“Six qualities of superstar sales people”

            Want to make your job much easier?  Want to look like a hero to your boss?  Want to make the best single decision you’ll ever make as a sales manager?

Then hire a superstar sales person.  A superstar will bring you such a treasure of powerful benefits that your single act of hiring a superstar will be the best business decision you’ll ever make.  First, a superstar will require very little of your management or supervisory time.  A superstar spends a great deal of time thinking about his/her job, figuring out how to do it better.  He’s driven to succeed, and will work hard and smart in order to do so.  The best management strategy with a superstar is to give him/her room and stay out of the way.  That means you can spend your time with the other sales people who need it.

A superstar will be far more sensitively aware of his (and your) customer’s needs and objectives.  Whereas your other sales people may miss some of the more subtle clues about what is going on in the market and within your customer’s minds, your superstar will be acutely aware of them.  They become one of your best sources for accurate market information, bringing you the information you need to make adjustments in your strategy.

And then, of course, your superstar sales people will sell!  It’s not unusual for one superstar to produce as much as two or three of your more average performers.  And, after all, isn’t that what you hired him for?

So, hire a superstar, and your life gets much easier.

But, unfortunately, the 80 – 20 rule holds true in regards to sales people.  Twenty percent of your sales people produce 80% of your volume.  That’s one out of five.  But that rule only defines a “good” sales person.  We’re concerned about a superstar.

Author Richard Gaylord Briley has articulated a similar principle, the 5/50 rule.  He asserts that 5% of the people in the world produce the affluence and prosperity for the other 50%.  If that’s true, then you need to find the one of 20 sales people, the elusive five-percenter, who is your next superstar.

So the question is: “Is there a way to spot those 5% during the interview process?”  Above and beyond the normal standards and qualities, is there a quality or combination of qualities that every star sales person has in common, regardless of the business or industry?

After having interviewed literally thousands of potential sales people, and after having hired and supervised many of them, and after having trained them and worked beside them, my answer is “YES.”  There are certain qualities that every star sales person possesses.

If you can identify these qualities in a prospective salesperson, regardless of the industry you’re in, than you can spot an individual who will bring you a great return on your investment.

Before we discuss them, let’s consider what qualities are generally not important.  In most industries, physical attractiveness is not a primary consideration.  It’s nice if your salesperson is attractive, and it will help him/her in their initial contact with prospects, but it’s not necessary.  Too often, sales hires are made on the basis of how the prospect looks — and that’s often a mistake.

Probably the most overrated factor is that of “product knowledge.”  More business people make decisions about hiring salespeople based on the amount of product knowledge that person has than any other single factor.  Product knowledge is nice, but it’s not necessary.  Knowledge is just that, knowledge, and it can be gained.  If you have learned something about your product and your industry, so can someone else.  So, it’s nice that a prospective salesperson has product or industry knowledge, but it’s not an indicator of success.

Here’s an example.  Year ago, I was hired for a sales position by a company that sold surgical staplers. I knew nothing about surgical staplers, nothing about surgery, nothing about medicine, and nothing about doctors, nurses, and hospitals.  Yet they hired me, not for what I knew (or didn’t know), but for who I was.  And in six weeks of training, I had sufficient knowledge to walk into the operating rooms of the biggest hospitals in the state and provide technical assistance to the surgical team.

Now, I can think of no other situation where knowledge was as critical as that one.  And six weeks previous to that I had none of the necessary knowledge.  Yet I became very successful for that company in spite of my lack of product and industry knowledge.

Don’t expect to hire a star, if you base your decision on product knowledge.


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