This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on Amazon.com. You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).

Introduction to part 1 – The Right People

In his top-selling book on corporate recruiting, Topgrading, Bradford D. Smart, Ph.D., summarizes his core concept this way:

“Simply put, topgrading is the practice of packing the team with A players and clearing out the C players.”

In sales, this is critical. I have spoken with countless human resources managers who take great pride in the talent they have found in almost each section of the company. They speak proudly of their marketing talent, their engineering talent, their accounting talent. These are all indeed positions that require great skill for proper execution, but compared to sales, these positions have what might be called a different balance point between skill and execution.

Usually, if you find an accountant that knows his craft well, he executes it relatively well. The same generalization essentially holds true for all of the non-executive roles in an organization. All but sales.

In sales, experience and skills are not enough. Anyone who has hired more than three salespeople will tell you about one that had all the right experience but didn’t execute once inside the new company. Anyone who has hired more than five salespeople will recall doubting one who turned out to be a big surprise – a positive one. The quiet one, the misfit, the one that never shaved. The one that proved that appearances can be deceiving.

In sales, the proper execution of skills in front of prospects opens up salespeople to a level of psychological and emotional stress that people of similar skill levels in non-sales roles rarely face. Salespeople experience an extraordinary level of rejection, deception, and often disrespect relative to most other positions in a company. Compensation for salespeople is often tied to events that they are less able to control than peers of similar skill in non-sales roles.

HR executives may or may not be able to articulate the reasons, but most I have met have a special place in their heart for sales, and it is a dark, dark place. Sales is a bit of a mystery for them. How do you pick good sales talent? How do you know if the person you hire will perform?

Verne Harnish, author of Mastering The Rockefeller Habits, founder of the Young CEO’s organization, and CEO of Gazelles, burned the following expression into my brain:

Cash is the oxygen of fast-growing organizations.

Sales is the part of the organization responsible for capturing revenue, the front end of the horse that eventually produces the cash.

So sales is critical yet hard to grasp for HR and sales management tasked with hiring strong talent. As challenging as this dilemma is, it can’t be ignored. The performance of your sales team and your company as a whole will be dramatically different if you have a high percentage of sales stars or a high percentage of mediocre sales talent. The cost of having just a few stars is very high, making the problem of how to find and manage good sales talent an important one to solve.

Part 1 [of Managing the Sales Process] addresses the question of “the right people” in the sales organization. What is typically looked for? What should you look for? What should be looked out for when hiring and evaluating salespeople.

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David