When I think about sales people, I like to look at do you have innate talent in human relationships and sales skills, and do you follow a good process. Most people who don’t have experience with sales think of the people who have the gift of the gab and are high on innate talent. I score those people low in process orientation, and call them ‘mavericks.’ Mavericks are people who are naturally good networkers, they’re great with senior executives, they know how to move a process along, they know how to ask for budget. By definition, mavericks don’t follow rules. They don’t follow process, they don’t like to submit paperwork, they’re not good at forecasting… Mavericks probably don’t play well in teams, they probably need a lot of support, they probably don’t follow up when they’re supposed to.
To be honest, I’m a maverick. I was always good at BizDev and building long term executive relationships, but very bad at following process. Personally I think a lot of really good human relationship people who have ADD, if they’re good at relationships, probably are mavericks. In every organization you need mavericks, but they tend not to make good sales management; they tend to be good individual contributors. Mavericks really need to be surrounded with sales engineers, they need leadership, they need you reviewing pipeline a lot. I’d say probably 1 of every 10 of your sales reps will be a maverick. I’m a very big believer in channeling people’s strengths, not catering to their weaknesses. So truthfully, don’t try to turn your mavericks into process weenies.
The other end of the spectrum is people who are really good at following process, not necessarily good at innate sales skills. A really common misconception is that these people are not good at sales – many of them can be great at sales. I call these people ‘journeymen.’ A journeyman is someone who will follow process, get everything done and follow the rules. Just because you’re good at process doesn’t mean you’ll be good at sales, but to the people who are driven to succeed at sales, it’s ok if you don’t have the gift of the gab. In my experience, about 30-40% of successful sales teams are journeymen.
The most obvious place to avoid is someone without innate talent who doesn’t follow process. I won’t call these people losers, but let’s call them trouble. Or maybe better yet, these are people you need to eliminate. Eliminate the trouble early. If they don’t have innate talent and can’t follow process, they’re out.
Obviously there’s the magical people who are naturally good at sales, and really follow a process rigorously. I call these people ‘superstars.’ Probably about 5% of any org. You simply won’t have all superstars. You’ve got to accept all types of people in your org; mavericks, journeymen, superstars. For me, the key is identifying your individuals and who you are dealing with, and figuring out how to best support them.
Journeymen often need executive support to go to sales meetings and to get them up a level. Journeymen often get layered by gatekeepers because they don’t have the innate talent to get above the gatekeeper. Of course you’ll notice this only adds to about 55%. The trouble is that in any sales team you’ll have a lot of people who just don’t perform. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the nature of salespeople or the industry, but I find that 1 in 3 people churn out quickly.
Also be conscious that there are managers and there are contributors in sales. In most jobs we naturally think that people want to move up the ranks. In sales, that’s not always true. Many people choose to go into sales because they’re individually good contributors, and they want to make a lot of money. The truth is that many mangers are paid much less well than contributors. People who are attracted to the management ranks are attracted to being an executive, and probably are more aligned with having equity than immediate cash contributions. Please know that by definition managers must be high in process orientation.
If your sales manager is not super detail oriented, fire them. You need someone super detail oriented in this job. They need to be great at sales forecasting, great at pipeline reviews, great at calling on clients. They need to be great at helping people with objection handling, sales enablement and training, they need to be great with sales operations.
Mark gave this discussion on 4/22/16 on Snapchat. If you want to watch more content like this when it breaks, follow him on the ghost: https://www.snapchat.com/add/msuster.