Last article, I mentioned I’ve been re-reading “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. Continuing with the theme of how the book can apply to sales organizations, I am fascinated by the data around the 11 “good to great” companies Collins’ research team studied as they determined what made the great ones so great.
Hire for the Who and the Team
In chapter two (I’m reading the book slowly to really absorb all the detail this time), there is a focus on company leaders and the executive teams they built. The great companies hired the best they could hire and gave them the autonomy to succeed. They hired for the “who” so to speak.
And rather than building an executive team of glorified assistants to prop up the star CEO who thought all the brains resided in his head, these companies built teams that were made up of great leaders in their own right.
The Sales Who
These same principles apply to building great sales organizations. First, make sure to hire the right “who.” The “who” of sales does not mean who we like, who fits our culture, who is from the industry necessarily. These are all nice things but not indicators of success.
The “who” of sales means hiring individuals with not only the competencies to do what is necessary to be successful in the specific sales role, but who will actually do what must be done. In other words, just having the skillset to do something doesn’t mean an individual has the mindset to do it or the willingness to do it. Having the capacity to do something is different from actually doing it.
This is where personality assessments muddy the water. Someone’s personality has little to do with effectiveness in sales. The assessments might be an indicator of the ability to operate in a certain way, but they do not equate to any data point that says a salesperson actually will when the rubber meets the road.
Hire a Team of Great Leaders
The second point above – building great teams of leaders rather than glorified assistants – is also relevant for sales. Too frequently we see leaders or sales managers who are excellent salespeople themselves, but who haven’t consciously built a team of independent salespeople who can succeed without intense oversight or help by the manager to close business.
And guess what? The company’s growth is stymied by the bandwidth of the leader. This happens for two reasons. Either the manager/leader doesn’t really know how to coach and hold salespeople accountable to the right behaviors, or they are more interested in their own success and accolades rather than that of their team and the company’s success.
Tips for Greatness
Hire based on what the individual needs to do for success in the role they need to fill. Hire the best you can hire specifically for the role, whether that be a seller, manager or leader. And, regarding the people you have on the team already, identify the strengths and skills necessary to perform excellently. Also, identify the gaps and determine if they can be closed or if the person needs to perform a different role. And finally, please don’t promote excellent sellers to managers just because that is the natural next step. Only promote sellers to manager if they have the appropriate make-up to lead the team.