As businesses increasingly adopt a work-from-home model, hiring managers and recruiters need to identify candidates who will thrive without direct supervision.
This challenge is particularly acute when hiring and managing salespeople, who must remain disciplined and productive while working remotely, despite the natural rejection and setbacks that come with sales.
To overcome this challenge, you need to find candidates with one of the most important predictors of success in sales . . . Need for Achievement.
Most Important Trait for a Remote Salesperson to Have
Need for Achievement is a person’s desire to pursue excellence for its own sake. A person high in Need for Achievement sets challenging goals, works hard to accomplish them, then sets the bar even higher.
Psychologist David McClelland first recognized the connection between high Need for Achievement and sales ability across several cultures. In his 1961 book, “The Achieving Society,” McClelland observed that achievers are attracted to sales careers because of the opportunity to exercise personal responsibility in several areas, such as:
- Taking moderate risks
- Choosing the prospects that they will call
- Finding creative persuasive methods
- Tracking their success
SalesDrive has worked with more than 1,000 companies worldwide, and consistently finds Need for Achievement to be a critical predictor of success, particularly among salespeople who need to focus on new account acquisition aka “Hunters”. In fact, of the three non-teachable characteristics that make up Drive (Need for Achievement, Competitiveness, and Optimism), the highest weight is placed on Need for Achievement.
This focus on personal responsibility while striving for excellence is what makes Need for Achievement so critical for virtual sales teams. If your salespeople work remotely, you need to find self-starters who will perform even when you are not watching them.
Risks of Hiring Just Anyone for a Remote Sales Job
Now, salespeople low in Need for Achievement may be attracted to the opportunity to work from home. These low achievers may see your home-based sales job as their lucky break, an opportunity to kick back and relax, spending the day surfing Facebook without supervision.
This lack of production is devastating to your company. An underperforming salesperson, working remotely or in the office, can cost you six to seven figures annually in lost revenue. Several of them on the same team can be lethal.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that 65% of businesses fail in their first ten years. Among many other smart decisions, avoiding low-performing salespeople and the loss they bring helps the 35% of businesses who succeed.
When hiring for a remote sales position, you may be tempted to simply look for a candidate who sounds like a “go-getter” and appears highly motivated in the interview. However, salespeople low in Need for Achievement can be great actors, and the interview may be the best sale you ever see out of them.
The key distinction is not whether they can sell, but whether they will sell.
How to Build a Virtual Sales Team
Now that you know the type of person you should be looking for to fill your remote sales job, how do you go about hiring a virtual sales team?
Although some aspects of hiring may differ when building a remote sales team, like holding interviews via video conferencing instead of in-person, the core of your hiring process should still consist of these three steps, whether you are hiring a virtual sales team or an in-house sales team.
Step 1: Resume Review
After you post a job listing and begin to collect applications, the first step to accurately identify high-achieving candidates is to conduct an effective resume review. When you review a candidate’s resume and/or LinkedIn profile, there are a few indicators of high Need for Achievement:
- The candidate is a passive (rather than an active candidate). If the sales candidate has been out of work for a while, there may be a good reason for it.
- The candidate is not a job-hopper. They have some longevity in the positions they have held.
- The candidate is able to provide some concrete metrics to show that they have been successful previously.
Furthermore, if you need a salesperson who is ready to hit the ground running, look for 2-3 years of previous experience at a similarly sized company.
It can be tempting to see a candidate with a strong record of performance at a larger company and think, surely, they will bring that same level of success to you. However, if the salesperson has been successful at a larger company, you need to know whether that previous success was because of their own effort or because they had strong brand recognition and collateral materials opening the door for them.
These indicators in the candidate’s resume will give you good rationale for moving the candidate further into your process for continued consideration.
Step 2: Administer a Sales Assessment
As previously mentioned, candidates low in Need for Achievement can be great actors in the interview. Therefore, before interviewing any candidate, it is critical to make sure they have potential and are worthy of your time.
The best way to screen sales candidates before the interview is to administer a sales assessment test that measures Need for Achievement, as well as Competitiveness and Optimism, the three non-teachable characteristics essential for hunters.
Additionally, make sure your assessment uses a question format that eliminates faking and can track your candidates’ level of consistency in their responses. Most sales candidates are very savvy at reading between the lines and faking their way through an online test.
Using an assessment prior to the interview give you the power to only spend time on high-potential candidates, with a greater likelihood of working well unsupervised. It also allows you to uncover hidden dynamics underneath the surface, making you much more powerful as an interviewer.
