The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    Sales Rep Success Indicators When Filling Sales Jobs

    by Kristi Shoemaker / July 2, 2010

    Posted by: Kristi Shoemaker, VP Marketing, EcSELL Institute

    Hiring a sales rep  can be tricky. Yet, sales jobs are one of the most important postions in any organization.  Our Pillar Partner, Dave Kurlan of Objective Management Group, shared a white paper to put into our EcSELL Institute Resource Library titled "The Modern Science of Sales Rep Selection".  

    Here are some highlights from this sales management white paper. 

    Four elements that are crucial to sales success in sales jobs.

    1. Desire

    Strong Desire, how badly a sales rep wants to succeed - in a sales job - is the most important element. When a sales rep lacks strong desire, their incentive to do anything difficult is not very compelling and they will often take the easy way out.

    2. Commitment

    Strong Commitment is one's willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed in sales job. I found that many sales reps had conditional commitment - they will do what it takes - but only if it is not too difficult, not too scary, and they agree in principal with what they are being asked to do. When salespeople lack strong commitment, their incentive to do anything difficult is not very compelling and they will often take the easy way out.

    3. Outlook

    Outlook encompasses attitude about the company, job, career, and self. When Outlook is not as strong as it could be, as is often true with candidates looking for a new position, it can affect desire and commitment, cause excuse making and a bevy of other conditions.

    4. Responsibility

    When a sales rep takes responsibility for their results, or lack thereof, they are being responsible. Sales reps who make excuses will seldom improve.


    Five major weaknesses which, when present in certain combinations, prevent sales reps from executing their annual sales plans making success more uncertain. Watch out for these traits when filling a sales job.

    1. Need for Approval

    Many people choose sales after being told they had a perfect personality for selling. While that could be true, many of those same people feel complete only when people like them. Salespeople who are easily liked have a great advantage but sales reps who need their prospects to like them often make that a priority over getting the business. A sales rep with need for approval usually have difficulty asking tough questions, often have a fear of rejection and avoid confrontation.

    2. Tendency to Become Emotionally Involved

    Sales reps that think, analyze, create, strategize or otherwise talk to themselves when prospects catch them by surprise become emotionally involved instead of remaining in the moment. When they are emotionally involved, their listening skills tend to be self-focused rather than prospect focused, causing them to miss important points and lose control of the meeting.

    3. Self-Limiting Record Collection (often an opposite of Empathy)

    Every salesperson has as many as 60 beliefs that either support the selling process ("I have the ability to be effective with company presidents") or sabotage ("I don't like making cold calls") it. The collection of self-limiting beliefs is what I refer to as the Record Collection. Ineffective salespeople often have 10 or more of these self-limiting records while more effective salespeople have very few.

    4. Non-Supportive Buy Cycle (an opposite of Empathy)

    Buy Cycle refers to the way a salesperson makes a major purchase for his or herself. When one buys in a way that supports the selling process, it is a Supportive Buy Cycle. Most ineffective sales reps have Non-Supportive Buy Cycles. They think it over before making decisions, comparison shop, and shop for the lowest price, perform research or think that a relatively small amount of money is a lot. When their prospects wish to engage in this behavior, the salesperson understands (empathy) and the techniques for handling stalls and put-offs of this kind are either not used at all or used ineffectively.

    5. Discomfort with Issues Involving Money (a frequent opposite of Empathy)

    Many salespeople are uncomfortable escalating a question about budget, or whether a prospect can afford the product or service being offered, to the next level. Their discomfort prevents them from helping a prospect figure out how to pay or even where the money could possibly come from. When prospects don't have the budget, can't envision increasing the budget or don't know how they can find the money, the sales rep empathizes rather than digging deeper, asking questions and making suggestions to solve the monetary shortage.

    These are important items for a Sales Manager to look for when filling sales jobs.  Today most organizations use an assessment tool of some type. Dave Kurlan suggests that a defined hiring process is as important as the assessment results. Here is what he recommends... 

    Not surprisingly, when a company merely incorporates our assessment criteria within their existing process, very little will change. If the company's record of accomplishment when selecting salespeople has been inconsistent or ineffective, they will be assessing candidates similar to those who have either failed or failed to overachieve. The only real change will be a formal warning that the candidates should not be hired. In order for the value of any assessment to be realized, an effective hiring process must be implemented. Our research shows that when the following steps are executed in this order, superior results will be achieved.

