As a hiring sales manager how many times have you heard this in an interview? The confident assertion of unbroken sales success.
Since I joined the technology sector 20 years ago I have interviewed dozens of candidates for sales roles and could count on the fingers of one hand the number that admitted to any significant set-backs in a notoriously turbulent industry. In contrast a brutally honest review of my own career sales performance would most likely reveal that I have missed targets more than I have hit them. Does that make me a bad sales rep, manager or director? – or is it symptomatic of an industry that has unrealistic ambitions based on ill-conceived business plans.
If you really have had a stellar sales career and never missed the mark my suspicion would be that you haven’t been challenged enough or that your employer lacks the ambition to set lofty but achievable goals.
In the real world where achievable quota setting is more of an art than a science it’s quite possible for a highly experienced, skilled and motivated rep to underperform a more junior less competent colleague who has had the good fortune to see a bluebird fly through the window of opportunity.
I would suggest that, when selecting potential candidates for demanding sales roles we should look deeper than numbers on a CV into the real character of the individual sitting in front of us. Allow for the fact that adversity can be used as an opportunity to learn and to build resilience.
The next time you interview a new-hire sales person ask them to explain when they have struggled in a role to achieve the goals set by management and try to understand if has indeed been a character-building experience. Remember – it’s not what happens to you in life – what drives long-term success is our ability to bounce back. As Churchill said – “success is moving from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm”
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