Many sales managers hiring technical salespeople (for complex solution sales) place primary emphasis on the candidate’s technical expertise or industry knowledge. They may prioritize a technical background over sales experience or aptitude, thinking that they can always train sales skills later, and that a buyer would prefer a low-key “consultant” to a high-drive salesperson.
So, the sales manager at a manufacturing company, for example, may look for someone with an engineering background to fill an account acquisition role. To be sure, buyers enjoy dealing with salespeople who know their industry well and are adept at answering questions. However, the salesperson must also source and close deals, requiring him or her to have all three elements of Drive: Need for Achievement, Competitiveness, and Optimism.
The danger of prioritizing a technical background over personality is that the characteristics that cause someone to pursue an engineering degree, for example, can be very different from the characteristics that cause someone to enter the world of sales. Indeed, the new salesperson may prefer the role of subject matter expert to the roles of lead generator, cold caller and deal closer. So, many companies with technical sales teams end up with consistently mediocre sales numbers.
There are two ways to solve for this dilemma . . . First, companies can hire individuals who have both the technical know-how and the non-teachable personality traits essential for the role. Many companies accomplish this by testing candidates right out of school, since experienced experts are tough to find. The company then provides sales training to the driven, technically skilled recruits. Second, many companies split the job between an experienced hunter salesperson and a subject matter expert, or sales engineer. This allows both individuals to play to their strengths and can be ideal when the hunter needs to hit the ground running.
Dr. Christopher Croner and Richard Abraham are authors of “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again” and developers of the proprietary and patented sales test, The DriveTest™, for Sales Candidates. For more information, click here.
Share these ideas with colleagues and friends . . .