What kind of salesperson should you always be on the lookout for? What specific traits does the ideal sales hire always possess, no matter what industry you’re in, and no matter what your market looks like? What does someone who consistently supports a rapid-growth sales culture on your team look like?
These are big questions. The simplest, most direct answer to all three of them is: a salesperson who is both Willing and Able.
Here’s how that answer breaks down. Before you hire someone … it is your job as sales leader to ask: “Is this person Willing?” Whether someone is truly Willing to do the job depends on that individual’s Behaviors and Attitudes. Regardless of your industry, regardless of your product or service, the predictable Behaviors and Attitudes of a Willing hire always include:
• Desire. This person is self-motivated and strongly goal-oriented. This person is a self-starter.
• Drive. This person persists in the face of adversity … and is often inspired by it. He or she does not rest on past achievements, but is goal-focused, and is always moving forward. IMPORTANT: Someone who is not oriented toward “up and to the right” in terms of personal and professional development is NOT WILLING in the cultural sense.
• Coachable. You want someone who is open to coaching. Not necessarily from you, although that’s fine, but from someone. A person who is open to coaching is someone who wants to get better and is always looking to improve. Someone who is not coachable, who believes he or she already has all the answers, is not a good hire.
• Possibility mindset. This person operates from the assumption that there is plenty of success to go around, and that adversity is an opportunity to learn and improve, to push oneself and grow as a person. A possibility mindset is the opposite of a scarcity mindset, which is the mindset that dictates there is a limited number of achievements and resources. Note: Human beings determine their reality by means of their choice to occupy a possibility mindset or a scarcity mindset.
• Company focus. This individual understands and is completely aligned with the organizational mission. He or she is thinking and acting on behalf of the company’s best interests.
• Team focus. This person thinks of “us” before thinking of “me.” There is no sense of personal entitlement, no sense that “rules are for other people.” IMPORTANT: Someone who believes that “rules are for other people” is NOT WILLING in the cultural sense. And here’s the second part of the equation. Before you hire someone, it is just as important for you as the sales leader to ask, “Is this person Able?” Whether someone is Able depends on that individual’s Techniques and Applications. Of course, the specific Techniques and Applications of the very best sales hires will vary widely from team to team and from industry to industry … but they will always include the following elements:
• Creates and sustains relationships. This person knows how to connect and interact effectively with a variety of behavioral styles.
• Understands and executes a documentable sales process. This person can master the process by which leads turn into revenue for your sales team.
• Effective communication, both internal and external. This individual communicates on an adult-to-adult level and does not take things personally. He or she knows that the workplace is not the place to get one’s emotional needs met. In addition, this person is collaborative and knows how to determine whether people are on the same page; he or she also follows up voice-to-voice contact with appropriate text and email communication, using those tools effectively to reinforce key messages.
• Negotiation, both internal and external. This person does not shy away from difficult conversations. He or she knows that conflict can sometimes be an effective tool for negotiating compromise, but never uses conflict in a way that demeans others.
• Effectively sets and defends Up-Front Contracts. This simply means setting and upholding a mutual agreement, also known as an agenda, so there can be an effective conversation. Setting the agenda for important discussions collaboratively, and then defending that agenda, is an important element of a successful selling team’s culture.
• Analytics focus. This person monitors and tracks personal and team activity by means of measurable daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly outcomes. Focusing on things that can be counted gives everyone an accurate picture of what’s taken place. The numbers should give us clear insights on what has happened up to this point, what has worked, what hasn’t, and what action we need to take to create no-drama action plans for what needs to happen next. When focusing on the numbers is part of your culture, it’s much easier have discussion about concrete actions, rather than about who is right and who is wrong, who is up or who is down, who is good or who is bad. The numbers are what they are. There is no point yelling at the scoreboard!
If a candidate – or a current team member – is consistently missing even one of these Willing and Able elements, then he or she does not belong on your sales team. Recognizing and acting on this fact is a management courage moment!