What makes a great salesperson?

By November 28, 2016Sales Recruiting

A great salesperson represents an “A Player” and usually represents the top 10-20% of any sales organization.

The challenge, of course, is interviewing ten sales candidates and then being able to choose the top one or two. This is a difficult task because when we interview ten people, they may all look good to us.

There have been many books, articles, and seminars presented over the years which reflect on the characteristics of top sales talent. One of the best presentations given comes from a book, “The Successful Salesperson” by David Mayer and Herbert Greenberg. In this book, after many years of research, the authors found that the highest performing salespeople must have two basic qualities: ego drive and empathy.

Ego drive – the basic quality absolutely needed by a great salesperson is ego drive. Ego drive is the need to conquer, the need to win, the need to have personal conquests for self-fulfillment – not necessarily for the money. A strong ego drive (not conceit) is important because this characteristic provides the strength to overcome adversity and rejection…to ultimately win.

Empathy – this is the natural ability for the salesperson to “feel” for the customer; to really understand the customer’s situation; to feel “their pain.” When a salesperson demonstrates empathy, the customer develops a sense of trust in the salesperson, the quality of communication increases, and the persuasion process is accentuated. True sales talent is displayed.

In the book “Top Grading”, Bradford Smart studied people and their behaviors to determine how people can change. This is very significant in the sales hiring process because when hiring a salesperson you are really looking to find three basic sets of skills:

The following chart (from “Top Grading”) shows the behavioral characteristics that are…

Easy to Change

Harder but Doable

Very Difficult to Change

The top sales talent always has the characteristics in Group 3 – Very Difficult to Change – because you can’t teach these key skills–they are developed over a lifetime. It’s always easier to teach people what to sell than how to sell.