Sales managers' myth and realities

Date Published: 
June, 2005
Original Author: 
Sandra Colleton
Evergreen-Washelli Memorial Park and Funeral Home, Seattle, Washington
Original Publication: 
ICFM Magazine, June 2005

Adapted from a presentation at the 2005 ICFA Annual Convention

There are many misconceptions about sales performance that color how we go about selecting candidates. According to the Gallup Organization, believing in the following myths about sales performance causes sales managers to make bad hires:

• Education myth: There is a direct relationship between education and sales performance; top producers are more educated than average.
Reality: There is no relationship here at all.  Most top performers were only average or even below-average students.

• Experience myth: Salespeople with experience will be easier to train and manage because they already know what to do and how to do it.
Reality: If they were average producers elsewhere, all their experience is going to do for them is get them up to speed more quickly so they can become average producers again. Sales is not brain surgery.

• A-good-salesperson-can-sell-anything myth: If s/he was successful selling in the XYZ industry, just think what s/he can do for us!
Reality: There are very few "naturals" who can sell anything. It's all about finding the right fit.

• The-right-sales-approach myth: If we hire salespeople and teach them all to sell identically using this regimented and highly successful sales approach, we can't go wrong.
Reality: This may work for average or below average performers, but it will stifle budding superstars. Highly successful salespeople have a unique style built around their unique talents.

• Training myth: If we just offer more training to the poor performers, they will turn into budding superstars.
Reality: More golf lessons won't turn me into Annika Sorenstam.

• Relationship myth: Relationships are everything in our business, so I need to hire people with strong people skills.
Reality: You need someone who can use their people skills to influence others, not befriend them, someone who is not afraid to ask for commitments.

• Money myth: Salespeople are only motivated by money, so as long as this recruit wants to make lots of money, s/he's a good hire.
Reality: Few sales reps are purely "coin operated." Money alone will not sustain excellent performance; the job needs to meet the sales reps' other psychological motivators or sales will drop.

• Desire myth: Anyone who wants to work hard at becoming a salesperson will become a salesperson.
Reality: It takes more than drive, motivation and persistence to succeed at sales. People need to possess the appropriate talents and strengths to succeed in any endeavor.

To hire qualified women, do small roundtable seminars with no more than a dozen women. Have the person running the seminar—who really needs to be a woman to be effective—share who she is, how she got here, why she loves it, how this job has worked for her, etc.