Building a sales team can be one of the biggest obstacles to your company’s success. To make matters worse, there are plenty of misconceptions around what traits make a good salesperson, making identifying one in a job interview more difficult than another position. An article by Frank V. Cespedes and Daniel Weinfurter in Harvard Business Review noted “a low correlation (generally, less than 25%) between interview predictions and job success”.
“Job interviewing is just a skill. Like any skill, some people have more of a predisposition for it than others”—Dale Dauten, business columnist.
This staggeringly low success rate has unfortunate implications. It translates to a high turnover rate, therefore sales teams lack expertise and the department exists in a constant state of flux. Between misselected hires and a lack of consistent sales process, you’ll end up with an inefficient team making poor sales numbers.
The reasons for the lack of new-hire quality are manifold: misconceptions about what the interview process should be like, hackneyed stereotypes about what type of personality a successful salesman should have, the lack of a streamlined interview process, and managers who are either poorly trained or not trained at all interviewing.
Here, we’ll take a look at a couple of the pitfalls of the hiring process—and suggest a few ways to avoid them.
Pitfall #1: Not Providing a Guideline for Interviews
The job interview should be a simple, regulated, streamlined process carried out by people who are trained in the discipline and all singing from the same hymn sheet. It’s incredible how interview experiences can vary drastically from company to company, and if we take the above statistic from the Harvard Business Review to be true, many companies just don’t get it right.
Lots of CEOs worry that their managers don’t know how to manage, but they should be just as worried about their interviewers. Luckily, Ryan’s Forbes colleague Bruce Chesebrough suggests a few simple steps to conduct great interviews, including pre-hire testing and a comprehensive sales training program.
You Can’t Build a Team Without a Blueprint
“The biggest mistake most companies make is failing to develop a comprehensive interview guide for managers to use in conducting the evaluation interview,” says Chesebrough.
“Producing such a guide will allow your managers to ask worthwhile, consistent questions across the board, meaning that all candidates have gone through a similar experience and can, therefore, be compared directly against each other.”
Pitfall #2: Believing That Selling Is A Personality Trait
Sales managers tend to have been star salespeople before they were promoted. They have spent a number of years racking up their numbers and have become the darlings of the company. Their superiors are typically more focused on bringing their underperforming colleagues up to scratch. When building a sales team, a manager with a long list of successes to their name might feel that they can identify a star salesperson when they see one—and often, that will be someone in their own image.
Cocky, confident, outspoken, charming: these are the traditional qualities of a salesperson. If a candidate displays these in an interview, many managers believe there is no point in going through pesky formalities—they just want to get them on board.
The first thing that a headstrong, overconfident sales manager needs to be trained is that selling is not a personality trait. If that manager thinks that extroverts make the best salespeople, they are not only miles behind contemporary sales thinking, but they probably misunderstand the term “extrovert” as well.
As reported by the Washington Post, there is a correlation of just 0.07 between extraversion and sales performance. In practical terms, that’s as good as no correlation at all.
To this point, Leslie Ye points out in her Hubspot article that there are also misconceptions about the nature of extroverts and introverts:
“Extroverts aren’t all social butterflies, and introverts aren’t necessarily shy. In fact, the extraversion-introversion divide isn’t about personality at all. The distinction is defined by where people get their energy from—other people, or solitude. Introverts gain energy by being alone, while extroverts are invigorated by social situations.”
In trying to build strong sales teams, sales managers need to rid themselves of these common preconceptions before an interview. The interview is important in determining if a candidate has good communication skills and if they fit the company, but more attention must be paid to other factors.
“Selling effectiveness is not a generalized trait,” write Cespedes and Weinfurter. “It’s a function of the sales tasks, which vary according to the market, your strategy, the stage of the business (i.e. startup or established company), the customers targeted by your strategy, and buying processes at those customers.” In other words, a salesperson who is able to prioritize sales tasks through logical analysis is a successful salesperson, and this is what should be tested during the hiring process.
Pitfall #3: Believing That Emotional Quotient Trumps Logical Thinking
Some would disagree with the idea that the ability to logically analyze tasks is the top trait to look out for in a salesperson in lieu of ones Emotional Quotient (EQ). A person’s emotional quotient is their ability to recognize other’s feelings and use that information to determine their next action. However, the idea of EQ being more important in sales than a data-based approach is not just prevalent in the industry at the moment, it’s also untrue.
In 2014, Professor Adam Grant at the University of Pennsylvania devised a study in which hundreds of salespeople were given an EQ test followed by a cognitive test. The former measured their abilities to perceive, understand and regulate emotions; the latter required them to solve a few logic problems.
After the tests were complete, Grant and his team tracked their subjects’ sales revenue over several months. The results were unequivocal. “Cognitive ability was more than five times more powerful than emotional intelligence,” wrote Grant. “The average employee with high cognitive ability generated annual revenue of over $195,000, compared with $159,000 for those with moderate cognitive ability and $109,000 for those with low cognitive ability.”
Grant doesn’t mince his words in his conclusion: “Emotional intelligence added nothing after measuring cognitive ability.”
A Sales Engagement Platform is the Solution
Your best salespeople are not guessing and using hunches to close their leads; they’re reading the digital body language of their prospects and finding out what actually drove the deal forward in the first place.
Fileboard was built around data-driven insights. With a host of productivity tools, we’ve shifted the burden of pipeline management from the salesperson to the computer.
In the EQ vs logical thinking debate, one extremely important element has been forgotten: the customer. At Fileboard, our vision is that prioritization of sales tasks should not just happen through logical analysis—because then the customer is forgotten. Sales reps need to understand what impact every sales activity has on the buyer – are they moving closer to the sale, or did they just lose the deal already?
That’s why Fileboard prioritizes sales tasks based on actual customer engagement.
Using customer engagement intelligence, we provide a process that tells the sales rep what the next best action is in order to close a deal faster. Prioritizing sales tasks also makes the sales rep work very consistently. We even see the most inexperienced sales reps be more successful faster.
Give those salespeople a process that prioritizes their sales tasks and you create a recipe for a highly successful sales team.