One of the questions I am asked most frequently is related to the effectiveness of sales people. Concerns in this area generally fall into one or both of two areas:

  • How do I find and hire effective sales people?
  • How do I increase the effectiveness of my existing sales force?

My experience with helping businesses increase their sales effectiveness suggests that the right answer to both questions is the same.

The key to sales effectiveness is selecting the right person. This is true whether you are hiring a new sales person or contemplating investing in training your existing sales people.

Effective sales people generally share several attributes. First, they have a strong desire to succeed. They are driven to achieve results and are willing to do whatever is necessary to attain success in sales.

Much of what is required to be successful in sales requires activities that are not enjoyable for most people. Prospecting, networking, follow-up and other sales activities are not the things that make the average person excited. Successful sales people, however, are willing to do these things because they are driven to succeed.

The second key attribute to being successful in sales is good people skills. When a sales person meets a potential prospect, they must be able to connect with the prospect and start to build a relationship. They must have the ability to be sincere with the prospect and develop a relationship of trust. This skillset can be a result of a possessing a natural outgoing personality or because of good sales training,

Finally, most successful sales people are strongly motivated by the financial rewards that being successful in sales can bring. Since it is so difficult to be truly successful in sales, being strongly motivated is critical.

It is often suggested that sales training is the answer to increasing the effectiveness of sales people. While sales training can increase the performance of well-selected sales people, the impact of such training on people who lack the desire and drive to succeed is questionable. Sales training is likely to be ineffective when applied to people who do not have the drive to succeed or who have extremely poor people skills. Paying to train people who lack these foundational traits is generally a waste of money.

So, when you make the decision to invest in sales training, be sure you are training the right people. Giving artistic painting lessons to someone who has absolutely no artistic abilities or inclinations would be a waste of time. Similarly, sales training cannot usually make a success out of a lazy person who has poor people skills. Put another way, no matter how much you polish a piece of quartz, it will never become a diamond.

If I am going to spend money on training sales people, I want to start with the right raw material. This means I want to start by selecting people who have a strong drive to succeed.

This type of person is usually focused on achieving results. They are economically motivated and are prepared to pay the price to be successful. They will willingly work more than forty hours in a week, if necessary. They will do whatever it takes to succeed. They will also go out of their way to meet the needs of their customers and prospects. Training this type of sales person is likely to be worth the investment.

One practical technique to evaluate the effectiveness of your existing sales people is to look at each of your sales people as if they did not work for you. If they weren’t currently in your employ, and you were considering them for a job at your company, would you hire them? Do they have a strong drive to succeed? Are they economically motivated? Will they do what it takes to find new customers and meet the needs of those customers? Do they have good people skills?

Based on the answers to these questions, would you hire this sales person if you were considering them now? Or is your conclusion that their lack of success is a result of them not having the level of motivation and people skills that are necessary to be successful in sales? If so, it may be time to consider making changes to your sales staff.

Don’t waste money polishing pieces of quartz in the hope that they become diamonds. It won’t work.