Deciphering Between Great Sellers and Great Talkers

In my blog post, Recruiting the 85 Bears, we talked about taking a unique approach to attracting A talent to your business.  But how do you identify an “A?”  Decades of research, dozens of books…everyone has an opinion on this topic.  Well…me too.

In my 5 assignments of leading teams, I’ve looked at hundreds of resumes and had dozens of interviews.  Interviewers have evolved, and they’re better equipped to make themselves appear like they know what they’re talking about.  No greater mistake a sales leader can make than to pick the wrong person.  That said, lemme pass you some things I’ve learned to ensure you’re deciphering between a great seller and a great talker.

  1. The famous quiz question is always, “walk me through a deal you recently won.”  Drop this question, as it’s the one question a candidate expects.  Ask him instead, “walk me through a deal you lost and why.”  This is my first question usually, and 90% of the time I end the call after the first question.  If I hear anything other than, I got “old-sold” and here are the 2 or 3 reasons why, I move on.  And, as important to the approach to the question, I am looking for key phrases like, “I didn’t understand the personal win of the buyer” or “I mis-judged the buyer’s power base.”  These are indicators that the seller is sophisticated and knows why deals are lost and won.  I have heard tons of “lost on price, or my SC did a bad demo, or I couldn’t get my partners to align on time.”  Those are wrong answers that easily allow me to weed out the bad ones.
  2. THE most important predictor of an A is not only identifying whether they’re driven, but WHY are they driven.  Most sales leaders ask what motivates you, and their usually satisfied when they hear you say, “money.”  I ask several follow up questions to identify why you’re motivated by money.  This is more important than the motivator itself.  One of the most successful reps I ever knew had plenty of money…but still motivated by it.  Not because he spent lots of money, but because he was fearful of being poor.
  3. Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Table stakes is measuring how well a seller interacts with you on the fly.  However, I will not hire someone until I eat a meal with them.  It’s a fascinating correlative on how someone behaves over a meal and their capacity to display conscientiousness. Situational awareness is a close 2nd in my rank of predicting and assessing A talent.  I watch how they treat the wait staff, what they choose to eat or drink, and how they multi-task conversation with the social environment they’re in.  More than not, a meal relaxes most people to the point where they let their “business guard” down, and you get a glimpse into their personality more than if you were in the office.
  4. I recently told my leadership at my operations review, I no longer hire quarterbacks that haven’t won super bowls.  Translation is, if someone has had success, they’re more likely to find it again.  Software sales is incredibly difficult…and nebulous.  It’s full of daily algorithms that are almost impossible to solve.  Once you’ve solved it a few times, you’re much more likely to repeat.

These tips are the fundamentals.  What separates Minor leaguers and Major leaguers is asking the right questions.  I welcome your feedback and tips as you hire the A’s in the market!

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