06. August 2014 · Comments Off on So Much Sales Talent is Just Beneath the Surface · Categories: Partnerships, Uncategorized

If you lead a technology company, you likely know that the only thing harder to find than a good coder is a top tier account exec. There is a premium on qualified business development people that can take your company to the next level – and, surprisingly, you might be overlooking those could fit the description.

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About 85% of an iceberg’s mass lies underneath the surface of the ocean.  Likewise, the best sales talent your organization can find may come from applicants with unconventional backgrounds or even those already working for you in other functions.

Mark Murphy, author of Hiring for Attitudetracked over 20,000 new hires and found that 46% of them fail in first 19 months and 89% fail due to behavioral reasons or attitude  If you do that math, that means only one in twenty hires fails because of their hard skill set whereas two in five fail because of their soft skills.

Despite this and much more supporting data, applicants for sales or business development roles are generally filtered by linear, experience-centric questions such as: “have you carried a quota before” or. “what is the biggest deal you have closed”. What I find most ironic about this is that most startup founders or early stage execs, by applying this logic, likely would have declined their own application.

When it comes to identifying potential high performing business development talent, what you need to know can be assessed with four criteria:

  1. Emotional Intelligence: You will quickly get a feel for an applicant’s EQ when you are interviewing them, but look for a history of community engagement, public speaking and / or customer-facing experience on a CV. I personally got a lot out of early career experience interacting with customers on the front-line. In the long run, if an applicant does not like interacting with people, they will not succeed in a role where they have to put up with a lot of politics and personalities.
  2. Customer Orientation: The best sales professionals build enduring relationships and understand the customer both as an individual and in the context of the business. They genuinely approach the job as though they are a partner helping to solve a problem rather than an account executive trying to close a deal. Formal sales approaches like Solutions Based Selling have attempted to codify this skill set, but it really comes down to an ability to partner and deliver value over several quarters or years.
  3. Process Orientation: Sales – and especially B2B sales – are increasingly complex.  Processes on both sides of the deal need to be aligned and budget and deployment cycles considered.  Moreover, the nature of the sales cycle itself requires an account exec to be organized and meticulous.
  4. Product Expertise: This is where an internal candidate may be able to truly distinguish themselves and become a top performer relatively quickly. A top tier account executive must be an evangelist for your product. In technology, it can take some time to become familiar with the product(s), but you must have confidence that the candidate you;re hiring has the aptitude and smarts to learn your product’s use cases and specifications.

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If there is any doubt as to the importance of identifying the right talent, check out this cost of failure calculator put together by salestestonline.com

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