Sales Hunters! There is no other single kind of sales role for which we conduct more sales assessment testing. No matter the product, service or field of business, experienced hiring managers quickly learn how challenging it is to properly identify and hire these highly valuable assets.
I’ve written a lot about how hiring managers get fooled in interviews. This happens because candidates are adept at playing roles and by our tendency to misread what we think we are seeing in the candidate. Because of the huge cost of hiring mistakes, our clients view the cost of using our service as a drop in the bucket.
Organizations that hire sales hunters have always tended to have very high turnover rates for specific reasons that I will address below. But, too many managers in these companies have been living with unacceptably high turnover for so long that they have developed an attitude of ‘it is what it is’. They have, wrongly in my view, resigned themselves to the belief that nothing can be done to help fix the situation.
Just as hiring hunters is both difficult and important, so is retaining them. This article is about how to adapt your management style to an approach that both motivates them and keeps them.
To make sure you know what you are dealing with, it’s helpful at this point to spell out the traits of sales hunters. Typically, top sales hunters are highly assertive, very outgoing, very impatient and highly independent. Their high assertiveness, when combined with their high sociability, means they can be authoritative, empathetic, or a blending of the two drives depending on the specific situation. We liken this combination of traits to an ‘iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove’ and it is a critical contributor to their ability to successfully prospect. They have a built in sense of urgency and results orientation. They need a very fast paced working environment with ‘lots of balls in the air’ and are highly adept at achieving their goals through people. They have a great distaste for any form of structure such as rules, guidelines, policies and procedures. They are organized and attentive to the details up to a point but for the most part they very much dislike detail type work. They are competitive and risk driven and therefore are comfortable with incentives and commission. They are highly independent and very venturesome and have few fears about moving from job to job.
In previous articles I have likened traits to a two-edged sword. What I mean is that the very traits that result in one’s ‘strengths’ simultaneously create certain ‘weaknesses’. In the case of the top hunters above please note where I have made reference to how they have a basic dislike for rules, guidelines and details. As well, please note their lack of hesitation about changing employers. The point is that these are potential problems in even the very best hunters.
There is a subset of sales hunters that are overly impulsive and gut-level in decision-making style. These tendencies further aggravate and weaken their work behavior in several areas. Specifically, they can be very disorganized, scattered, inconsistent and very weak with the details and follow up. In addition, they are highly prone to job turnover. In effect, in areas where even the best hunters are somewhat of a concern, this group is extremely problematic. They should therefore be viewed as having high potential but with extra risk.
10 Guidelines for Managing Sales Hunters
- Present suggestions and ideas in terms of what’s in it for them
- Deal with them as if they are ‘running their own business’
- Feel free to be very direct when communicating with them
- Keep them very busy with lots on the go
- Give as much authority and responsibility as possible
- Minimize the details and, if possible, provide a ‘detail assistant’
- Minimize rules and procedures – no micro-management
- Create a competitive atmosphere as they need to be measured
- When procedures and details are unavoidable show them the positive impact on their bottom line
- Make sure they have incentives in their compensation
I am cognizant of the fact that, depending on the culture of your organization, some of the above suggestions might not be realistic. That aside, as a manager at least being aware of those situations where frictions are likely to arise will give you some guidance. As the saying goes: ‘forewarned is forearmed’!
I do hope you have found this article beneficial. As always, I would be more than pleased to learn about your particular sales hiring challenges. I promise to be very forthright in my comments and am pleased to share what I can.