(Interview with Succeed Magazine)
Succeed Magazine – www.succeed.co.za – Jan/Feb 2005
“The power of an individual top producer is the ‘special talent’ called a positive attitude. Companies should hire for ‘special talents’ and train for skills and knowledge. Skills and knowledge can be transferred through training, talent cannot” – Bill Gibson
Building a high performance sales team is all about hiring the right people, says Bill Gibson. To hire the right people, you need to know exactly what a top performer looks and talks like.
While this may sound like a simple task, profiles differ from job to job, and so do individual requirements. “The profile for somebody working three or four nights a week as a top financial advisor would be very different from that of a Coca-Cola rep who oversees stock levels in retail stores. The rep for Coke would need to be someone who can build and cultivate relationships, so that they can manoeuvre the product into the right place,” says Gibson. “The financial advisor needs to be an altogether different kind of person.”
Gibson advises companies to brainstorm necessary attitudinal characteristics and write down a clear job description for each sales position. Instead of waiting until it is absolutely necessary to hire another sales person, companies should be on a constant lookout for the right staff. “Remember that you’re always hiring,” says Gibson, who believes that the best time to hire somebody is before they know you are thinking of hiring them. “This gives you the chance to see the person’s true colours. You get to see if they’re professional, how they respond to people, how patient they are and how they behave even under the influence of alcohol, at a social function.”
Ego drive and empathy are two characteristics to look out for in top performers, says Gibson. Ego drive relates to how quickly a person gets up after they have been knocked down.
“Somebody with a high ego drive will get up fast, but somebody with a low ego drive won’t handle rejection well, and will typically have a low success rate in sales.” A high ego drive should be combined with empathy. However, sales people need to be able to project themselves into somebody else’s shoes. These are natural talents and can’t be trained.
The toughest way to hire is through advertising and a recruitment agency. You don’t know the people and it is difficult to get to know them in such a short time. Sales managers should instead focus on building a network of contacts, and drawing up a list of prospective salespeople. “Birds of a feather flock together,” says Gibson. “Companies will often find good people by asking their top performers, as they’ll usually hang out with other successful people.” Companies can also incentivise staff by offering the same commission to staff members as they would to a recruitment agency. Gibson believes that the ability to attract top people can give companies an indication of how successfully they are managing the business as a whole. “If you are running a good operation, good people will line up to work for you.”
Gibson’s five pointers to follow:
• Look for people who have a positive take on life. Choose people who naturally look forsolutions instead of looking for problems (a talent not a skill).
• The ability to communicate is important. Sales people should listen to understand, not just respond. “Choose people who talk so that others will want to listen, and listen so that others will want to talk.”
• Look at a person’s ability to be organised. “Some people are unstructured – their desks may be a mess – but they can handle five things at a time… they are organised”
• Only then, look for knowledge and experience. “It’s in fourth position because if somebody has the right attitude, they’ll learn quickly.”
• A person’s physical appearance comes in at the bottom of the list. “Top performers come in all sizes and shapes.”
About Bill Gibson
Bill Gibson has immense experience in the fields of sales and marketing. He is one of the top business trainers currently operating in the country. His formula is based on following the tried and proven processes that top performers employ, having management and staff focus on using them well. Gibson’s company, Knowledge Brokers International is best known for the business-building products, processes and systems that they have developed. Among their business systems is the Business Success Series for small business, that they developed in conjunction with the Ntsika Enterprise Promotions Agency (now SEDA). Their other products include The Complete Sales Action System, a 15-day programme, and two shorter programmes, Managing Complex Business Relationships and The Map for Success Profit and Income Builder Implementation Process. His company’s clients include ABSA, Nedbank, BMW, Siemens, Sanlam, Santam, Old Mutual, Adcock Ingram and Acer.
Bill Gibson can be reached on (011) 784 1720 or through firstname.lastname@example.org