I typically don’t watch much TV, but I’m enamored with reality shows where contestants try to convince a panel of judges they have world-class talent. I’m especially intrigued with the shows like The Voice, where a panel of judges not only select the best singers, they take it to the next level – spending the next few weeks coaching and developing their skills to make them even better.
What if we did something like that with sales professionals? That’s a program I could really go for!
And what if I told you finding talented sellers – those who have what it takes to make it big – could be as easy as holding talent tryouts? It’s not exactly what you’d expect to hear from the CEO of a professional services company, but let me tell you how you can take finding talent to the next level. First, we need a deeper understanding of what talent is.
Talent – reoccurring patterns of thought, feeling and behavior – is one aspect of any person’s makeup that cannot be developed. It’s something we have to do, a trait we possess whether we like it or not. It can’t be created, explained or accounted for by training or experience. Most of the time, someone either has a specific talent or they don’t. It’s that simple.
Fortunately, we all have different talents we bring to the table to make our teams well-rounded. However, possessing talents in one field doesn’t necessarily translate into success in another field. For instance, Tom Brady possesses specific talents making him one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. That doesn’t mean he would be a great salesperson.
If having talent in general doesn’t mean a person would succeed in sales, what can you do to find top sellers? I won’t lie. It’s hard work. But I know from experience, once you figure it out, you’re on the path to major success. Here’s the secret: to identify top sales talent, you need to study outliers – your own high performers. Understand what drives them, and then look for more salespeople with the same talents.
To those talents, add skills development and a supportive culture (training), and you’re well on your way to sustainable high performance. This is the simple formula: talent + developable skills x work culture = performance.
Here’s another way to look at talent. Think back to the best manager you ever worked for. What words best sum up what made that person great? When we asked a group of people to complete this exercise, we heard words such as: patient, passionate, compassionate, a people person, decisive, goal-oriented, positive attitude, hard worker, honest, problem solver, creative and many others.
We realized the vast majority of those qualities can’t be trained into people. You can’t train a person to automatically have a positive attitude; it’s already part of who they are. You can encourage people to develop these traits, but they are mostly innate – they simply exist. This is extremely important to realize when you look at what drives performance.
Many sales organizations are approaching talent all wrong. Interviews traditionally focus on job fit, skills, experience and competencies. No doubt, these qualities are all very important and warrant time during interviews. But, when seeking sales leaders, you also should focus on the person’s innate traits – things they have to do. Not many organizations do this, and they’re missing a big opportunity.
What does this mean in practice?
First, you must determine what “great” looks like in your organization. You do this by studying your own outliers, determining traits that drive high performance in your own work environment and culture.
Once you have predetermined the traits that lead to success in your organization, you measure and hire for them. Simply ask candidates specific questions to see if they possess high-performing traits in each of these categories. The key is to ask the right questions.
Why does this matter? Based on research from CSO Insights, when you hire the right people for the right position and put them in a nurturing culture, you benefit is so many ways. For instance, your people will work harder (19 percent increase in performance rating), stay longer (56 percent reduction in turnover rates), add more to the bottom line (3x higher revenue production) and perform better (34 percent higher performance rating).
Let me give you an example of how this works.
We helped a Fortune 100 company study their high performers and select a list of traits they can look for in new candidates. First, we measured everyone on their sales team, identifying positive sales-related traits each of them possessed. The sales professionals naturally fell into three buckets: 1) those with all of the positive traits; 2) those with some of the traits; and 3) those with none. Then we studied the revenue each group generated against quota. It was no surprise those with all of the positive sales-related traits we identified were two times more successful than those with only some of the positive traits—and three times more successful than those with none.
This is just like The Voice, isn’t it? You take the talent, add a coach and you spend time developing their skills. This is a new, innovative way of looking at training, but we think you can do the same thing with your talent: identify what world class sales and service professionals look like and invest in their development so they are able to fully use their skills.
And once you do that, magic happens. It may not be practical to host your own reality show, but you can certainly identify what makes sellers great and make sure you bring out the best in them.