Open the Door to Hiring Successful Salespeople


Every business owner has the same basic goal: sell at a profit. And every business owner faces the same challenge: finding someone to sell. No matter what new technologies, innovations, and market advances take place, the quest to find good salespeople remains constant, no less so in the printing industry.

Now, imagine the process of hiring a salesperson were simplified down to this: There are three doors, and you have to take a chance on opening the right one.

Door number one is labeled "Experienced Sales Professional." Without even seeing the other two choices, you might be tempted to go with door number one. However, there is an 80% chance that when it opens, no one is standing there. Some other business owner already opened that door a long time ago. Or there is someone there, but this particular experienced sales professional is burnt out or has bounced around the sales world for years, doing just enough to stay afloat but never showing the drive of a top performer.

Door number two is labeled "Recruiter Talent." This time you know someone will be there when you open the door, but you don't know if this person has a clue about selling, if this person gets along with team members, if this person makes a good impression on clients. But you opened the door; this is your new salesperson whether you like it or not.

The third door simply reads "Potential."

(Spoiler alert: This is the door you should open. It leads to a whole new world of possibility on the other side.)

The simple truth is that the business world has historically overvalued experience. You see it all the time in job postings. Must have 5 years of experience doing this or 7 years of experience doing that. Why? You don't know anyone who has been doing mediocre work for 5 years? Of course you do.

Job performance is not about how long you have done something, but about how motivated you are to do it. For example, what motivates you as a business owner or business leader? The satisfaction of achieving a desired goal or of successfully growing something? Enjoying a position of authority? The opportunity to use your strategic thinking skills to develop sales and marketing plans? It could be any or all of these things, but the point is your intrinsic motivations drove you to become a business leader. You didn't need 5-7 years to find your motivation.

It's the same thing with sales motivation. There's so much talent out there being overlooked simply for lack of experience, when the truth is that product knowledge can be taught, but motivation cannot. Young college graduates might not have the resume yet, but many do have the intrinsic qualities associated with success in sales. People working in other industries--non-salespeople--can also be considered untapped talent. Often, people who are just okay workers are simply in the wrong role. In many cases, it comes down to job fit, which is shorthand for "How well do people's motivations align with the work they are required to perform?"

That's a great philosophy, but you might be thinking," How does that get me any closer to hiring a salesperson who can actually close?"

Measure job applicants' sales motivation. In fact, there are pre-employment assessment tools on the market that do exactly that. In recent years, the advent of data analytics technology has enabled assessment instruments to quantify sales drive at a much higher level of predictive accuracy than in the past. Now, we can put actual numbers on job fit. Desirable sales attributes like influence and persuasion, negotiating, relationship building, time management, achievement motivation, and resilience were once abstract intangibles we intrinsically knew were meaningful for sales but could not really see except in action. Thanks to advances in psychometric research and statistical validation, today's top pre-employment assessments can examine these attributes in detail.

Other roles call for different attributes, of course, so a good assessment can also support you in finding operations and service staff as well.

There's one important thing to consider in a market flooded with all manner of good, bad, and fly-by-night assessments. For a pre-employment assessment to help you hire the right people, it must be scientifically validated for selection. There are all kinds of cheap personality tests out there that either don't work at all or simply talk about personality traits without context, leaving you guessing about what works for your organization and industry.

A validated assessment links personality traits to job performance using hard data and statistical methods that meet scientific standards for accuracy. If your assessment provider can't or won't verify that its instruments are validated for selection, look for a different assessment.

It's up to you to find applicants, whether that means college job fairs or re-wording your job postings so that they don't chase off motivated people who lack an arbitrary amount of experience. But if you start thinking about future potential instead of past performance--and you use a scientifically valid assessment tool as your guide--you'll find that top sales star waiting for you on the other side of door number three.

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