…And How to Spot Them Before They Burn Up Your Time And Money
Have you ever felt burned by a sales candidate who looked great in the interview but failed to meet your expectations? This is one of the most heartbreaking and frustrating experiences for sales managers and business owners… And, unfortunately, it is also one of the most common. Many candidates come with seemingly ideal experience and potential, and yet the best sale we get out of that candidate is their interview performance. Although these situations can be very discouraging, we can avoid them by looking beyond the candidate’s demeanor, experience level, and even track record, and instead into the most important non-teachable predictor of success: the candidate’s innate level of what psychologists call Drive, a critical personality trait and key aptitude that research shows must be in place to succeed in “hunter” type sales positions.
As discussed in our book, Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again, Drive is composed of three traits: Need for Achievement, Competitiveness and Optimism. Hiring managers who do not specifically test for these three traits risk repeating the pattern of heartbreak. For example, many sales managers look for candidates who have experience in their industry, and candidates with a track record of success at a well-known company or two can seem particularly attractive. However, when interviewing such a candidate, we need to find out whether their previous success was because of their own ambition and hard work, or whether their company’s big name and collateral material were really making the sale.
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Similarly, many hiring managers, particularly those responsible a new product or market, look for candidates who can be good “evangelists” for their product. These hiring managers are often tempted by candidates who are particularly outgoing and personable. However, brand new products often have longer sales cycles, as prospects need additional education before moving forward. We need to make sure the candidate has the optimism necessary to withstand a long sales cycle and remain focused, refusing to give up.
The key to avoiding falling in love with a candidate for the wrong reasons is to use a sales test that measures Need for Achievement, Competitiveness, and Optimism prior to the interview. A well-constructed test helps us weed out candidates who may talk a great game but lack the passion and dedication to succeed in the long run. (We have developed a test called the DriveTest™ that specifically over-weights Drive characteristics, but the main point here is include an objective diagnostic tool in your selection process). For candidates who pass the test, interview them using questions specifically focused on the three elements of Drive. For example, to assess Need for Achievement, ask, “Tell me about the kinds of sacrifices you have had to make to be successful.” For Optimism, ask, “Tell me about a time you remained persistent, even after others around you gave up.”
To be sure, we also need to vet for other important factors, including fit with the company culture and level of sales experience. But, by combining a robust sales test with a well-constructed behavioral interview, we greatly increase our odds of hiring salespeople with the desire and capability to routinely exceed our expectations.