What is the top quality you look for in a candidate for a sales position? Persistence or Drive?
If you answered Persistence, be wary.
Persistence is often confused with pushiness. Pushiness takes that dedication to making a sale to the extreme — overstepping boundaries, overloading the customer with information or ignoring the client’s key issue just to close a sale.
Pushiness is like using a hammer to kill a fly. It is a heavy-handed solution to a challenge. In today’s market, this kind of behavior does exactly what it sounds like: It pushes the customer away.
Long gone are the days of pushy sales tactics. The cliché of the pushy sales rep has become so infamous that even car dealerships like CarMax now use the option of integrating unattended lots as a marketing device.
This “hands-off” approach may seem counter-productive for a sales team, but it follows suit with how marketing and sales have changed in the past decade. Consumers are entering the marketing funnel at different stages, often researching online before even engaging with a sales representative.
Obviously, an entirely “hands-off” approach is not going to generate sales. You still need qualified sales reps to engage with your customers. You need sales reps with Drive.
Think of Drive as the bridge between pushiness and “hands-off”. Identifying candidates with Drive can be difficult, because Drive is actually a combination of specific qualities, which are often difficult to detect.
That is not to say that you want to cross off the list any candidates that claim persistence as a personality trait.
Persistence means finding the right solution for the problem, even when previous attempts have failed. Persistence is an important trait to possess and is a key component of Drive. In the past, however, sales managers have over-emphasized extreme persistence, while ignoring important predictors of sale success.
During your next performance reviews or sales assessments, try to keep the following traits in mind.
Identifying Traits of Successful Salespeople
According to Sales and Marketing Management magazine, story-telling is the oldest trick in the sales book. Stories help consumers to understand your brand, product or service. A well-told story connects your ideal consumer emotionally to your brand.
CorporateVisions.com suggests making the customer the hero of your story, and your product as the humble sidekick or mentor. This increases the emotional tie to your product, while allowing the client to feel important.
Listening skills are crucial for a successful close. A sales team that balances listening with story-telling is less likely to be perceived as pushy.
In an interview with Forbes, Dave Mattson emphasizes the importance of listening, saying “The sales process is a conversation. . . .” As the CEO of Sandler Sales Institute, Dave emphasizes that having your salespeople ask questions also signals to the consumer that he/she is valued and that his/her problems matter.
Listening to the consumer is the first step to building a relationship. However, listening skills entail more than just asking questions and hearing the answers. A great listener conveys her interest in the details and is able to make the client feel comfortable sharing her experience.
Not to be confused with storytelling, creative thinking is another skill that is hard to assess during the hiring process. Sales reps who think creatively are able to anticipate possible objections, while finding a suitable solution.
Candidates with high Drive often possess the capacity for creative thinking. A Driven employee is always thinking about the next step, anticipating various outcomes and preparing herself with creative solutions.
The best way to persuade people to your side is by proving that you are on their side; you know their problems and you care about finding the solutions.
A Driven sales representative has the emotional intelligence to imagine herself in the consumer’s position and can use that to connect to her customer.
Need for Achievement
A sales rep with Drive is ambitious, and cannot stand to sit on the sidelines. This kind of employee do not wait passively for someone else to come up with the solution.
A successful sales rep will take initiative to learn as much as she can about her product and her customer. Candidates with high Need for Achievement are constantly strategizing on how they can fulfill their need.
The Bottom Line
If these skills seem to overlap, it is because they do. Each trait influences the next.
A great listener will take the initiative to know her customer’s unique situation. Through listening, the sales rep can then craft a unique story that connects emotionally with her client.
Creative thinking, by anticipating different scenarios, leads to a greater sense of empathy for the consumer. All of these skills help to build relationships and rapport with customers.
During the hiring process, assessing the candidate’s skill level in these areas can be challenging. How well a salesperson will actually demonstrate these traits usually does not become clear until well after hiring.
Sure, there are questions hiring managers can ask during interviews to try and assess the level of Drive, but how often has a great candidate in an interview turned into a terrible hire?
This is because people prepare and rehearse for interviews, and to be frank, sometimes fake enthusiasm. That is why it is so important to integrate a well-developed sales assessment into your interview process.
It is time for a more efficient hiring process, with long-term results. Start weeding out the imposters early on and focus only on high-Drive candidates.