Sales is a competitive profession.
Your success is defined by your ability to consistently defeat your competitors and overcome your buyer’s inertia.
Winning also defines you. You win as a result of the habits that comprise who you are. And the sum of those habits represent your character; the intellectual and moral attributes that uniquely define who you are as a person.
Character. Now that’s a loaded word. In fact, it’s a word that doesn’t get much attention in the sales world. However, it should.
If we acknowledge that sales fundamentally is still a people business, in which purchase decisions are heavily influenced by the human connection between sellers and buyers, then character should be at the top of the list of the qualities we screen for in hiring sales people. Yet, in my informal survey of sales hiring practices over the past 20 years, I’ve only witnessed a handful of companies purposefully make hiring decisions on the basis of character. Oh sure, you get the obligatory “he seems like a solid person” comments. But that’s about it. *(See below for interview questions on character.)
So, why is character so important?
To explain this I’m going to default to one of my boyhood heroes, Vince Lombardi. Lombardi was the iconic coach and master motivator of the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s when they dominated the NFL (and were victorious in the first two Super Bowls.)
Growing up in Wisconsin during that time I collected inspirational Lombardi quotes. One of my favorites, which I frequently cite is “The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” That’s all about character. Work hard. Learn and improve. Be patient and persistent. Fight to achieve your goals.
Earlier in my sales career I came across a Lombardi quote that was new to me. It really resonated with me at the time. It still does. Why? Because I’d graduated from college with no discernible job skills. So, naturally, I went into sales. And I was struggling to define who I was as a seller and how that related to who I was as a person. Those two have to be in sync if you want to win consistently.
I forget where I first saw this particular Lombardi quote. It’s nominally about winning. In truth, it’s about much more.
“Winning is a habit.
Watch your thoughts, they become your beliefs.
Watch your beliefs, they become your words.
Watch your words, they become your actions.
Watch your actions, they become your habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.”
You are the sum of your thoughts and beliefs as they are translated into action by your habits. That’s your character. It’s defined by what you routinely do on a daily basis.
It’s become a cliche in sales to say that people buy from sellers that they know, like and trust. However, sales is a people business. And your character is the first thing that another person first perceives about you.
Character precedes trust. And liking. And knowing.
The ability to connect on a personal level with another human is paramount to your success in sales. This connection is all about character. Want to know how important character is in sales? Ask yourself the following questions:
How often do you invest your time in getting to know someone whose character you don’t respect?
How often do you like someone whose character you don’t respect?
How often do you trust someone whose character you don’t respect?
How often does a buyer purchase from a seller whose character they don’t respect? They don’t.
I mentioned above the questions about character get short shrift in most interviews. Which is crazy. Sales is a people business and a person’s character dictates how they are perceived by others.
So, here are four sample interview questions to ask sales candidates. I strongly recommend, as part of your standard interview process, that you have at least two people pose these questions to a candidate. You want to be able to compare the answers you receive. If they are different then that too is an indication of character.
Name two traits from your parents that you want to ensure that you, and your kids, have for the rest of your lives.
Tell me about the most rewarding customer experience you’ve had. What would they say about you if I called them?
Tell me about two people whose lives you have positively influenced. What would they tell me about you if I called them?
Tell me about your most embarrassing experience at work.
If you have interview questions that you ask to understand a candidate’s character, I want to hear them. Send them to me at (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Bestselling author of Amp Up your Sales and Zero Time Selling, Andy Paul is #8 on LinkedIn’s list of the Top 50 Global Sales Experts to follow. With more than 170,000 followers, Andy is a highly sought-after speaker and sales sage who interviews the world’s foremost sales minds and extraordinarily interesting people to bring you strategies and insights that you can use to generate epic wins and massive value.