Selecting Salespeople: The Top 3 Characteristics of Successful Competitive Sales Professionals
Posted by John Marshall on December. 2, 2015
You know you need to have high performing, talented salespeople on any competitive sales team. However, not everyone is suited for competitive sales environments – and even those who are able to perform in the role will have varying degrees of success.
The common notion is that anyone who is outgoing, warm, and friendly would make a good competitive salesperson. We hear this all the time: “if you’re really good with people, you should be in sales!” Unfortunately, if you hire based solely on extroversion and people-skills, you will find out what our data has revealed; this is not predictive of success in competitive salespeople.
Don’t get caught in the trap of selecting salespeople based on style over substance.
Using our 35+ years of historical data and predictive analytics, we are able to accurately predict both performance and retention of competitive salespeople. The data reveals the top three characteristics that actually predict performance:
1. Self Management
This is, without a doubt, the most important attribute for success. Self managers are people who are driven and able to direct their own activities on a regular basis. Because competitive sales often relies on the salesperson to initiate the sales process, it requires self managers who will go after the opportunities and complete the tasks needed to close the sale.
Self managers are enterprising and goal-oriented. On a day-to-day basis without being prompted, self managers will:
- Set goals and objectives
- Select activities to get to those objectives
- Commit to the activities
- Do the activities
- Evaluate their performance
- Seek out additional resources when required
As you can see, self managers commit to focusing their daily effort on the tasks that they need to do to reach specific goals. Typically, they do this without thinking about it – it’s just what they do. And it is what makes them more successful than their peers who do not have this crucial characteristic.
2. Achievement Orientation
A person’s achievement orientation is the second-most predictive characteristic for success in competitive sales. Achievement orientation is the motivational component of the salesperson’s personality, which affects their drive, energy, and ambition.
People who have a high level of achievement orientation are very high energy people with a high sense of urgency, who direct their energy into the activities they undertake.
With their energy and urgency, high achievement orientation individuals are typically more effective closers. They also tend to have a balanced motivational structure wherein they are motivated by both money/challenge and people service/recognition. This is ideal because they are most likely to find win-win situations without sacrificing the needs of client or the sale.
If your competitive sales environment calls for salespeople who can close and get results quickly, you want to select someone with a high achievement orientation.
Self Management + Achievement Orientation
Success with candidates who have high achievement orientation ultimately relies on whether they are strong self managers or not. Think of self management and achievement orientation together as a dimmer switch:
- Having self management means the dimmer switch is on; not having self management means it’s off.
- Having a high achievement orientation means the dimmer switch is at high or full brightness; having a lower achievement orientation means the dimmer switch is at a lower level of brightness.
The key here is that without self management, it doesn’t matter how high the dimmer switch is set – it’s not on. That’s why self management is the most important characteristic to select for.
This characteristic is less predictive of success in competitive selling, but most predictive of retention. If you find a high achieving self manager, they will quickly become invaluable to your team … and you will want to retain them!
Where a salesperson falls on the scale from independence to coachability dictates what type of environment they need to thrive. It’s important to select salespeople who fit with your specific company culture and environment. The number one reason competitive salespeople leave their positions is because the manager or company’s coaching style does not fit with their level of independence.
High independence salespeople don’t want to get feedback and don’t want to give feedback. Conversely, highly coachable salespeople want feedback on a daily basis.
Many competitive selling environments are suited to people with middle to high independence. These individuals are coachable, responding well to leaders who are good coaches and facilitators; but, they don’t like to be micromanaged or controlled, instead preferring to create their own system and freedoms.
Selecting Competitive Salespeople
It doesn’t matter whether you hire salespeople who are extremely sociable or factual and analytical. That is simply a matter of style; salespeople with either approach can be very successful.
Instead, select people who are self managers with a high achievement orientation and a mid to high level of independence (depending on your company’s environment).
Once you find a candidate with these critical characteristics, your final check is to make sure they have a good attitude. Although a good attitude doesn’t predict good performance, a bad attitude does predict poor performance.
Validated data reveals the true characteristics for success – and knowing what to look for when selecting competitive salespeople will make a big difference in building a high performance culture within your company.
SMG has over 35 years of data and research on the characteristics of top performers, particularly in sales roles. Our popular POP™ profile is designed specifically to select successful sales candidates. Contact us to learn more.
You may be interested in:
- How to Select the Right People for Competitive Sales Environments
- Did You Just Lose a Great Salesperson and Gain a Bad Sales Manager?
- Do You Think a Base Salary Attracts Better Competitive Sales People? Think Again. [PDF]
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