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Being an effective sales leader with a high-performance sales team requires many skills. It most certainly requires coaching, development, sales training, leadership, and administrative skills. Depending on the level of leadership, it may also require an ability to build sales processes, handle commission and territory planning, create channel strategy, manage sales incentive planning, and more. In its totality, these disciplines comprise only 60% of what a sales leader needs to manage a sales staff with impact and results. So, what about the other 40%? Frankly, it comes down to one essential factor – hiring. We’ll start with this truth:


Are You Facing Sales Issues?

Time and again, when issues arise in a sales organization, they often boil down to the performance of sales representatives. There is a multitude of well-documented reasons why selling issues exist, and most of the time, they start with and lead back to the hiring process.

    • The wrong people are being hired who do not fit the organization’s culture.
    • There is no accountability for substandard selling performance, therefore that condition proliferates.
    • Often, a wrong-minded sales leadership team is in place, impeding sales results.
    • Perhaps those hiring are unclear about what is needed to be successful in the selling role.
    • Staffing requirements supersede ability when it comes to hiring.


Start with This Truth

Great sales reps come in many forms, but they may have skill sets that are incompatible with what you are trying to achieve as a sales organization.

It is important to understand that there are different types of selling mindsets where professional salespeople operate comfortably, each bringing their own set of strengths and challenges to perform well within the confines of what the larger sales unit is trying to accomplish. For Part I of this article, these mindsets have been categorized into four archetypal types, concluding with how a commanding understanding of these selling mindsets will help you make solid hiring choices.


Lead Generation Mindset

Strengths: This sales rep can make a large, repetitive volume of calls without tiring, and tends to be the most fearless when it comes to matters of rejection. This person is best able to identify with the concept of sales as a numbers game; tangible production is very important. Often very conversational and outgoing, he or she places a heavy emphasis on friendliness to advance limited causes, such as setting sales appointments or selling products that are “transactional” in nature. Comfortable with working on the phone without necessarily getting to know the customer on a face to face basis. Challenges: Very focused on production. The personal selling process is often limited to what is needed to close the deal and centered on meeting or exceeding more immediate term sales goals.


Prospecting “Account Executive” Mindset

Strengths: Usually not the biggest fan of outright cold-calling, a representative with this makeup will use creative ways to gain appointments with customers. Networking is often a favorite prospecting activity; the tendency is to work toward personal meetings. A salesperson operating in this mindset shows a somewhat limited fear of rejection and can hold his or her own quite well with an uncomplicated selling process. This person places great stock in building friendly, face-to-face selling relationships. Very comfortable showing “hustle” for business. Challenges: In part, due to the typical nature of compensation, this type of sales rep is also focused on production concerns. Sometimes the organization’s goals may collide with the salesperson’s goals, leading to conflicting purposes. The selling approach can lean towards being “transactional” in nature without a desire for thinking about longer-term customer ramifications.


Account Manager Mindset

Strengths: Genuinely enjoys having a central role in problem-solving for the customer(s) and provides a high level of customer service. The customer experience is important. This sales rep prefers the consultative selling approach and loves sharing in the success of their client(s) on an ongoing basis. Challenges: This sales representative likes to be “introduced” to their customers and have some sense of a stable relationship with them; he or she forms selling relationships based on meeting on relatively equal terms. Calling on customer prospects unannounced might be problematic and a degree of support and planning may be required. Cold calling is almost universally NOT a skill preference that this type of sales rep possesses. Because this rep is intimately passionate about the long-term success of their customers, rejection is a very personal proposition.


Inside Sales/Telemarketing Mindset

Strengths: This type of sales representative is comfortable working on the phone to build a selling relationship. However, he or she does not typically possess the same ethos as the “lead generation” salesperson. Personal style is usually a cross between the “prospecting account executive” and the “account manager,” with the difference being that the typical inside sales rep is comfortable not meeting a customer face-to-face. Challenges: It can be hard to determine what type of selling mindset this representative truly possesses because it can run the gamut. However, the desire for gravitating to an inside-sales position often indicates a desire for stability in their selling work and a lack of propensity for prospecting. This is because the nature of inside sales often produces warm leads to convert, an important appeal for the role.  


Understanding Mindsets Leads to Positive Hiring Choices

In each of these mindset types, there are success stories and a level of sales greatness that can be readily achieved when the mindset matches the selling role. The key to hiring is NOT to pass judgment on the previous selling experience of the potential sales representative, but rather to find out how they like to sell if given a preference. What is important to them? This reveals their selling mindset. Once you find this out, it then becomes a matter of matching that mindset to the responsibilities of the position and the goals of your sales team. By hiring the right salesperson, you will give your sales force a greater chance of solving sales growth issues and increasing revenue.