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Identifying Top Performing Sales People...Surprising Findings

March 23, 2017, 07:00 AM

These Findings May Surprise You...

These days, everyone is looking to hire the next “Superstar Sales Person.” But there is no simple formula for ascertaining which new hire will ultimately rise to that level. Over a career spanning more than two decades, I have hired many sales people. While I have made a few mistakes along the way, I’ve also learned a few critical lessons. Over time, I have come to realize that the best performing sales person is not necessarily the one I once thought was destined for greatness.

In the past, it was necessary that a candidate possess a few “must have” qualities before I would even schedule them for an interview. Some nonnegotiable prerequisites included: being from within the industry; having a history of positive sales results at one of my competitors; having well-established, and portable customer contacts; and having a knowledge of the collateral, as well as the customary finance terms for that collateral.

I believed that if a candidate had these traits, then they had a good chance for success.

While these qualities remain important in my selection process today, they are no longer “must haves,” rather they are “nice to haves.” I have since learned that to be successful at sales, certain skills, qualities and personality traits must be part of a person’s DNA. In studying our top performing sales representatives over the years, I have observed that while there are differences in the way each person develops their business, they all share these four characteristics:

  • They have a very strong work ethic. They work well beyond 8am-6pm and, no matter the time of day, their phone is always on. They are engaging, likeable and know the importance of elevating a mere business relationship into a personal relationship.
  • They “invest” in their business relationships and spend time with their clients outside the office, and their clients like to spend time with them outside the office. (This is a litmus test I use when analyzing a candidate: Is this the type of person I would be willing to give up my free time to spend time with?)
  • They always ask for the next order, but also understand that they must deliver value to the client to get the next order.
  • They understand our value proposition, and have figured out where they can add value to the client relationship in the context of our value proposition.

Notice the above list does not have any of my old “must haves.” This is my new order: Think beyond the industry; think beyond the depth of the Rolodex. Look for candidates who possess these four traits. Twenty years’ experience tells me that if they have all of them, they have the DNA of a Top Performer.

Now, just because they have these traits does not mean that your job of building a sales team of Top Performers is over. On the contrary, once you begin considering candidates outside your industry, and without your product line knowledge, a new set of responsibilities arises. First and foremost, expect to spend more time than normal on training. Outsider candidates will require more development time from you. But if you provide deep and thorough training about your industry, your value proposition, and your customers, these candidates will soon get up to speed and the four traits will take over. Grooming a superstar sales team requires more up-front investment, but the return on that investment is worth the time and effort. It may take a little longer for your new outsider sales person to start producing, but rest assured, once they do, they’ll be challenging your seasoned veterans and reaching the level of Top Performer in no time. 

James B. Freund
Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer | ENGS Commercial Finance Co.
James Freund is a principal and shareholder of ENGS Commercial Finance Co., responsible for the company’s Sales, Originations and Marketing. Prior to ENGS, Freund co-founded MeriCap Credit in 2005, where he served as Executive Vice President Sales, Marketing and Asset Management responsibilities of this private equity backed commercial equipment finance company. Freund led the originations for this company into a market leader in Truck, Trailer and Construction equipment finance. Prior to MeriCap, Freund served as Senior Vice President/Director for American Express Business Finance, where he led the growth of the Commercial Vehicle and the Commercial and Industrial Equipment segments into market leaders. Freund started his commercial finance career with Transamerica Commercial Finance Corp., where he was Senior Legal Counsel responsible for the legal affairs of the company’s largest business segment. Freund became principal and co-founder of Capital Alliance Financial Services, LLC, a commercial equipment finance company which was ultimately acquired by American Express.

Freund earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from Marquette University School of Business, a Juris Doctor from The John Marshall Law School and a Masters in Business Administration from Loyola University Quinlan School of Business (Chicago).
Comments From Our Members

Kimberly Esposito
Thank you for an insightful article, James. Perhaps inviting those with broader outside experience will illuminate the existence of new potential client bases.
3.31.2017 @ 8:47 AM

Jill Miller • View APN Profile
Excellent article - looking at your cv James, I note that you are able to see these qualities in Top Performers because you yourself possess them.
4.5.2017 @ 1:11 PM
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