The Nice Guy Finishes Last, Especially in Outside Sales

by Chris Young

nice guy finishes last in sales

Do you hire the salesperson you like or the salesperson who will get the job done?

Recently, we met with a strategic recruiting partner who uses our sales hiring process and tools to help their Clients select the best outside salespeople possible. They shared a situation that happens all-too-frequently. Our partner was frustrated because, despite their efforts to help their Client hire the best outside salesperson, their Client chose the "nice" guy - the one most liked by the decision maker.

While the "nice" guy is great in many professions, they will always finish last in outside sales. They may get hired because they are likeable, but when put out in the market, they fail to deliver and ultimately finish last.

Let's dive into the details further. Part of our TriMetrix(R) HD assessment series is a highly-validated DISC assessment that measures behaviors or how one acts. While many assessments in the marketplace measure behaviors, a word of caution is necessary here. Do not rely on just a behavior assessment alone because an individual's performance is affected by behaviors, motivators, and many other factors. The DISC assessment is a snapshot of an individual. The assessment your company uses should be as comprehensive as possible so that you can get the whole picture of who the candidate is or has the potential to be.

Learn more about our comprehensive TriMetrix(R) HD assessment here.

If you are unfamiliar with the DISC model, I encourage you to check out this infographic from DTS International.

I love the debates, but the frank reality is the most successful outside sales people tend to have a higher "DI" combination where the "I" does not overpower the "D."

By definition, the outside sales role requires the sales professional to generate leads.  A "DI" combination where the "D" is higher than the "I" indicates an individual is likely better suited to handle rejection when approaching leads. Individuals that have an "I" higher than the "D" are more sensitive to social rejection. No one enjoys being told no, but Higher "D" styles have thicker skin and generally interpret “no” as “not now” and move on.

The sales manager (mentioned above) would have been wise to consider the job fit. She would have understood that the candidate she liked most (I higher than D) was very nice and would be liked by their Clients, but would take longer to “bounce back” from rejection and have a harder time asking for the sale.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to ensure you get the right behavioral style hired in the first place. It is absolutely essential to follow the following process. It works.

  1. Trust the outside sales job benchmark. The "DI" behavioral style combination, the desire to make money (Utilitarian motivator), and the desire to take control of one's destiny (Individualistic motivator) are essential to outside sales success.
  2. Never settle for second best. Second rate outside salespeople get beat more often than not by "sales wolves". Only select the best outside sales candidate with the ideal job fit.
  3. Require a hiring scorecard. A hiring scorecard can pare down sales candidates to only those who are most qualified. It gives you the ability to measure the candidates objectively against the requirements of the job.
  4. Put money on the line. If HR and / or a sales manager insists that you selecting a candidate who fits all of the hiring scorecard requirements but is not a strong job fit as identified by the assessment, hold them accountable when the new hire does not perform well.

Hiring the best outside sales talent requires discipline, focus, and patience. It is up to you to ensure the right outside sales candidate makes it through to become a valuable asset rather than put a drain on sales performance as well as management and coaching resources.

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