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Attack of the Sales Phonies

October 18, 2021

By: Jennifer Lucas

You’re sipping coffee and going over the sales report, thinking about the new people you’ve hired. This is the most promising crew so far -- Jake, who has worked with some of your competitors; Ashley, so knowledgeable and prepared for the interview; Luis, the most personable guy you’ve ever met. Yes, this is a great group. As you scroll through the report, you feel a prickle on the back of your neck. You shake it off. It’s nothing. It always takes a while for new salespeople to get up and running. Still…these numbers are a little… spooky.

You decide to take a little trip down the hall, just to see how things are going. Jake isn’t in his office. Excellent! He’s getting out there, making connections. You glance at his calendar. It looks pretty full. A lunch, lunch, call…another lunch…why isn’t that lead closed yet? Why hasn’t Jake moved on? An event. Wait a minute. That event is wrong…Wrong industry -- no prospects there. Why does he have a call with that company?

Slowly you back out of the office. A chill goes through you.

Ashley looks up from her monitor as you reach her doorway. Her office is dark but for the bluish glare of the monitor. Her eyes are blank…lifeless almost. You don’t want to ask. You have to ask.

“Ashley,” your voice comes out hoarse. You cough. “Uh, Ashley, hi. I was just seeing how you’re doing. What do you have lined up for this week?”

“I am researching.”

The monotone response makes your heart beat faster.

“But, you’re making calls? Getting out there?”

“I am researching.”

Is it your imagination or are her eyes glowing the same blue as the monitor? You turn and rush blindly up the hall. You need light… human contact. You walk right into Luis. What a relief! He’s such a nice guy.

“Luis! I’m so glad—”

“Hey, I was looking for you boss. I wanted to talk to you about this sale.”

“A sale! Great!” You try to get your wits about you. This has all been in your head.

Luis hands you a proposal to review. Your smile freezes.

“Luis… this is… is that a 60% discount? We can’t—”

“It’s just--” Luis smiles that disarming smile. “You know, Bob’s been telling me about his situation. We could really help. His company’s been going through some rough times.”

“Wait… did you… is that a MONTH free?”

“I wanted to help.”

You back up… and fall to your knees…  “No!! NOOOOO!!!”

Not again! The sales phonies are back!

How did this happen. You were so careful!

Unfortunately, sales phonies can infiltrate your salesforce without you realizing because they interview so well. They come in a number of forms:

The Networker: Salespeople like Jake seem to have it all. They have great interviewing skills, a year or so of experience at a few companies, they even tend to have a great reference or two. But if you dig a little deeper, you may find they don’t have a great track record for closing. These are relationship builders who don’t like to be pushy. They often make a few sales, enough to keep them going for a few months in a position. But overcoming objections and handling negotiations is tough for them. Once they’re hired, they are usually getting out there and meeting people, but the sales don’t always follow. They might also have a problem picking the most qualified leads.

The Researcher: Salespeople like Ashley tend to seem serious and businesslike in interviews. They might not be very outgoing, but they have done their homework and have generally prepared well for the meeting. Once hired, they have no problem finding qualified leads. They research, and research and… well, you get it. There is something behind just wanting to find solid prospects, though: fear of risks and rejection. Researchers tend to be cautious and reserved, and they can really struggle to recover if they are rejected or hung up on.

The Helper: Salespeople like Luis are everyone’s friend. Like Jake, they love the interactive part of sales. Networking tends to be comfortable for them, especially if they have something to offer to people, and they know how to keep prospects engaged during presentations. The problem is, they want to give too much. If they do get around to asking for a sale, they may offer concessions the prospect didn’t even ask for.

So, what can you do to avoid an infiltration from sales phonies?

First, know what to look for.

True salespeople have a high level of assertiveness and an internal drive to win. This should be their strongest trait. In an interview, they are not necessarily pushy, but they will express themselves with confidence even if they’re challenged. They also have natural resilience. They can keep rejection, criticism and hang-ups in perspective. Being refused is a learning opportunity for them. They shouldn’t be ruffled by criticism or pushback (real or perceived).

For seasoned professionals, they should have a strong sales record without a lot of job hopping. Their references talk more about their effectiveness as a salesperson than about their personality. For people new to sales, you should see evidence that they like risks and have shown some innovation in the past. They should have a healthy attitude about setbacks they’ve experienced.

If you want some added assurance that your next salesperson won’t turn into a sales phony, consider a personality assessment. The Omnia Assessment measures assertiveness, resilience and independence, all key traits in successful sales personalities. In less than fifteen minutes, you can confirm that the confidence you’re seeing in the interview comes from natural assertiveness and not because they are upbeat and friendly. You can also get an idea how independent and comfortable brushing off rejection the person is.

Whatever you do, prepare yourself -- Do what you can to avoid bringing on a scary sales phony!

Jennifer Lucas

Jennifer originally joined The Omnia Group in 2005 as an analyst. After a brief stint away to work in project management and to start a family, her fascination with behavioral assessments pulled her back. She returned in 2011 as a member of the in-house analyst/project team. She writes and edits Custom Profiles, Targets, special projects, and articles. She enjoys being able to provide guidance to build effective, productive teams and help find strong matches for both clients and candidates.

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