What Does Your Organization Reward?

Hiring top-quality salespeople is a constant source of stress for many sales managers.  Of course, not every salesperson is suited for every sales job.  Wanting to sell, selling and ultimately succeeding at sales are three separate issues.  Why a person chooses a sales career – what’s behind the interview façade – is often the most significant driver of performance.  Why does a person choose a particular path?  The answer lies in what he or she values the most.

Valuing something strongly means that things associated with it are what you care about most deeply and passionately.  If what you value most is rewarded in your work environment, the odds are good that your performance will be high and attitude and commitment will be strong (as long as job skills and personal skills are present).  In contrast, if you are in a job that does not reward what you value, the opposite occurs… no matter how intelligent or dedicated you are.

Let’s look at two examples:

Sales Position A requires selling traditional, simple products directly to middle-to-low-income customers.  It’s a role in which customer service is more important than sales and daily reporting to sales management is required.  Compensation is salary-only, with no bonus or commission.

Position A rewards a salesperson who primarily values:

  • Helping others, even if faced with personal loss to accomplish it
  • Rules and externally determined standards of performance

Sales Position B requires customizing extremely high-dollar business solutions for corporate buyers.  There are strict rules to follow to ensure legal compliance, and extensive documentation and reporting are required.  Compensation is straight-commission.

Position B rewards a salesperson who:

  • Values practicality of thought and measures self-worth in terms of financial gain
  • Appreciates rules and externally determined standards of performance

Both A and B reward following rules and complying with externally determined standards of performance.  But let’s say a job applicant to Position A primarily values practicality of thought and financial gain.  Or an applicant for Position B routinely helps others at his or her own expense.  Position A would be a poor fit for someone who might excel in Position B, and vice versa.

Values are the things that fuel a person’s passions.  Imagine the power of placing a salesperson in a job that 100% fuels his or her passion—a job that allows daily immersion in things they care about deeply and rewards their real interests!  If job applicants’ values are not discovered and compared against what’s valued and rewarded by the job they’re applying for, there’s a very real possibility that low morale and poor performance will ensue.  And remember, this is regardless of how intelligent, highly recommended, or capable they are.

So how can you get a quick read on what a potential hire’s values are?  During the interview process:

  • Observe what discussion topics seem to get the person fired up and excited.  What trends do you see?
  • Ask questions like:
    • What do you enjoy most about your current job/last job?
    • What challenges have you faced on the job?  What strategies did you use or create to handle them?  What was the result?
    • What excites you about doing a job like your current job/last job?
    • What in your experience has prepared you to be an asset for our company?  Why?
  • Use a formal, validated test instrument that uncovers the individual’s deepest motives and interests.

Values are the single most universally overlooked factor in hiring salespeople.  Unfortunately, most organizations completely overlook the fundamental why of performance altogether.