Using Science to Hire Entry-Level Salespeople
What are the best qualities to look for when hiring an entry-level sales rep – someone who will have to be taught how to sell…the right way? It’s a question I get frequently. Most hiring managers feel it’s only about their ability to overcome adversity or their extroverted personality that predict success. Think again!
I reviewed the data on 82,167 salespeople who have one year or less in sales and found some precise measures that will predict success – these are the qualities that hiring managers should seek out.
The Traits Best Newbies Likely Have
Commitment: This means the level to which someone is willing to do what is necessary to be successful in sales. Some might consider this their grit. I like to think of it as their agility – their willingness to grow, adapt and learn, as well as do those things that might initially be uncomfortable.
63% of entry-level salespeople have the commitment to succeed. Far more have the desire, but if they lack adequate commitment, they might be resistant to do what is asked unless they agree with it. Never hire any salesperson, especially a newbie, without this trait, because commitment is the number one indicator of success in sales.
Motivation: Not only do you want highly motivated individuals, but you must also pay attention to what motivates them to ensure a fit with your company. Not all salespeople are money-motivated anymore.
As a matter of fact, the latest data says only 11% of salespeople are extrinsically motivated. Extrinsic means motivated by money, rewards, and recognition – an external force. This matters if your entry-level position is significantly commission-driven…Money alone will not inspire the vast majority of those not extrinsically motivated.
So, be sure to hire based on your compensation plan or be certain your managers know how to motivate and inspire with other means besides dangling a commission in front of your new salespeople. See this case study for more details on how to do this.
Sales DNA: Collectively, sales DNA are elements that lurk beneath the surface. We all come with a certain set of beliefs and emotions. Some sabotage our sales efforts and some support them. These elements impact how well any salesperson will execute learned selling skills.
So even if you have a great onboarding program that teaches a selling methodology and process, you should pay close attention to the entry-level salesperson’s sales DNA if you want success. Just teaching people what to say does not ensure they will be able to actually do it out in the field or on the phone. They might have thoughts and beliefs that prevent them from performing.
The lack of Sales DNA is why the outgoing, motivated individual, even one who was a competitive athlete, fails in sales. They get too wrapped up in themselves, or they worry too much about being liked or what the prospect is thinking.
Unfortunately, only 10% of entry-level salespeople have a strong collection of sales DNA. This may not be a problem for a beginner seller as even an average amount of sales DNA is adequate for an entry-level position. Just be certain your entry-level position is truly entry-level if you hire someone with so-so sales DNA.
The hire to avoid is someone with low sales DNA and a lack of commitment. This combination is a certain killer for an entry-level salesperson, but I already harped on the idea that you shouldn’t hire low commitment candidates for any reason, so hopefully, you won’t need to worry about this situation.
Figure It Out Factor: This is an analysis of exactly what it says – the individual’s ability to figure it out. Can they connect the dots easily? Will they absorb new information quickly? Can they figure a workaround if everything is not going well? Or do they need extensive hand-holding?
Shockingly, only 2% of entry-level salespeople are strong in this area. So, choose wisely.
This finding surprised me because I expected a large percentage of recent college graduates to fall into this category. I falsely assumed they would have open minds and would learn quickly, having just completed the rigors of higher education. I don’t know if this is an effect of generational coddling or for some other reason. Just be prepared to repeat and reinforce concepts and ideas with the vast majority of newbies.
Check the Facts Yourself
Don’t take my word for it. If you want to compare your current team to the data available on over 1.8 million salespeople, absolutely free, check out the database of Sales Statistics available from Objective Management Group.
Next, be certain you have a killer onboarding program. It doesn’t need lots of bells and whistles, but it must be well-thought-out and thorough enough to give those new hires the needed skills to light the world on fire.
We create customized programs for clients all the time, but you might first be interested in this free overview – The First 90 Days. And if you want to see how the components above are measured objectively, feel free to download this Sample Sales Candidate Assessment.