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).

From Chapter 1 – The Core Attributes of Sales Success

Having now explored some of the problems with relying on education, industry experience, book of business, and good impression as the sole criteria for sales hiring, let’s consider some more predictive components of sales success and talk about how to identify them. Most of these will seem obvious, which is good. If you have worked with salespeople, then you probably have a good intuitive sense of what common characteristics exist among the best salespeople. Many of these are listed below. The problem is, most managers and executives don’t interview for these attributes.

In going through the six steps of sales organizational success in this book, remember that they apply both to your existing salespeople as well as those you may wish to hire. As you consider sales personnel, these attributes will be important for evaluating the new people you want to bring into the organization  and also the people in your organization now.

Wants to succeed in sales
Sometimes, when I describe the constant psychological assaults faced by salespeople, and the mental strength required to be successful in sales, some of my non-salesperson friends ask me: Why on earth would someone choose that job? It is not a bad question.

The fact is that very few salespeople choose sales as a career. More often than not, salespeople simply fall into their first sales job and just roll with it.

For a lot of us, once in the job we get inspired by the challenge, we step up to meet the frustrations of getting started in this hard-to-settle-into career. We take great pride in our efforts when looking back from a place of earned success to our humble beginnings.

But it’s not like that for everyone.

Far too many salespeople hate selling. They do it because it is their job. They loathe the sinking feeling in their stomach as the phone rings on a cold call, or on a call to a client when bad news needs to be broken. They stand sickened in front of the sales rankings that their company may issue, knowing that they are at best middle of the pack.

Some of these people do OK anyway. If you believe the 80/20 Rule, then some of these people are on the top half of the 80% that bring in 20% of the revenue. If you would rather divide your sales organization into thirds, some of them are in the middle, not the bottom.

But is that really who you want on your team?

One consistent trait among top performers in sales is a desire to succeed at selling. It is similar to the desire to win in sports. Even talented athletes don’t do as well as they should unless they are hungry, want to win, and take pride in their effort as well as the results it brings.

This may seem painfully obvious to you, or not ─ either way, are you looking for this when you interview? Are you considering this when you evaluate your sales force? Do you keep this in mind when you think about who needs to be let go? You should.

But how?

Begin by starting with the end result in mind. Know going into an interview with a sales candidate or an evaluation with an existing salesperson that this trait is something you are looking for. Be ready with questions that will allow the salesperson/candidate to elaborate on this desire, and look for them to do so. Some of these questions might include:

  • Why did you get into sales in the first place?
  • What do you love about sales?
  • What is challenging to you about selling?
  • What do you hate about selling?
  • Tell me about your greatest achievement: the most challenging sale you’ve ever made
  • If you could have another job, what would it be and why?
  • What would you miss about selling if you had that other job?

What you want to see is a spark in the eyes, animated body language, enthusiasm in the voice when talking about selling. Do they love the sport of selling? If so, they have desire!

What you don’t want to see is dull eyes, slumping body language, and dread or ambivalence. This implies that they are just going to get by ─ do what it takes to reach the minimum, but avoid pushing past that because it is not comfortable.

You don’t always have a choice, but when hiring, firing or promoting, consider desire. Find ways to flesh it out, and look for it. When you find people with the desire to succeed in sales, you have found someone who will work hard, subject to other possible constraints such as commitment.

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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