Seinfeld fans will remember the line that Jerry delivered to George as he ran from the washroom with his pants at his ankles in a futile effort to accept a verification phone call from the unemployment office. He had claimed to have applied for a sales job at latex manufacturer, Vanedlay Industries.
All Sales Jobs Are Not Created Equal
After studying the assessments of hundreds of sales candidates for a variety of different sales jobs, we hold this truth to be self-evident. The talent required for selling is dependant on the job situation. We’ve all seen examples of a previously successful person who flopped in a new environment. So how can you predict a fit?
Are there some universal rules?
We had a client who had completed interviewing and reference checking a previously successful candidate with a 10 years of selling experience. He would be held accountable for acquiring new customers in a completely new geographic territory where the company was unknown. They were about to pull the trigger on the hire. But just to be sure, they had him take our talent assessment to validate their positive fit beliefs.
This position called for a hunter (vs. a farmer) approach. In the process of pioneering a new company and acquiring new customers, a salesperson needs to approach a lot of strangers and encounter a lot of rejection. Claiming you have the right stuff to do this in an interview is one thing. Just because a candidate has handed out business cards with a sales related title, doesn’t make him or her a hunter. With this candidate, his natural high-D, DISC behavioral profile indicated enough assertiveness for hunter potential. However there are other warning signs that convinced us that he was better suited for an Account Manager position where he primarily nurtured existing relationships.
The Research on Motivators
Research shows that top performing sales people are motivated by results and financial rewards. So we look for high utilitarian scores when assessing their success potential. They also are high individualistic that are driven to influence their own destiny as well as others.
Our hunter candidate’s talent assessment showed that his drive for results (utilitarian) score was below the mean (as shown by the yellow bar below the black line). His individualistic score (black bar) is OK. However his primary drivers are not typical of high performing sales people:
- Social/Altruistic: the desire to help others (turquoise bar on the chart)
- Traditional: The belief in a system for living. (gray bar)
Based on his motivators/values chart (right), I compared this person to Ned Flanders, Homer Simpson’s devout, caring, compassionate next door neighbor. In fact, the assessment also revealed a high level of active empathy. So he is highly attuned to the feelings of others and is inclined to act on those feelings. This typically admirable trait does not serve those who are regularly involved in negotiations of pricing and contract concessions as these folks tend to cave in and struggle to stand firm. In my discussions with the client, I suggested that “Ned” likely would gain his fulfillment by doing church volunteer work. That analysis proved to be a moments of clairvoyance for me. It was then that I learned that “Ned’s” interviews had to be scheduled around his church volunteer activities.
I suggested that while “Ned” likely had achieved success in a previous account manager’s role, he was unlikely to excel in this position. In wrapping up our discussion, I advised that while there is every reason to believe that Ned was destined for heaven, hiring him for a hunter type sales position would be a potential hell for all parties.