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Sales Skills: The “It” Factor of Revenue Rock Stars

Despite the famous quote “Good is the enemy of Great,” when it comes to hiring sales people and evaluating their sales skills, many employers have given up trying to distinguish the good sales people from the great sales people. They just don’t want to hire any more BAD sales people.

Salespeople are tough to evaluate accurately in an interview–especially to distinguish the “Presenters” from the “Performers.”  It’s because we usually interview and evaluate candidates’ sales skills based on the strength of their resume and work experience, good referrals and the warm fuzzy feeling of “I really like him or her” in the interview.

The problem is, most individuals are smart enough to create a strong resume with relevant work experience and good references—and almost all salespeople are good at making people like them. By nature, most are strong at building relationships with others. Unfortunately, these particular sales skills do not translate into fierce prospectors or effective closers.

When searching for a Revenue Rock Star, the “It” factor (exceptional sales skills) can be defined with one word: P.R.O.A.C.T.I.V.E.

Prospecting & Pursuit– Great salespeople have broad prospecting activities and they devote structured time to pursuing prospects. Great ones can quickly articulate the activities and metrics of their prospecting plan. A strong account manager is very valuable, but for a company that needs to capture revenue from new opportunities, account management competencies don’t always translate into a hunter who can fiercely prospect day after day, let rejection roll off the back and turn unknown opportunities into money.

Relationships— The ART of strong business relationships is Authenticity, Relevance and Trust. Great salespeople know how to create authentic relationships built on trust.  They also devote time to making sure they are more relevant than their competition.

Outlook on Life and Self– If salespeople have low optimism or low self-regard, they will eventually find it easier to assume the worse instead of expecting the best.  Although many things can be trained, this is tough to overcome in an individual. Since rejection is a means to an end in selling, people who struggle with outlook tend to personalize rejection and have lower levels of resilience and tenacity.

Ambition, Desire & Drive– This is the kind of A.D.D. you want your sales professionals to have. With these qualities comes a good dose of competitive spirit, and hiring a team of good-spirited competitors is a great way to raise sales performance. Every time an “A” player is added to the sales team, the other strong team members raise their game so they are not outperformed.

Control & Close– It is not enough to find salespeople who are willing to close for the business. The sales professionals, who know how to stay in control of the sales conversation and know when and how to close, win the majority of the deals.  With strong control and closing competencies comes that killer instinct that distinguishes top revenue producers. Sales managers beware: This sales professional gets a “buzz” from the close and will not appreciate if the well-intentioned sales manager rides in, with white hat and steed, and closes the deal for them.

Tenacity– The sales professionals who have been through some really difficult walks of life probably have it. The sales person with tenacity will overtake his more charismatic colleagues who don’t have it.

Initiative & Independence– Most top sales people would rather beg forgiveness than get permission. The qualities of having strong belief in their own judgments and not enjoying a micro-manager come with the territory of a Revenue Rock Star.  These tendencies should be understood and managed, not expunged.

Vigor– Healthy physical and mental energy are necessary for a sales professional to rise to the top. Because of the level of intensity, it is important they know how to replenish their gas tanks, both physically and mentally. Mental vigor gives the sales professional a great advantage when selling at the C-level.  “C-Level Presence” is a combination of charisma and smarts that, although hard to define, is evident when encountered.

Economic Incentive– Sales people should have a strong economic incentive – they should be money motivated. Most commission plans are built to incentivize certain behaviors that are consistent with finding and closing new revenue opportunities. If the base salary alone comes very close to satisfying a sales person’s economic needs, the results can be below average performance because of money complacency. On the other hand, business owners who are unrealistic and over-promise on compensation will quickly lose sales professionals with a high economic incentive if they cannot achieve their total salary goals. Effective compensation planning and interviewing to make sure there is a monetary match between the position and the individual’s need is vital to building a successful sales effort.

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