by - February 14, 2018

Sales Hiring Dilemma – Hiring A Methodical Yet Intuitive Salesperson

I’m currently going through a hiring cycle for one of our clients and it reminded me of how challenging hiring a successful salesperson can be at times.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve come across in our time reviewing technology firms and startups is that you want someone who is methodical yet intuitive.

What do you mean by a “methodical salesperson”?

Definition – A methodical salesperson is an individual that can follow a Sales process from start to finish and that can review and complete the necessary steps to achieve the greatest probability of success.

This diligent nature is increasingly important when you are selling SaaS software to large enterprise companies. There are multiple stakeholders, budget holders, processes and teams to negotiate your way through to closing a sale. This means that the desire and skill to review at each stage of the process against a Sales process with a checklist to ensure that you haven’t missed anything is deeply important.

If Warren Buffet has an investment checklist for making his investment, see page 30 of the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Report

My experience tells me that there are so many considerations, variables and movements in an enterprise sales cycle that not all of them can be remembered ‘off the top of your head’. Especially when you are reviewing 30 deals at one time per quarter, with 5-7 stakeholders in each deal, and each deal maybe at a different stage of the Sales process.

I’m completely shocked to see some reps not recognising the magnitude of the task and underestimating the amount of diligence and concentration needed to sign a FTSE250 client.

This sense of methodical nature can extend to be not only analytical and an informed salesperson at each stage of the process but also with their metrics. For example, are you tracking your movements in deal volume, every 2-4 weeks, comparing and contrasting the numbers and understanding the trends.

Are you looking at your average deal value month-on-month at each stage of the process? Are you reviewing your average close time per quarter and making improvements on that number each month to decrease average close time?

Are you reviewing your success rate at each stage of the process? What percentage of my deals moved from ‘Qualification’ to ‘Proposal’ this month? What’s my success rate for my ‘Discovery Calls’?

Often salespeople are berated for not winning a deal, or given an absolute hero’s welcome for winning a key deal. This is not a true working model. This comes from a ‘fixed mindset’ rather than a ‘growth mindset’ standpoint (Carol Dweck, Mindset).

We are looking for continuous and incremental improvement as a salesperson not a feast or famine salesperson. How can we build better tech businesses on reps that hit their targets only 2/4 quarters?

What do you mean by an “intuitive” salesperson?

This is the second part of the dilemma when hiring salespeople. We want the analytical and methodical nature of a salesperson but we want them to be a people’s person, charismatic and have great emotional intelligence.

These soft skills are very different from being analytical and methodical but absolutely key to whether a SaaS salesperson will be successful.

Even in the largest deals, corporate buyers are still buying from people. Often the job titles and prestigious company names can confuse and distract salespeople from understanding that they are trying to form a relationship with another person, where they see value in your product or service. Sometimes this distraction or almost mirage can seem to desensitise the buying and selling experience for both parties respectively.

This is a mistake.

Amateurs take the emotion out of the buying process. Professionals recognise the emotional buying motives and use them timely in the sales process.

How do you test for the attributes of “methodical” and “intuitive” in a Sales hiring process?

The two core parts to testing these two traits are:

  1. Process – “methodical” nature – understanding the Sales process of a potential sales hire, how clear are they on their numbers, ratios and quota attainment.
  2. Listening skills – “intuitive” nature – how do they respond to questions, how do they listen intently and ask open questions, how do they respond to objections, how effective are they in building rapport?
    If you are able to hire a salesperson that has a methodical edge and yet is intuitive and emotionally intelligent, you will see them clearly outperform those who don’t have these attributes.

This is certainly hard to acquire as salespeople are not properly taught how to use social media, how to use CRM reporting, which ratios to review and don’t clearly know what needs to be done at each stage of the Sales process. This implementation of sales structure and a sales culture that fosters this type of behaviour is one that we commonly see within tech startups and which stunts their growth

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