    1. Identify the Ideal Candidate

    This is the most important step in the process and one that most companies don't take the time to perform. A company must ask, "Why have salespeople failed in the past?" "What has caused them to struggle?" "What is it about the way we must go to market that makes it so difficult to succeed?" "What kind of resistance will they meet?" "What kind of successes should they have already experienced if they are to succeed in our company?" "Are we asking them to do anything different?" "Are our prices higher?" "Does our product offering have less value?" "Do people need and want what we have?" "What kind of support, supervision, coaching and accountability will they get from management?"

    2. Search

    The thorough and effective identification of the ideal sales rep candidate will provide the criteria for an advertisement or internet posting. Rather than destroying the productive work accomplished in step 1 by describing the opportunity and the company as most ads do, describe the sales candidate you are looking to attract, their experiences and accomplishments. Ads that start like, "You must have prior success selling high ticket complex conceptual services to Presidents of large companies in a highly competitive market" and end with "you must have prior income of at least $100K" will get many more of the ideal candidates to respond than an ad that starts like, "Successful, well known company has an opening for a goal-orientated salesperson. We offer health, car, expenses, 401K, salary plus generous commission, limited travel and don't really care if you actually sell anything. Please come and fill the seat that was vacated by the three people before you."

    3. Assess

    Our statistics show that companies that assess their sales rep candidates immediately upon receiving a resume identified 50% more hirable sales candidates than those who delayed assessing until later in the process. Additionally, EEOC Guidelines require that if a company chooses to use an assessment, they must assess all of their candidates. The latest change to their guidelines indicates that an individual becomes an applicant as soon as his/her resume is submitted electronically. I recommend the assessment sold by Objective Management Group since I have spent the last 14 years perfecting it. Which ever assessment you decide to use, make sure that it has the following important components:

    • Hiring recommendation (you shouldn't have to draw a conclusion)
    • Hiring criterion that adjusts to the complexity of the sales position (it can't be the same for entry level sales jobs as it is for sales jobs that will pay $250,000!)
    • Hiring criteria that incorporates the company's requirements
    • Interviewing Tips (to expose problems and inconsistencies)
    • Likely problems to expect when the salesperson is in the field
    • Conditions for hiring (are there any?)
    • A way to rank candidates (in case you have to choose from several who are recommended)
    • Compatibility with your ideal candidate (affects ramp-up time)

    Assessing in step 3 rather than step 5 accomplishes three things.

    • You don't fall in love with an undesirable candidate
    • You don't waste time interviewing undesirable candidates
    • You know the candidate's capabilities before you meet with them for the first time

    4. Qualify

    This step is a very powerful component of this process. It consists of no more than 5 minutes on the phone with the sales rep candidates who, according to the assessment, are hirable. In this step you determine whether the sales rep candidate actually meets your requirements by asking them to demonstrate or explain to you how they meet the criteria in your ad or posting. Observe how they listen to your questions, respond, whether they sound good enough on the phone to continue speaking with them or whether someone would want to cut them off. Listen to how they make their case and cut them off abruptly to see how they handle your put-off. Award points for the various criteria and score each candidate appropriately based on how they meet your criteria.

    5. Interview

    Since you already know their capabilities you can focus on other things (like eye contact, self-presentation, spontaneity, hand shake, presence, charisma, sincerity, warmth, intelligence, how you would feel about this candidate representing your company)

    Visit our Resource Library to download additional white papers and sales management research articles. This is only a small sample of the type of sales management resources we provide our members. Our professional development programming makes is easy for Sales Managers to embark on a personal learning journey for themselves and/or for their sales management team.  Let us take this burden from you. CHECK THIS OUT THE VIDEO "ARE YOU READY" to understand why it is critical to stay current and not get left behind! (3 minutes)

    Tags: Talent Identification/Acquisition

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    Kristi Shoemaker

    Kristi Shoemaker

    Kristi is a marketing communications and public relations expert with over 30+ years of experience in a variety of industries. She was an integral part of EcSell's go-to-market strategy and execution from 2008 - 2012. Kristi enjoys taking a holistic approach by integrating all the key marketing disciplines to create synergies that generate maximum results. She is currently the president of KLS Consulting in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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