How To Spot A Superstar Salesperson: Why You Can’t and Why It Doesn’t Matter
- Hiring, Must Read
- Hiring, Must Read
by Chad Bronstein, CEO
Do you think you can spot a superstar salesperson? Some business owners have claimed that they can. I’ve had customers who only wanted to see resumes with a sports background. Others claimed that only women could sell their product.
As a small business owner wearing many hats, you don’t have time to spend on any one task. You do a little bit or a lot of everything when it comes to your business. Becoming an expert in hiring isn’t something you’re interested in.
Time is your most valuable resource, so how do you go about hiring salespeople efficiently? This article will help you understand how to hire a sales rep, why it’s impossible to spot a superstar sales rep, and why you shouldn’t care.
You read that right. There are no “born” salespeople. How do I know this? I’ve seen all types of people succeed during my 30-year hustling career. And I have my own experience. I’m an introvert as well as an O.G. computer geek. I started using computers at the age of 10, way back in 1980. Talking to people in chat rooms was a lot easier for me than IRL (in real life). It still is to some degree.
When it counted for me, I was able to sell like crazy. Why? For one, I had recently experienced a business loss and was desperate to pay my bills. My situation created the drive and determination necessary for success. I was willing to do whatever it took to be successful selling insurance. At the end of my first year I was in the top 1% of reps in a company of about 2500 salespeople.
How did I do so well as a commission only employee?
Easy, I learned their process. I learned their process for making cold calls, how to present the material, how to ask for the sale, and how to follow up. I spent time with company sales superstars.
I attended all the trainings. I went to their rah-rah meetings. I found that even though I’d already learned some of these skills, their approach was different. I used my computer geekiness to leverage technology. While other people asked the boss for leads, I was busy searching the internet for companies who provided leads. I purchased one of the first smart phones and made sure I got instant notifications of those leads. I quickly learned that very few people were willing to meet with more than one insurance sales rep, so I made sure I was first.
While it may help to be to be really really really ridiculously good looking (like Derek Zoolander) and extroverted, those traits will not guarantee success as a commission only employee. Creating a proven and easy to follow sales process is the only way forward.
Let’s pretend you sell environmental engineering consulting. Closing a sale like that would mean multiple interactions with your prospect. You’d have to meet with a variety of people in their organization, and the sale could take many weeks or months to close. You can’t choose a commission-based model because of the long sales cycle, which means you’re paying a large base salary. If that’s the case, you’re going to spend a lot more time trying to figure out if you’re hiring the right sales rep. You’re going to test them, call references and do background checks.
Things like existing industry contacts and prior industry experience are a lot bigger deal to a company paying a base salary. If you’re looking to hire commission only employees, you likely have a short sales cycle. It’s probably even a “one call close” situation. Existing relationships and industry experience are no longer important.
When you hire a sales rep, remember that most of the commission only employees you hire are likely to fail—that’s the nature of the business. Since you aren’t going to be making a large investment in these people, why would you spend time quizzing them or checking their references? Since you don’t have a lot of time to spend with people, you won’t be able to see those key superstar traits they may have.
The only way to know is to give your commission only employees a shot at selling.
This question reminds me of an old Mitch Hedberg joke. Mitch buys a donut and the cashier asks him if he’d like a receipt. “I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d have to prove that I bought a donut!” A receipt for buying a donut isn’t necessary, and neither is industry experience.
This question comes up quite often from the B2B commission crowd. Whether it’s insurance sales, technology sales, or merchant services sales, there’s no good reason to demand industry experience when hiring a sales rep. There are a few reasons that people think industry experience is important. They feel that new reps will need less training and oversight, which goes back to the desire for efficiency. I get that, however there are a number of problems with hiring sales people with experience.
Experienced sales reps who have done it before often act like a know-it-all teenager. “That’s not how we did it back at Inatec!” your new sales rep might say. Is that something you want? No! You want them to follow that awesome sales process you’ve put in place. Know-it-all sales reps will often pretend to do things your way, and eventually revert back to their own paradigm. Worse yet, existing habits must often be “unlearned”, and that’s really hard for most people to do. The saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is really the key point here.
If it is, you shouldn’t be trying to hire commission only employees in the first place! Let’s take insurance sales for example. To sell insurance, you need to know your main competitors and have a basic understanding of their plans. You need to understand your own plans. On the surface, that sounds complex, and it kinda is. The thing is, you can teach these things in a short time period, and they can learn while doing. As a bonus, your sales rep won’t have any preconceived notions, allowing for a fresh perspective. They’re a blank slate.
The chance you’ll eventually spot a superstar salesperson is much greater if they’re an unknown. Someone with a lot of proven sales experience is already being successful somewhere else. Think about it—what are the chances that a superstar sales rep is going to quit their super successful cushy sales gig to come work your commission-only position selling roofs door-to-door?
My old insurance industry boss would have literally hired anyone. And why not? He had the right process in place to make it happen. There was no need to try and spot a superstar salesperson, he created his own commission only employees.
He created a successful way of taking calls and improving his show rate . He had group interviewing figured out, which saved him many hours per week. And he made sure we had regularly scheduled trainings each week to ensure our success.
Instead of focusing on prior sales ability or industry experience, keep learning how to hire a sales rep. If you put the time and energy into that now, you’ll save yourself a ton of time as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars down the road. Stop trying to spot a superstar commission only employee, and work on your process.
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