I like the number 4! Like its important symbolism in Native American culture, it has a special meaning for me, as well. To them, 4 was sacred through Mother Nature, representing north, south, east and west. It also represented spring, summer, fall and winter. It also represented the 4 ages of man. 4 isn’t quite sacred to me, but I like its symbolism. I have 4 brothers and sisters. My street address is 40. My company has been on the 4th floor of The Cummings Center since 1997. I’m driving my 4th Volkswagen. I have 4 perennial beds in my garden. One of my all-time favorite jazz songs is Miles Davis’s Four. And finally, I’ve been married 4 times. (Just kidding! I want to see if you’re paying attention.)
4 HALLMARKS OF TOP SALESPEOPLE
Knowing all this 4 trivia about me, you won’t be surprised to know that last week, when I was challenged by a CEO to list the critical characteristics of great salespeople, I extemporaneously “boiled them down” to 4!
I hadn’t realized how much I had simplified it until I answered his question. Here goes…
- SHORT LEARNING CURVE: The best salespeople are very smart and extremely agile. It doesn’t take long for them to catch on to a concept, product, or a value proposition. Their brains work fast (think Ferrari engine) and they are one step ahead of everyone else. They usually have a very good sense of humor (another sign of a quick mind). This “fast brain” means that they can get up to speed quickly and get results in less time than their peers. When interviewing, ask for examples of where they have “jump started” and seen results quickly. (Check their humor quotient as well. One Sales VP I placed years ago actually sent a dog-loving CEO a dog dish filled with candy after his final interview, writing that he would “work like a dog” if he got the job. He got the job.)
- DISCIPLINED APPROACH: Top salespeople have a process they favor and employ in every position. Most will have some type of formalized sales training (Miller Heiman, Sander Sales, etc.) and utilize the valuable tools they’ve learned. Using a process makes them disciplined in their approach to their sales. Even if their current employer doesn’t have a formal sales process in place, they will use what they’ve learned in the past. Or, they may actually create a new process that will guarantee success. Ask about what processes they’ve used and what works best for them. Candidates with strong process orientation are happy to provide a forecast of 30-60-90 days in a new job.
- DETERMINATION AND DRIVE: Top salespeople are doggedly determined to succeed in any environment. They are delighted to show the world their performance and their resumes have examples and statistics of over-quota performance. During an interview, you will never hear them complain about things like not enough marketing support, product problems, etc. They take control of their own situation (read: destiny) and do what it takes to hit the numbers – even when they legitimately don’t have enough support. For them it just means they have to work harder to make it happen. Look for instances where your candidate may have been the top performer at a company with some real obstacles. Besides career progression, look for examples of “life progression,” such as significant volunteer and leadership activities.
- POSITIVE AND LIKEABLE DEMEANOR: I can count on one hand the number of top salespeople I have interviewed in the past 20 years that I DIDN’T like. Great salespeople have a likeable, yet assertive, problem-solving approach that actually makes it easy for their prospects to buy from them. It is very true – people want to buy from people they like. You’ll be able to sense this positive, likeable demeanor right away in your candidate. If you really like the guy or gal you’re interviewing, so will your prospects and customers.
I’m leaving soon for my 4-week vacation (only kidding again!). It’s really just a fraction of that. Did I ever tell you how much I like fractions?