Subscribe to The Art & Science of Complex Sales

    5 reasons that superstar salesperson will fail you

    New Call-to-action

    Anyone would get excited about snagging a superstar salesperson away from a competitor. You start dreaming about taking over the competitor’s customers, expanding into new territories, crushing your numbers, and slam-dunking your competitor.

    But the reality is not always so simple.

    Have you ever hired a “superstar” away from a competitor, only to discover that they didn’t actually perform all that well? Why did that happen?

    Here are five reasons that superstar salesperson you want to hire may just fail you - plus, how to increase their odds of success.

    1. They’re coming from a company with a bigger brand name

    You might think that the big shot you hired from a much larger company is a shoo-in for sales success. But in fact, the skills involved in selling for a big brand are different, and not necessarily supportive of selling for a smaller company.

    Salespeople who represent a large brand name like IBM or SAP are accustomed to people picking up the phone when they call. They’re accustomed to the brand carrying a lot of weight for them. They don’t always adjust easily to having to carry that weight themselves.

    When you sell for a small brand, you have several uphill battles that selling for a big brand avoids:

    • Getting people on the phone to talk to you, someone from a brand they’ve never heard of
    • Getting them to trust that your product can actually do what you say
    • Getting them to trust that your product will still be around and supported in a year, three years, or ten years
    • Getting them to understand why they should bother buying something from you, when your competitor is better known and all their friends are using it

    So should you just take a pass on salespeople applying from bigger companies? Perhaps, but not necessarily. Some salespeople are capable of making the switch, but it’s a good idea to be aware of what they’ll be facing and make sure they know in advance as well. Then, it’s important to support them with effective onboarding, training, and reinforcement, and to give them time to ramp up effectively.

    2. They previously inherited a strong territory or portfolio

    Not every salesperson who is an enormous success has done so solely on the basis of their own prowess. Some salespeople are lucky enough to inherit strong territories or portfolios that artificially inflate their success with numbers that they didn’t necessarily earn themselves.

    Salespeople can inherit a great territory for a lot of reasons outside of simply being great salespeople. They may have established a great rapport with their manager, been in the right place at the right time, or otherwise just been lucky.

    When hiring a "superstar," be sure to ask them questions to help understand how they built their success, and what influences affected them that might or might not be true in their new role. Then, once again, provide them with time, onboarding, training, reinforcement, and coaching to help them succeed under new conditions.

    3. They’re accustomed to faster (or slower) sales cycles

    Not all selling is created equal. If you hire someone who is accustomed to selling a fast-moving product to sell your complex multi-million dollar industrial solution, it will be a major uphill battle.

    Fast sales cycles take a different set of skills from slower, more complex sales cycles. For a slower cycle, you need more patience, ability to collaborate, and an effective long-term process. You probably also need business acumen and the ability to build and maintain trusting relationships across long periods of time.

    When hiring a "superstar," ask them how they built their success.

    For fast sales cycles, you need the ability to quickly and effectively multitask, to respond with urgency, and to operate in a fast-paced environment.

    Either set of skills can be obtained, but if you’re hiring from one environment to another, be prepared to support the salesperson in making the transition. Again, onboarding, training, reinforcement, and coaching are key.

    4. They don’t know your audience

    True story: A fellow entrepreneur hired someone he thought would be a great fit for his sales team, and learned this lesson the hard way. Everything looked like a strong match, and the salesperson had been very successful in his previous role.

    But he was used to working with a rough-and-tumble set of customers with a set of cultural expectations that were different from the folks that the new company works with. At his former employer, he was selling to a male-dominated world where the language was coarse and the camaraderie based on a shared love of football and beer. At my friend’s company, he needed to sell a sophisticated IT solution to company leaders.

    This audience requires a different type of engagement from salespeople. My friend now knows to pay attention to this during hiring, and to make sure that onboarding, training, reinforcement, and coaching includes and emphasizes responding to the needs and culture of the people who buy from them.

    5. Coaching was better at the other company

    Great salespeople are made, not just born. Of course there are certain traits that make it easier for some people to learn the skills than others. But ultimately, the training, coaching, and reinforcement your sales team receives is more important than which particular salespeople you hire.

    Some salespeople who are mediocre under mediocre circumstances will really shine when they receive effective coaching. And, vice versa, someone who thrived with a terrific coach may flounder at your company if your coaching isn’t up to par.

    The solution to this is simple: Improve your coaching game.
    The one thing that will always translate across industries and companies.

    There are two things that you can look for, that will always make a new salesperson more successful across the board. And that’s business acumen and curiosity.

    When a salesperson is curious and has learned how business works, what makes business tick, how people buy, and how businesses sell profitably, they can translate that work across the board. And if you’re hiring into a b2b environment, that same business acumen means your salespeople can more easily become trusted advisors to your buyers.

    Ultimately, however, the key to a high performing sales team is not hoping that you will be recruiting superstars and can just “let them do their thing.” Hiring the right talent is important, but more important is the way you onboard, enable, and coach your salespeople throughout their careers with your company.

    I would love to show you how we partner with sales experts to help sales organizations build, maintain, and grow superstar sales teams - without the pitfalls of trying to hire individual superstar salespeople.

    George Brontén
    Published January 20, 2021
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn