Aug 2016

What makes a great sales person?


Many people have opinions about what are the key factors which make a great sales person. I have heard it said that great sales people are born and not made. So let’s look at some of the key factors which people often discuss when talking about great sales people:-

Attitude:- clearly having the right attitude is important. Without the right attitude you are not going to be successful in sales or any other role for that matter. Who wants to purchase a product or service from someone with the wrong attitude.

Enthusiasm:- this is important as well, Sales people who are not enthusiastic about their product or service will not be able to create an environment where their prospect wants to buy. Enthusiasm goes a long way in selling.

Charisma:- people often talk about sales people having charisma. I once heard it said that sales people need the “gift of the gab” so that they can talk to anyone. Charisma can be a factor in a salesperson success, but it isn’t everything.

Resilience:- this is the ability to take knocks and be able to bounce back from challenges and adversity. Anyone who has been involved in the selling process will know that selling requires persistence, resilience and determination.

Great product knowledge:- it should be a given that a sales person knows his products and services. This allows you to speak to prospects and clients with confidence.

The above factors are only 5 factors which could contribute to a sales person’s success and I am sure that we can all think of many more. So how often have companies recruited a sales person who seems to be enthusiastic, has the right attitude, seems to be resilience, has charisma and is knowledgeable about your marketplace and products, only for the sales person not perform.

Recruiting sales people can be time consuming, frustrating and expensive. Making a recruitment mistake can be even more expensive. So what are the things that you should be measuring when hiring sales people. Objective Management Group (OMG) have evaluated more than 1,000,000 salespeople from more than 200 industries over the past 2 decades. The data from these assessments provides accurate information to predict sales success based on 21 sales competencies. Most of these 21 competencies have at least 21 attributes. The table below shows some of the many differences between the top 10 per cent and the bottom 10 per cent.


Top-v-Bottom-10_ (2)


As Dave Kurlan points out in his article entitled HBR or OMG – Whose Criteria Really Differentiate the Top and Bottom 10% of Salespeople, when you look at Sales DNA – the combination of strengths that supports the use of strategy, tactics, process and methodology, you see that the top 10% are, on average, nearly 60% stronger than the bottom 10%. You can also see that the top 10% have an average Sales Quotient that is nearly 60% higher than the bottom 10%. The top 10% have double the commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve sales excellence. For the more tactical competencies, the average scores for the top 10% are approximately double those of the bottom 10%.

When we examine the results by difficulty level, industry sector, vertical market, decision maker to be called upon, price points, etc., the specific findings and scores that differentiate tops from bottoms change accordingly!

So what does this tell us. If we rely on personal attributes, attitude and personality to recruit, then we could be making subjective decisions. We are able to make much better recruitment decisions when we base our decisions on scientific evidence, rather than our own subjective evidence.

One final thought. I have been told many times by sales managers and sales directors that they want sales people who are great relationship builders. Well an interesting stat that has just come from OMG. The bottom 10% of all salespeople are actually better than the top 10% in 1 of the 21 Sales Core Competencies. This competency is actually relationship building. So as Dave Kurlan rightly comments, is it any wonder that businesses keep making recruitment mistakes when hiring sales people?

Pete Evans

Managing Director

Pete Evans, Managing Director of Momentum Sales Solutions Ltd, has a passion for developing sales professionals and working with teams and individuals to enhance performance. He is a professional speaker trained by Michael Port and Bob Burg, Accredited Go-Giver coach, regular speaker at Leeds Business Week, member of Yorkshire Mafia, supporter of Leeds Rugby Foundation and Forget Me Not local children’s hospice and a keen follower of sports looking at how businesses can learn from sports philosophies.
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