Actually, the full context of this phrase comes from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2, Juliet says:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose… By any other name would still smell as sweet…”

It turns out that roses aren’t roses aren’t roses. At last count, there were 150 species of rose and thousands of hybrids. As a result, roses are quite different and distinctive.

The other day I was speaking with a manager. He was quite anxious to recruit sales people and had come up with a source of pre-trained, experienced sales people. His thought was he could dramatically shorten the process of finding, recruiting, onboarding sales people just by leveraging this source.

I started asking, “Just because they are successful in this organization, what makes you think they will be successful for you?”

The manager replied, “Well we expect to train them in our products, but isn’t a sales person a sales person? Why wouldn’t they be successful with us?”

When I started asking, “Well your target customers are quite unique and quite technical….., Your selling process is very complex and involves engaging many people in the sales process…. The culture of your company is quite unique. You’ve said it requires very specific attitudes and behaviors to be successful here….” I went on and on asking him questions.

At one point he said, “I get it Dave, a sales person isn’t a sales person, isn’t a sales person. We have to find the right sales people to fit our requirements.”

Too many sales managers make the same mistake. They think that success in selling somewhere else can immediately (with the right product training) translate into success in their own companies. They hire a “great sales person,” only months later to find that person is not performing.

Other sales managers think they are a little more clever. They hire the top sales person from a competitor, thinking “This lady will not only grow our business wildly–but it will hurt my competition!” Again, months later, that sales person isn’t performing. She may be making her numbers, but she isn’t the super star she was in the competitor.

Hiring managers will often kick themselves, thinking the sales person had misrepresented themselves–they really must not have been top performers. They’ll go out again, doing the same thing–perhaps being a little more cautions in looking at their actual performance in the past job, checking references more thoroughly, but still thinking, “If I get someone with a proven track record, they’re guaranteed to be successful in our company.”

In reality, a sales person is not a sales person is not a sales person.

There are thousands of varieties of successful sales people. Just because they have been successful somewhere else doesn’t mean they will be successful in your organization.

We need to begin our recruiting and hiring process in a different place. We need to start by looking within our own organizations, posing the question, “What does it take to be successful in this organization?”

We have to model our picture of the Ideal Candidate, based on the characteristics of the top performers in our own companies. What we describe has to be very broad and rich–not just looking at selling skills, years of experience, and number of years hitting/exceeding quota. We have to look at the behaviors, attitudes, skills, experiences, and capabilities required for success. Does this person “fit” our culture and our style of working? Does this person have the ability to create the customer experiences we know to be successful?

We have to develop an Ideal Candidate Profile—a picture—based on success in our own company instead of looking at success in other companies. Only then, do we have the possibility of identifying the right candidate, “our great sales person,” not someone else’s.

Once we’ve found that great candidate, we have to onboard them–again, looking at what we’ve done to drive the best performance from others, mirroring it to get the best performance from each new hire.

A sales person is not a sales person is not a sales person.

Make sure you are recruiting and onboarding YOUR right sales people.