn’t care to shake hands at all.  From all the wonderfully successful sales people I have been around, I learned how hard it can be to package success when trying to recruit new employees.   

But before you begin recruiting and evaluating candidates, you should be able to describe the most successful sales people in your business environment so you know what you’re looking for.  It can be difficult for any company, but especially so for smaller business owners without a large roster to man the field.

When you only have one or two sales people, each hire decision becomes extra critical.

In working with small businesses, I know the fog that can surround the recruiting process.  High-horsepower, high-priced sales pros who may take you to the next level, experienced reps who promise to bring their customers with them, young up-and-comers that are affordable and can wear multiple hats…

What To Think About When Making Your Next Sales Hire

My aim here is to offer a few simple questions and qualifiers to help blow the fog off the battlefield and let you think more clearly about your next sales hire.

  • Look at your sales candidate through your customer’s eyes.  Who does your client base find most helpful and influential in their purchase decisions?  Does your client desire significant on-site/hands-on service to earn the business?  Does your client want a technical expert or is the purchase primarily driven by relationship and emotion?

One cause of the fog is dissonance between what we think we are looking for in our sales team and what our customer values.  Ultimately your customer must respond well to your sales efforts, so put the customer high on the evaluation list for sales candidate prospects.

  • Compensation is most often a function of the market and your business capacity.  Are the sales candidate’s compensation expectations far above or far below the market?  Is the sales candidate under or over-committing on their ability to produce results in your business?  Does the candidate seem to understand your business and your market as it relates to money? 

Some people feel a good sales person needs to push the envelope and always shoot for the stars.  I have found, particularly in small business, that managing compensation expectations is critical.  As the owner of the business, you likely have a decent feel for what good sales production looks like and the associated salary expense you are willing to pay out for that production.  Either paying all your profit out in commissions to reward sales performance or having a disgruntled sales rep sharing how unfairly they are paid with your customers and fellow employees is damaging to your business.  Think long and hard with solid due diligence before hiring outliers when it comes to pay.

  • Your sales people will be working in your sales management system; whatever that is.  Do you have a highly-structured sales management system?  Is your business very directive with sales activities?  Do you have a sink-or-swim environment?  Are you looking for self directed/autonomous people who perform best without a lot of reigns or structure? 

Generally speaking, the most effective employees are those working in environments that suit their personalities.

If you are blessed with a sales manager who is adept with Myers Briggs profiles, Emotional Intelligence and adaptive management technique for various personality types, good for you.  The vast majority of businesses benefit from employees who thrive in their culture and not the other way around.  We cover your business culture in other posts.

By considering the points outlined here, you should find picking your hero or heroin from the cast of characters a little more clear for your hiring process.

When looking for sales talent, there are many possible fits but I have found it helpful to clarify the most likely long-term, strong performers within my business.

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Jim Miley

As a Business Coach, Jim brings a broad background of operational and sales management skills and expertise to help small business owners grow their business and reach their highest potential. He has 30 years of field-proven professional experience.