Uncovering the characteristics of a successful salesperson
World-class sales hiring is the biggest driver of sales success.
The ideal sales hiring formula is different for everyone but the process to engineer is the same. Studies show salespeople who are intelligent and helpful, rather than aggressive and pushy, are most successful with today’s highly empowered buyers.
Five traits great salespeople have and how to interview for them
There are five criteria that correlates strongly with sales success. Use them to your advantage:
- Coachability – the ability to absorb and apply coaching.
- Curiosity – the ability to understand a prospect’s context through effective questioning and listening.
- Prior success – a track record of excellent performance and achievements.
- Intelligence – the ability to understand complex concepts quickly and communicate those concepts in a simple and easy way.
- Work ethic – the ability to proactively pursue the objectives with high levels of energy and focus
Finding top-performing salespeople
Great salespeople barely apply for a new job. Finding great salespeople requires a passive recruitment strategy. Instead of working with a recruitment agency, try to build your own. Search on LinkedIn and the forced referral are great resources for quality passive sales talent.
The ideal first sales hire
Don’t put too much weight on senior leadership experience and industry domain knowledge. Many people fall into this trap. Instead, you should look for people who can accelerate your company toward product/market fit.
Setting up a predictable sales training program
Every top-performing salesperson succeeds in their own way. Heavy reliance on ride-along during the training process can harm a new hire’s ability to thrive using their own unique strengths. On top of that, ride-along sales trainings are neither scalable nor predictable.
The key to building scalable and predictable sales training program is to define the sales methodology. The methodology consists of three elements: the buyer journey, the sales process and the qualifying matrix.
Manufacturing helpful salespeople your buyers trust
Instead of asking your buyers to understand the salesperson’s solution, train your salesperson to understand the buyers’ goals and how his or her own solution can help achieve these goals. The modern-day selling should be based upon doctor – patient relationship, not a seller – buyer relationships.
The most seasoned salespeople have experienced the day to day jobs of their prospects. Social media creates a unique opportunity for all salespeople to be perceived as trusted advisors. Salespeople should consider taking some time off to spend more time with the online community.
Metric-driven sales coaching
Many sales managers make the mistake of training their salespeople with too many skills simultaneously. You should instead pick one and focus. Use metrics to diagnose the area that has the biggest impact on your salesperson and his or her objective. Customize the training plan accordingly.
Motivation through sales compensation plans and contests
Sales compensation is one of the most effective tools to drive business strategy but sadly there’s no perfect compensation plan. It all depends on the stage and objectives of the business. Sales contests can also be an effective short-term tool to drive behaviors and build culture within an organization.
Developing sales leaders – advantages of a ‘promote from within’ culture
Train for leadership skills than general sales management skills to develop future leaders and promote from within. Besides the internal promotion, give qualified sales mangers opportunity to look for and train new hires while still carrying their day to day responsibilities.
Flip the demand generation formula – get buyers to find you
Nowadays almost every buyer is empowered by the Internet. A modern selling strategy relies less on outbound marketing and more on inbound marketing. Successful inbound strategy is twofold (1) quality content creation (2) community engagement where your buyers are already having a conversation. It also pays to focus on the long-tail topics as they’re highly targeted and less competitive.
Converting inbound interest into revenue
Train your marketing team to filter the leads before passing them to sales. Avoid the lead scoring trap. Use a buyer persona matrix to decide when to pass to sales.
On the other hand, train your sales team to scrap the generic elevator pitch. Prioritize prospects by engagement, not in a random order. Also consider specializing the team by inbound or outbound.
Aligning sales and marketing – the SMarketing SLA
The marketing SLA should put marketing team on a revenue quota, similar to sales dynamic. Sales is accountable to marketing just like marketing is accountable to sales. The sales SLA defines a series of behaviors expected of the sales team to ensure each lead is followed up effectively.
Technology to sell better, faster
Technology should enable your salespeople, not create more work for them. Thriving companies adopt sales technology to create better buyer experience. Sales technology should also streamline selling process by eliminating admin tasks and automating data capture.
Running successful sales experiments
Great sales teams are a result of continual improvement and experimentation. A key ingredient to accelerate your sales is to foster such culture. Set up a culture around innovation, rather than generating ideas by yourself. Follow a specific formula for experimentation to get the most out of your experiments.
Where do we go from here?
It goes without saying many buyers perceive salespeople as notoriously manipulative, deceitful and borderline unethical, while they should be thought of as helpful advisors and respected thought leaders. Buyers would actively avoid talking to salespeople instead of reluctantly engaging them. As both buyers and sellers ourselves, we must stop this unfortunate downturn and accelerate towards a vision where our sales advisors are sought after in times of crisis, just as doctors are, and their diagnoses and prescriptions are taken seriously.