How to Build Your Sales Dream Team

It’s a landmark day for because we’ve got the first ever guest post!

Our guest writer, Travis Smith, is one of my colleagues at Ernest Packaging Solutions. We’re both proud sales geeks and we’ve spent a lot of time in the last 3 years talking about sales and leadership, so he was a natural choice to pen a guest post.

At one time I thought that almost any outgoing person could be taught to sell properly if they would just follow our process and “put in the work.”

Travis has helped me realize that there are definitely several commonalities in the winners that I should be looking for; one of them being a proven history of “putting in the work.”

Here we go.

How to Build Your Sales Dream Team

By Travis Smith

Terrible Salespeope Diamonds

I have long believed that a sales leader’s most important duty is the attraction and retention of talent to the team. Whether you are hiring a sales trainee straight out of college or a sales executive with 20 years of experience, the attraction of talent is the primary responsibility of the leader.

Let’s discuss how you can improve your attraction and retention to build the dream team you need to take your business to the next level.

Finding talented salespeople is not akin to throwing darts.  It’s more like mining for diamonds. It takes work to find them, but the work is WORTH it.

It isn’t all “guesswork” and it’s definitely not “following your gut.”

Unqualified candidates have an uncanny ability to perform the best sales pitch of their life at the interview….and that’s all you’re going to get.

You need more than a feeling.

There is always a risk in hiring, and that risk can be mitigated with a logical approach. You’ll have higher success rates if you find the right criteria and hold fast to them as you select to hire.

Are there wild cards out there? Absolutely…and perhaps we could visit the topic of outliers in a future post. For now, let’s explore how to increase your odds of hiring your next top performer.

The following principles will help to ensure that you are attracting the best talent and increasing the likelihood that you are building your dream team:

But first, you must get acquainted with the “Law of the Lid.”

The Law of the Lid

John Maxwell coined the phrase, “Law of the Lid” to explain that an organization cannot rise above the level of it’s leadership’s ability.

As you read John Maxwell’s definition of the Law of the Lid, watch what happens when we replace the word “leadership” with the phrase “attraction of talent.”

“The higher the individual’s ability to (attract talent), the higher the lid on his potential.

As an example, if your (attraction of talent) rates an 8, then your effectiveness can never be greater than a 7. If your (attraction of talent) is only a 4, then your effectiveness will be no higher than a 3.

Your ability (to attract talent) – for better or for worse – always determines your effectiveness and the potential impact of your organization.”

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve no doubt noticed the theme of personal development reiterated in nearly every post and there’s a good reason for that.

All of your abilities to build relationships, sell, and lead people start in one place: You.

So even as you develop your ability to make good hiring decisions, realize that they’ll only ever be as good as your personal lid allows.

The Best Indicator of Future Performance is the Past

One of the most valuable interview questions I have found is asking the candidate what their single greatest accomplishment was in each of their previous roles.

Listen for specifics.

Ask them where they ranked compared to their peers.

If the candidate has been a middle of the road performer in their last 2 roles, then expect to have a middle of the road performer.

If in their last 2 roles they were in the top 5%, then you can expect a top 5% performer.

It isn’t rocket science. Take off your happy ears and listen to the facts.

If a candidate cannot clearly articulate how they have been best of class in previous roles or positions, then you must understand the risk you’re taking should you decide to hire them.

Realize People Don’t Change That Much

While you may be able to help steer certain behaviors, even the best of leaders cannot change a person’s identity.

If at the candidate’s core, you begin to ascertain resistance to coaching and a history of mediocre results, then understand the risk you are taking when you bring them on board.

Should you decide to take a chance because they look and talk like your best friend growing up, prepare yourself to dedicate hours every week painfully trying to turn them into the star you were hoping they were.

Remember, you are a finite resource. If you find yourself spending too much time trying to “save” the bottom tier of your team, the talented people who need you the most (and who will provide the highest return on your time investment) are very likely being neglected.

Hire Them When Their Stock is Rising

When I interview a candidate, I am looking to see that the most relevant job functions and that their best results are the most recent.

As a hiring manager, you should pay close attention to the last 2 years of performance.  Look to see if their greatest accomplishments happened in the last 12-24 months.

You’ll be best served by looking for candidates with consistency and progression in their results.

By analyzing their resume and asking specific questions about their more recent accomplishments, you can quickly determine if their stock is on the rise.

A side benefit to hiring candidates on the rise is that the current employees can see the talent you can bring on board which only lifts the entire organization.

A little positive peer pressure in sales goes a long way.

Diamonds not Darts

Remember, in selecting the right candidates we aren’t throwing darts.

We’re mining for diamonds.

Begin with the end in mind by looking at the all-stars on your team and determining the commonalities.

What previous experience did they have?

What core competencies make them successful?

Write the commonalities down and look for those same experiences and attributes in your future candidates.

As you follow the principles above and understand you can take a rational approach to hiring, your likelihood of amassing sales talent will increase.

Keep the bar raised high and enjoy the rewards.

Travis Smith

Travis Smith is the General Manager of Ernest Packaging in Oregon and Idaho.  He began his sales career selling door-to-door for 4 consecutive summers during college.

Following his graduation from BYU with a degree in Business Administration, he took a job selling for Cintas that culminated in a NW Regional Sales Manager role in just 2 years.

After achieving President’s Club for 5 consecutive years at Cintas, he joined the Ernest Team.  Since 2012 Travis has built the Portland location from the ground up into the fastest growing division in the company.  He was a good hire 🙂

To connect with Travis, click here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.