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What is Sales DNA Anyway?

Sales training is only one part of what makes a great sales team. Uncover the meaning of sales DNA.

A few weeks ago, in a post about hiring local talent to sell in countries outside of the U.S., I mentioned that it was critical to onboard sales talent who have the right “Sales DNA.” I didn’t define it at the time; however, it’s important for you to understand exactly what it is you need to be looking for in a salesperson.

Defining Sales DNA

There can be hundreds of traits or competencies that make up Sales DNA. Some traits, like networking and problem solving, shouldn’t be a surprise. Others, like taking initiative, committing time and effort to be successful, and developing technical competence are key ingredients to success in a sales role. While time doesn’t allow us to look at every competency, let’s look at a few examples.

Acts Opportunistically

Opportunistic candidates capitalize on unexpected events and use them to their advantage. When standard processes are failing, they try new approaches to ensure that the opportunity doesn’t disappear.

Candidates with opportunistic traits are the best ‘hunters’ and are generally best in roles such as new business development.

Makes Persuasive Presentations

Salespeople who do this well, build up excitement through their enthusiastic presentation style. They keep customers engaged by keeping the content relevant and utilize different techniques to move the customer toward a purchase decision.

Salespeople who make persuasive presentations typically excel in outbound sales roles as well as consultative sales roles.

Closes Deals By Building Trust and Loyalty

Some salespeople sell to prospects based upon personal relationships and loyalty. They may sell through an emotional appeal like looking good to your boss versus a logical approach of cost savings and benefits, or a checklist of features.

These types of salespeople closes deals through building trust and empathy with their customers, which is an important ingredient in many sales roles.

Identifies Customer Needs

These salespeople are students of the customer. They ask questions as they work to understand what the customer is really looking for, rather than responding to questions with standard responses. These candidates shape their answers to the situation and opportunity, and ultimately are willing to, as much as possible, adapt the solution to accommodate the customer.

Individuals with this trait are excellent selling in complex solution, consultative selling roles.

How to Uncover Sales DNA in the Hiring Process

Sales DNA is not easy to spot during an interview; long established sales organizations and startups new to building sales teams struggle finding talent. Utilizing an assessment instrument like the Chally Group’s predictive assessment tool allows hiring managers to measure the specific skills and behaviors required by specific sales roles. Competencies tied directly to each role can be measured using a predictive assessment that can anticipate sales success tied directly to these situations.

Established sales teams employ inside and outside sales positions, product/service specialists, new business development team members, inbound or outbound team members, sales Directors, SDRs, and AEs. These roles all sit within the sales organization, yet each role requires uniquely different competencies, what we call Sales DNA.

Through assessment tools like the Chally, you’ll be able to pinpoint the skills you need for specific positions and determine whether your candidate has the skills that impact results. Most importantly, predictive assessments protect you from investing considerable amounts of time and money into candidates who lack the salesperson’s DNA.

The Right Sales Talent in the Right Roles

Tracey Wik, Managing Director at GrowthPlay, notes that “People who don’t work in sales often lump all sales jobs and all salespeople into one category, resulting in the misconception is that there are ‘natural-born sellers’.” Companies frequently fall into this trap, and don’t realize their sales team is bigger than just ‘the closer.’

Tracey cautions founders, noting that “Each of these roles tap into different character traits and skill sets. Assessing your candidates for the different roles you need to fill is no easy task. Sure, all selling roles require table stakes such as the ability to communicate and close. But real sales professionals possess special skills and strengths that allow them to excel in specific positions. Every pro baseball player must throw, catch, and hit. Yet, what it takes to be a great hitter is dramatically different from the natural strengths and skills needed to become a winning pitcher. Just like athletes in baseball, not many salespeople can excel in multiple unique roles such as business developer, account manager, or solution architect.”

Building Toward Success

Assessing candidates to see if they have Sales DNA is always important, but it is especially critical while selecting a Sales team executive and leader. These are the people who will coach the members of your team and instill a sales culture into your sales force.

When assessments are applied correctly, hiring salespeople with the right Sales DNA will increase the likelihood for your success exponentially. You’ll be in a position to grow revenue, and as your company grows, you’ll have the right people in place to train and coach the new team members you onboard.

Alan Cutter helps global businesses develop sales teams capable of selling to North American customers.

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Alan Cutter

Alan Cutter founded New York City's premier digital media recruiting agency, AC Lion International, and continues to lead the growing company as their fearless CEO. For over 20 years, AC Lion has been the trusted provider of revenue generating talent in the digital and technology landscape. Our reach spans from innovative venture-backed startups to enterprise level organizations. AC Lion is a proud member of the Lionseye Group, a collective of brands furthering talent acquisition through Venture Capital, HR Technology and Thought Leadership.