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Hiring the Model Salesperson

Perhaps more than any other profession in business, the sales profession is thought to be personality driven. Many people speak of the "born salesperson" as if the ability to sell is genetic. Organizations implicitly subscribe to this view when they attempt to staff their salesforces by identifying and hiring people who exhibit the personality traits of the legendary born salesperson.

Are there people who are naturally better suited to selling? Sure, some individuals are brought up in an environment that enhances their communication skills and goal orientation and possess an aptitude that later is described as "born" into the profession. But how many? And, are they available? When a company's sole strategy for success is to hire a bunch, turn them loose, and hope there are a few born salespeople in the mix who can work their magic, it is playing the numbers game and it is going to get Pareto Principle results.

Why do sales managers keep hiring salespeople based on personality? Because without a systematic method of determining the true ingredients of sales success, they have little choice but to attribute it to some random genetic permutation.

The reality is that successful professionals in other disciplines, such as doctors, lawyers, and pilots, do not exhibit a single personality, and neither do successful sales professionals. A good selling system allows multiple personality types to be successful and helps us move beyond the stereotypical salesperson, the aggressive, outgoing James Bond type. With a well devised system in place, we can free ourselves from the personality-driven sales syndrome.

What kind of sales candidates do we want? Obviously, we need people who can fulfill the role of a transformative sales professional—that is, people who can execute the system, learn and use the skills, and live the discipline.

Assessment instruments remain the best way to quickly and accurately predict the performance of sales candidates. With that said, we need to be sure to carefully explore what the assessments we use actually measure. The vast majority of assessment instruments are one-dimensional, and they are aimed at identifying a conventional sales personality. This type of instrument identifies the James Bond-style salesperson for you, but that profile is appropriate only for simple sales (and perhaps not even that). It does not pinpoint superior performers in a transformative sales environment. In fact, if you run most top performers through a standard sales profiling tool, they will likely be rejected: They aren't aggressive enough, will take "no" for answer, won't close.

To identify key sales candidates, we combine three assessments to create a holistic profile of the candidate and offer a high probability of predicting the success of an individual working in transformative sales:

  1. A behavioral assessment that offers insight into a candidate's behavior style. This is the "how" of their behavior. [3] We are looking for candidates who portray the behavior style of the doctor, the best friend, and the detective.

  2. An assessment that identifies the candidate's personal interests and values, which tells us "why" a candidate will sell. We are trying to understand the candidate's attitudes and motivations, and we are looking for the proverbial self-starter with a history of setting and achieving goals.

  3. An assessment that provides insights into "what" the candidate can and will do relating to executing our sales process. This instrument provides an insight into the candidate's mental and emotional stamina. When the rubber hits the road, does the candidate have the intestinal fortitude and mental strength needed to actually execute the system? We also gain insights into the professional growth potential of candidates and the type of development that may be most helpful to maximize their growth potential. We're also attempting to predict if this candidate will ask the tough questions in a sale and if the candidate has the mental strength not to get emotionally involved—like a doctor calmly performing triage in a battle zone or a pilot coolly reacting to a wind shear.

[3]The widely used DISC model was designed by Dr. William Moulton Marston in the 1920s to explain and predict how people would respond in favorable and unfavorable conditions. It measures four behavioral response styles: dominance, influence, supportiveness, and conscientiousness.


The topics covered herein concern solution sales, consultative sales, and consultative selling.

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