A recent article on Forbes spotlights how Southwest Airlines hires people with a key attribute – empathy. One of the things they do with prospective flight attendants is to gather a number of them together and then, one by one, have them tell the story of their most embarrassing moment. The interviewers then watch – not the speaker, but the listeners, looking for empathetic reactions. Teaching empathy is very difficult, but if their flight attendants arrive already equipped with the attribute of empathy, the airline can teach the other skills they need. Hiring Salespeople: their Key Attributes

What attributes should come pre-loaded on salespeople? Well, being a quick study is a good place to start. According to CSO Insights, it takes more than 10 months for a new sales hire to become productive.

But there are other criteria that are used to measure the potential success of new salespeople – and there’s a lot to learn. Expecting a new sales hire to beat the 10-month average is the product of unfounded optimism unless you use tools to hire the right people and train them the right way.

For example, hiring without quantitative data is dangerous. A seasoned salesperson should be able to show numbers that speak to his capabilities; a newcomer to selling should be tested to understand his potential. But potential only goes so far – the next step is training, some of it automated and some of it one-on-one with a mentor within the organization. The new salesperson’s performance must be tracked, and he can then be coached in areas where he is weak.

A salesperson also tends to beat the 10-month average if he’s competitive and responds to incentives. This is why companies spend an average of 11 percent of revenues on incentives and commissions – because they work. But managing these manually will suck all the return from your incentivization investment – companies using spreadsheets and home-grown solutions overpay by 5-12 percent, according to Gartner. A software system designed from the ground up can resolve that.

The Aberdeen group reports that the top motivator of sales success – other than commissions – was internal recognition. Because of that, gamification is increasingly being used to motivate salespeople as well. Leaderboards, group incentives and points-based rewards add another layer of potential achievement for sales people – and don’t add significantly to the compensation budget.

So a new salesperson should be a quick learner, coachable, and competitive. Want to learn more about the top attributes of a salesperson and the techniques and technologies that can capitalize on those basic qualities and produce top performers? Check out the replay of our webinar, “5 Steps to Better Sales Performance,” featuring CallidusCloud’s Vice President, Product Management Dan Koellhofer.

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