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The One Type of Salesperson You Should Never Hire

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

There are two types of salespeople, and the one you most likely want to hire in the interview is also the one you should pass on.

The stage is set. Your business has a masterful offering and you know the exact group of potential clients who need it. There's just one thing missing: a rainmaker. You need that salesperson who will bring in client after client. And so the search begins.


Big Promises and Flashy Smiles

There are two types of salespeople: those who can sell themselves and those who can sell products and services. Entrepreneurs often make the mistake of hiring the first category of salespeople, a.k.a., “charmers.” Well-dressed, well-mannered and well-liked, charmers are outgoing, gregarious and have built their careers by selling their own self-importance. But sometimes charmers fall flat when it comes to doing what you hire them to do.

Eager to hire a salesperson who can successfully push their services, entrepreneurs rely on a default assumption: If a charmer can sell himself in an interview, he can sell ice to Eskimos too.

This is a faulty assumption with potentially disastrous results. Most customers aren't looking to buy friends. They need to buy stuff—stuff that meets a need. Stuff that solves a problem. If a friendship between your client and your sales rep flourishes, that's the cherry on top. But what you need is salespeople you can count on to sell products and services, not themselves.

The Truth is in the Numbers

Ironically, the best salespeople don’t oversell themselves. They aren't overwhelmingly smooth or charming. They may not have you buckled over laughing or be able to give a play-by-play recount of last night's game. No, they have a different kind of allure. Instead, their charm is in their confidence. They know their capabilities and measure their success with the cold hard facts—numbers. These unassuming sales stars may or may not have that “life of the party” quality, but their numbers sure do. And those killer numbers ... that's the trick to finding your rainmaker.

Your job as the interviewer is to discover, in great detail, what experience a candidate has selling other people’s “stuff.” History repeats itself, my friends. History repeats itself. (See!)

If you were a lousy artist as a kid, you aren't suddenly going to become the next Picasso. If you were quick-witted 20 years ago, chances are you are quick-witted today, albeit with slightly grayed hair. How a person performed in the past is the greatest indicator of how they’ll perform in the future. Let that sink in, because it’s the key to avoiding a sales dud.

Knowing the Difference

So, how do you know if you have a charmer, someone who delivers results, or both? Easy: Look at their historical numbers. Not the “fuzzy” numbers where they “influenced sales” here and “wowed clients into buying more” there, but the actual cold, indisputable numbers. How many cold calls did they do in a year? How many appointments did they go on? How many contracts did they get signed on their own? What are the total sales they, and they alone, made each year? These are the questions worth asking.

Have them back up their talk with reports. Validate what they say by looking at the numbers for yourself. And if they don't have sales reports, beware—it’s a glaring red flag. If someone is a “sales by the numbers” guy, he will be tracking his numbers in a report. If there’s no report, you are likely face-to-face with a real-life charmer.

The Big Red Flag

I once hired a warm and fuzzy salesman who nailed the interview and was a popular guy at the office. He stayed on board for a few years, despite not delivering the results that he promised he would. Partly because he was so well-liked and partly because I wanted him to succeed, I made excuses for him. When that happens—when I, the entrepreneur, am explaining away why the sales guy isn't cutting it—that is the biggest, reddest flag of all.

He was a great guy, but we ultimately parted ways. His final remark? “You know what? I just can’t do the numbers.” What a charming thing to say.


Written by Mike Michalowicz, originally posted on LinkedIn (

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