A “Hunter” salesperson must have five non-teachable, non-negotiable traits to persevere in the face of rejection. Here’s how to identify them before you make an expensive hiring mistake.
You’re ready to hire a new salesperson and you know the stakes are high. While the economy seems to be moving in the right direction, surging COVID numbers are stirring up a lot of uncertainty. Whether more lockdowns happen or not—and whether the sales force returns to the office or not—you’re absolutely going to need a strong candidate who can bring in new clients in a tough business environment.
In other words, you need a Hunter, someone who has the psychological hardiness to keep going when doors are slammed in their face over and over again.
But what does such a candidate look like? Are great Hunters born or made? Can you hire them and train them in the skills they need? And can you tell whether they’ll be a high performer by how they come across in an interview?
I’ve studied and worked with countless salespeople over the years. And what I’ve discovered is that there some very specific innate qualities that determine whether a salesperson can Hunt. Sure, there are highly valuable qualities that can be learned—like confidence, persuasiveness, the ability to solve problems, good relationship skills, and a knack for organization—but there are other qualities that you either have or you don’t.
The most critical of these innate qualities is Drive. Drive is the main “it factor” that generates the grit and dogged determination a salesperson needs to be relentless in the quest to make a sale. When someone has Drive, they get up and try again each time they’re knocked down. Problem is, only 20 percent of people have this quality—and it’s hardwired (or not) by their early twenties.
So…Drive is vital and it’s rare. That means there are tons of sub-par salespeople out there. And it can be an expensive mistake if you end up hiring one of them. When you look at the big picture, you will see that, if you onboard a bad hire to your team, you can actually see a bottom line cost of $840,000. This includes the cost of hiring new employees, keeping employees on staff, paying your employees, their severance pay when you let them go, missed business opportunities, and the potential for damage to your company’s reputation and/or client relationships.
All that said, let’s take a closer look at Drive. What I’ve discovered in my research is that DRIVE isn’t a singular quality. It is actually made up of non-teachable traits: Need for Achievement, Competitiveness, and Optimism. Let’s break it down a bit more:
Need for Achievement is that inner desire to reach even the most challenging goals. These salespeople will set the bar high and jump over it again and again. They are never satisfied being idle. On the other hand, if you hire someone who has a low Need for Achievement, they will not go the extra mile. If a candidate has a robust record of accomplishments, that’s a good sign.
The next trait is Competitiveness. This is the inner fire that makes a person love to win and hate to lose. A salesperson who has it believes that if they do not get to a call first and close the deal, someone else will. They also like to “compete” with the buyer as a friendly contest of wills, with the sale being the winning moment.
Optimism is an undeniable certainty that if someone puts in the work and pursues a goal, a positive outcome is simply a matter of time. Without this personality trait, a salesperson will begin to take such rejection personally and lose their “fire.” Optimistic salespeople, however, will see the lost sale as just part of the game.
Besides the three qualities that make up Drive, the candidate you hire needs to possess two others: Resiliency and Curiosity.
Since rejection is all too common in the sales industry, Resiliency is necessary if one is to continue on in their workday and stay focused. A Resilient salesperson will learn from the mistakes they have made and will see each opportunity as a chance for growth.
The fifth non-negotiable quality is Curiosity. No matter what you sell, you are likely part of a market that changes quickly, with ever-evolving products to meet customer needs. When you hire a naturally Curious salesperson who wants to learn more about products, people, and the solutions they need, you will have a valuable teammate who is able to adapt to all scenarios.
So, here’s the real question: How can you tell if a candidate possesses these qualities? What they say and how they behave in the job interview are not good indicators. Drive can be faked for a short period of time and, not surprisingly, most salespeople are good at selling themselves. Sales candidates can trick you in all sorts of ways. They can use their personality and charisma to build rapport with you. They exaggerate previous results. They say what you want to hear.
It is really easy to hire candidates who seem great in the interview but end up underperforming over time. In the end, long after you’ve hired them, you realize you were fooled.
To avoid this scenario, I find it’s best to take a data-driven approach. Apply an objective sales aptitude test early in the hiring process to both capture high-potential candidates and avoid low-potential candidates. My company’s DriveTest® is one example. Then, follow it up with a well-conducted behavioral interview to get past the candidate’s initial impression and unearth what’s actually under the surface.
My biggest piece of advice is this: if you discover that a candidate has Drive, especially along with other non-teachable traits, grab them up now. You can help them develop other teachable skills later.
You build a winning sales team one hire at a time. And building this team should be top priority as you prepare your company to move full force into the recovering economy.
Dr. Christopher Croner is principal at SalesDrive and coauthor (along with Richard Abraham) of the book Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again, which details his research and practice in identifying the non-teachable personality traits common to top producers. Dr. Croner received his BA in psychology from DePaul University and his master’s and PhD in clinical psychology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He developed the proprietary DriveTest® online sales test and The Drive Interview®, both used for hiring “Hunter” salespeople. To learn more please visit https://salesdrive.info.
Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again: Selecting Candidates Who Are Absolutely Driven to Succeed (The Richard Abraham Company LLC, ISBN: 978-0-9741996-1-0, $19.95) is available from major online booksellers.
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