Step 3: Conduct a Behavioral Interview
Candidates who pass the sales assessment earn the opportunity to meet with you for a 1-on-1 behavioral interview. Behavioral interviews ask the candidate to discuss their previous work-related behaviors that reflect the characteristics you need in your new hire. And, the best predictor of future behavior is previous behavior.
Here are a few questions to assess Need for Achievement and the candidate’s ability to work unsupervised remotely:
Q: What’s the toughest goal you’ve ever set for yourself? How do you plan to top it? (Allow the candidate to fully answer the first question before proceeding to the second question.)
A: Has accomplished a very challenging work goal; has a specific plan to top that goal.
Q: What kinds of sacrifices have you had to make to be successful?
A: Substantial past sacrifices for success at work (time, other pursuits, etc.).
Q: Tell me about the last time you worked with no direct supervision. What was most challenging about that assignment for you?
A: Challenges relate more to keeping others (e.g. colleagues, customers) on schedule, rather than their own time management.
For additional behavioral interview guidance, check out our Masterclass inside Sales Psyched!: The Ultimate Behavioral Interview Guide for Sales Managers.
How to Manage Remote Sales Reps
After you hire an achievement-oriented salesperson, you might be tempted to let them go and start selling on their own. But this can be another costly mistake.
Even salespeople who possess a high Need for Achievement require direction and guidance from management. And managing a virtual sales team brings on its own set of challenges.
Use the following tips to create processes for managing a virtual sales team effectively.
Establish Open Communication
Communication between remote sales team members and management is absolutely vital to a virtual sales team’s success.
Figure out what method(s) of communication works best for each of your team members and try to accommodate accordingly. Some people communicate well using email or online chat platforms, such as Slack, while others prefer to communication over the phone or via video conference software, like Zoom.
Investing in technology and developing processes for communicating within the sales team as well as with management will go a long way to keeping your sales reps accountable and productive.
Set Clear Expectations and Goals
In addition to determining the best methods for communicating with your team, it is critical that expectations and goals are clearly laid out.
Whether that be company goals or individual sales goals, make sure your sales reps understand what is expected of them and how their performance will be tracked. Salespeople high in Need for Achievement want to do well, so understanding how performance is measured is key for them.
It is also important for you to understand what your remote salespeople need from you, as their leader. Your primary responsibility as a sales manager is to help your sales team succeed. So, take time to learn how each of your salespeople like to work and what challenges they may be facing. Lastly, be responsive so as not to make your remote salespeople feel disconnected or discouraged.
Leverage the Right Tools & Resources
Each company and sales team is different, so it is up to you as the sales manager to find the tools and resources that work well for your specific team.
When managing a remote sales team, access to information and to other people will be structured differently than in an office setting. Consider investing in resources and tools to help your team in the following ways:
- Sales Meetings – Hold video conference calls with your sales team to replace the classic conference room meetings.
- CRM – Invest in a CRM program to help your sales members track their activities with clients and prospects and stay connected with their coworkers.
- Cloud Storage – Consider using a cloud storage platform like Dropbox or Google Drive to allow company-wide access to information.
There are endless tools and resources available to help your sales team operate efficiently, even when working remotely. You just have to determine what is best for your team.
How to Motive a Remote Sales Team
Creating a sense of community and connection within a virtual sales team may seem like a daunting task but with a little bit of creativity, you can establish comradery.
Consider creating a friendly virtual competition to motivate your salespeople. Break your sales team up into small groups and task them with coming together to achieve a specific goal. High-Drive salespeople love to compete and by grouping remote people together, you will be promoting teamwork, while creating a sense of belonging.
If possible, try to bring your remote sales team members together annually or semi-annually for a company retreat. This gives everyone some face-to-face time and will help with team bonding.
Lastly, while salespeople high in Need for Achievement have a strong desire to do well, this desire is fueled by recognition. Acknowledging your sales rep’s performance can be as simple as setting aside some time at the beginning of your sales meetings to feature a specific rep for their accomplishments or as big as creating annual recognition awards to be given out at the annual company retreat.
Hiring a salesperson who will work from home without supervision is a special challenge.
It is critical to evaluate the salesperson’s Need for Achievement through your sales hiring process to make sure they have the discipline and focus to work remotely.
And with smart processes, open communication, and the right tools, your virtual sales reps will be equipped to rise to the challenge and exceed your expectations.
If you are looking to hire remote salespeople, request a free trial of The DriveTest® sales assessment today to see if your candidate has enough Need for Achievement to produce for you.