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In the course of my research into sales leadership and sales professionals, I had the opportunity to speak with David Hughes. David offered some sharp and refreshing insights into what makes a great salesperson — and how to

In the course of my research into sales leadership and sales professionals, I had the opportunity to speak with David Hughes, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Longview Solutions in Toronto, Canada. David offered some sharp and refreshing insights into what makes a great salesperson — and how to hire great salespeople.

David believes that great salespeople are born with something he calls “the edge.” While all good sales reps are capable of having the edge at some points — great reps always have it.

Stoke the Edge

“You can tell when folks have the edge,” David told me. “It’s something that comes from within.” It’s wonderful if all your reps are naturally talented, but David stressed that great sales leaders need to stoke the edge. He mentioned Michael Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman, one of the most internationally-acknowledged examples of honing natural talent.

David  thinks that the best way to describe it is the feeling that you must take action. “It’s the people that are uncomfortable being comfortable,” he explained. “A superstar will feel edge even when they’re at quota.”

Sales Methodologies

Hiring salespeople with the edge is a difficult task, because on paper, there’s really no way to see whether a person will have a knack for sales or not. There’s no degree for sales (ok, there’s a handful around the country, but still quite rare.) University accreditation — business or marketing degrees — have little sway over whether someone will be well-suited to the high-stakes world of sales.

“In the hiring process,” David elaborated, “you are really limited in determining what makes a high-performing salesperson. Most employers haven’t cracked this code yet. What you learn over time is that sales… has methodologies — competencies that you build.” If you understand the patterns and commonalities — skills that all good reps have — then you are better equipped to recognize those skills in potential hires.

“The bottom line is — hire with extensive scrutiny based on 5 items:

  1. ) Attitude
  2. ) Capacity to Exceed Target
  3. ) Ability to Identify Sales Process
  4. ) Comprehension of the Importance of Measurable Business Value
  5. ) Demonstration of a Fundamental Dynamic.”

The “fundamental dynamic,” David explained, is the difference of motivating people to buy, instead of just trying to sell. “It’s a pull, not a push.”

No Pain, No Change

Stoking the edge — turning the raw potential of sales reps into real results — takes resources. It can be difficult to get CEOs or COOs to commit the kind of time and money required to enable you to create the best sales team possible.

David thinks the key to securing resources is simple. “No pain, no change — for your customers or for your organization. If the CEO doesn’t see any pain, there won’t be any motivation to change.” The same way you have to present your offering as a business solution, you have to present your sales team as a business solution.

Sales DNA

There are diverse groups of people and personalities that have the potential to be great sales reps. There’s no one “type” of person that is guaranteed to have the edge — but David believes that there is a common sales DNA. “Great salespeople have to synthesize 4 key elements:

  1. ) Situational knowledge — understanding the customer’s industry and company.
  2. ) Capability knowledge — subject matter expertise.
  3. ) Selling skills — presentation, negotiation, contracting, etc.
  4. ) People skills — being able to genuinely diagnose problems.

David has found that these 4 abilities are common throughout all great salespeople. With these elements, you have the foundation to build a great sales rep.

Bottom line:


Great salespeople are born — but they also have to be made. There are certain patterns of skills that all good reps have, and if you identify them, you can hire better. In order to get the resources you need to make your salespeople better — you have to demonstrate pain. There’s no one type of person that makes a great rep — but there are common factors.

 

 

  • What skills do you look for when hiring new reps?
  • Do you ever have trouble getting your CEO or COO to commit the resources you need? How do you get around that?
  • Have you recognized any patterns in what makes great salespeople (abilities, personalities, attitudes, etc)?

 

 

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