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The 2 Most Important Questions to Ask When Hiring Sales Talent

by Marguerite Zimmerman

After working with thousands of sales representatives, and many over a 3-year period, we have had the opportunity to analyze what top performers have in common.

The outcome of this analysis has pinpointed two of the most important questions you can ask when hiring sales talent:

Share with me an area for improvement that was identified in your last performance appraisal.

Probe – What was it? How did it work out? Hint – ask essentially the same question when doing reference checks.

What initiative have you taken on your own to develop your sales skills? How has this impacted your selling practices?

Why are these questions important?

After crunching the numbers and looking at overall performance in Momentium, pre and post assessment on knowledge and skills and detailed psychometric assessment results (Prevue), we found an interesting correlation.

The one common denominator for top performers over time was a desire to learn. In other words, to be interested in order to be interesting.

The one caveat to this is the definition of a top performer. I’ve found that many companies determine top performers based on one number alone – revenue generation. However, when they peel the onion back, they realize that a true top performer is measured by more than this one indicator.

The danger in using revenue generation on its own is that many ‘so called top performers’ haven’t necessarily earned their top performer status. Some of them have just managed to hang around long enough to acquire accounts from departing colleagues.

In other cases, once the company peeled the onion back they discovered that the sales representatives they had deemed to be top performers were essentially giving the business away. Their true top performers were bringing in significantly lower top line revenue but were contributing significantly more to the bottom line – with less headaches.

The bottom line is this, when our clients identified their true top performers based on valid criteria and the ability to repeat their performance over time, their list coincided with the sales representatives who embraced learning.

How did we measure this?

There are two kinds of sales training. One where you show up for an event, get some networking opportunities with your colleagues, and leave. In this case, there is no real commitment needed for learning. You can be participative or “hide in the room.” Momentium requires sales representatives to commit an average of 4 hours of their time each month to learn on their own and to attend group coaching calls every other week. Sales representatives who actively participate and contribute in a learning process and score well in Momentium, have a learning mindset. They embrace learning and make time for it in their busy schedules.

Interestingly enough these are the sales representatives who, over a 3 year period, were consistently the top performers in the companies that we assessed.

Coincidence? The numbers say definitely not.

The bottom line is, the two things that are most important to long term success are –

#1 – Coachability – Is the candidate coachable? If they aren’t – don’t compromise….run!

#2 – Learning mindset – Does the candidate have a thirst for learning? Over time the numbers prove, with job fit, that a learning mindset will translate to top performance!

About Marguerite
Marguerite Zimmerman is CEO of E=mz2 Inc. & Founder of Momentium. Her career has been dedicated to helping sales forces maximize their performance.
The 2 Most Important Questions to Ask When Hiring Sales Talent