A passion for sales

By Dave Kahle

One of my clients recently mentioned to me that when hiring prospective sales people he looks for a "passion for sales” in their personality. The idea struck me. I had never really thought in those terms before. What is a 'passion for sales? What does it look like? Is it really an indicator of a successful sales person? And, how do you identify it?

Perhaps the reason it struck me is that for 20 years I have been working with sales people who, for the most part, never really started out wanting to be sales people. I think that is true of the overwhelming mass of sales people. They really didn't get there by following a well-defined, intentional career path. Most sales people sort of slid into sales as a result of being "nice” people, and showing some skills or knowledge that their bosses considered helpful for sales. They found the increase in income and the freedom to organize their day as they saw fit to be attractive aspects of the job. The next thing you knew, they were a sales person.

But, a "passion for sales?” Rarely, in my experience. Here's a test to see if you, or your sales people if you are a sales leader, have a passion for sales.

Do you (or they) invest in their own development as a sales person? I am convinced that only one out of 20 sales people has actually spent $25 of his own money on his own improvement in the last 12 months. I believe that is an indication of a person's interest in the profession of sales.

Here's an example. I am a mediocre golfer. But, I really like it. Since I have a "passion for golf,” I invest in my golfing ability. I subscribe to the magazines. I buy a golf book every now and then. I follow a couple of golf websites, and I take lessons every couple of years. I go to the driving range and practice almost every week in the summer. This year, I did a bit of a study on which golf ball I should be using, and made an informed decision. While I readily admit that I am not a good golfer, at the same time I will absolutely assert that I am getting better, always better. If I live long enough, I will become an excellent golfer.

There is nothing unique in that. What's true for me and my passion for golf is true for everyone and their passions. It is certainly true of sales people. If they have a passion for the profession, they will invest their own time and money in it. They'll subscribe to the magazines and e-zines, they'll buy the books, go to the seminars, network with other good sales people, and practice as much as they can. Their money and time will follow their passion.

Is it an indicator of sales success? I think so. It may be the ultimate indicator of eventual sales success. Just like me and golf. Eventually, I am going to be a good golfer. My passion for it will lead me to learn, and eventually I will figure it out. So, too, for sales people. Given a modicum of talent, their motivation will drive them to learn, and eventually they will absorb enough of the principles and practices of effective professional sales, they will incorporate them into their routines, and they will be successful.

How do you identify it? Pre-hire aptitude assessments can uncover it. I remember taking a battery of psychological tests as part of the hiring process for one of my employers. The report that resulted pegged me as having "a singular intense attraction for persuasive activities.” In other words, a passion for sales. The pre-hire assessments that we sell provide a measurement of a candidate's sales inclinations.

But, probably the best way is to examine their investments in themselves. Have they invested in their own growth as sales people? A number of years ago, I discovered that my alma mater, the University of Toledo, had a world-class sales school in the college of business. Young people actually take a major in "sales” and learn to sell in college. For a number of years, I have been donating a day a year, speaking to the classes of this number one rated sales school. How encouraging! An academic institution devoted to developing young people who have a passion for sales.

But, few are fortunate enough to have been educated in the sales profession in college. That doesn't stop those with the passion. The ultimate question is, have they invested in themselves? Have they bought the books, attended the seminars, read the newsletters, etc.? If they have, you can be pretty sure they are passionate about the profession. If they haven't, the opposite is true.

As an experienced sales trainer who has educated tens of thousands of sales people and their leaders, I can tell you that my job is so much easier when I have a room full of committed, passionate sales people. And so much more difficult when they really don't care.

As for me and my company, I'll take a passionate sales person every day of the week.

Dave Kahle is a leading sales authorities. He's written 12 books, presented in 47 states and 10 countries, and has helped enrich thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. His book, "How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime," has been recognized by three international entities as a top-knotch English language business books. Check out his latest book, "The Heart of a Christian Sales Person.”

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