Professional selling has always been tough – and it’s not getting any easier. Research from Brevet and other sources paints a clear picture:
- Buyers have greater access to information, but they frequently misdiagnose their issues and needs
- Lower barriers to entry and greater access to solution providers means your product has been commoditized
- Competitors are stealing your market share by offering the same value for a lower price
- Differentiating your product from alternatives is getting more and more difficult
Sales organizations are struggling to keep pace with a rapidly changing market. But we continue to see hiring practices centered on the best ideas of yesterday.
The gap between modern selling skills and outdated recruiting tactics grows every day. To be successful, sales leaders must take a fundamentally new lens on hiring.
Here are 5 traits sales leaders should look for when recruiting their elite sales force who can be successful in today’s complex selling environment:
1. A Heightened Sense of Situational Awareness
Modern sales reps need to fully grasp the unique selling situations they face. This requires strong, natural abilities in two areas – intellectual curiosity and emotional intelligence.
Sellers must be able to uncover and synthesize multiple aspects of the opportunity:
- Buyer motivations
- Influencers to the decision-maker
- Key business objectives
An elite sales force can uncover these details and create compelling sales messages that appeal to key players.
2. Professional Agility
There is no “one size fits all” approach to modern selling. Sellers who apply the same tactics to every opportunity are doomed to fail.
Today's high performing reps quickly identify the situation they’re facing and execute the right “play.” They use their observations to choose the most effective sales strategy for that particular situation.
This ability can be hard to identify when hiring, but it is a critical skill. Our research shows that reps that excel in this area are almost universally the highest performers.
3. Structured Independence
The U.S. military is the most impressive fighting force on Earth. It’s success centers on a very organized structure that emphasizes a clear chain of command. However, operational leaders are often given creative freedom to complete their mission within certain bounds.
Similarly, highly effective sellers are comfortable with this concept of “structured independence.” They embrace a standard process, but feel empowered to deploy unique tactics in response to unique scenarios.
At the end of the day, outstanding results speak for themselves.
4. A Balance of Strategy and Tactics
To keep with our military example, an elite sales force are both generals and lieutenants. They must be equally effective at driving high-level strategy and tactical execution.
This requires reps to use questions and active listening to understand the situation “on the ground.” They must also understand the impact of that information on the broader deal strategy. Sure, a manager can coach them through this, but elite sales force do this intuitively.
5. Commitment to Continuous Improvement
Finally, high performing sales professionals engage in two important practices:
- They closely analyze their performance to see what’s working and what’s not
- They maintain an open mind about how they can continue to refine their strategy
Today’s elite sales force actively seek out and embrace ways to improve their selling approach.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When it comes to professional selling, there is one universal truth…
What got you here, won’t always get you there.
Market pressures are changing the skillset required to be successful in sales. High-performing sellers of the future will be highly observant, strategic thinkers. They will be able to adapt to new selling situations without missing a beat. And, most, importantly, they will consistently execute “best in class” tactics in the right situations.
Our relationships with clients and original research help us optimize our Modern Selling Development programs.
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About The Author
Researcher, consultant, and sales leader, Brian uses a data-driven approach to drive sales effectiveness. His clients include leading sales organizations in financial services, technology, healthcare, and professional services. Using insight from academics and change management, Brian helps senior leaders and sales enablement teams understand and succeed in today’s more demanding market. His research has been published in Harvard Business Review and other outlets.