Why it is wrong to judge a salesman by numbers

I cannot count how many times I have received applications for a position in Sales where the candidate  was a top shot – on paper. I read everything from “achieved 40% revenue growth quarter over quarter” over “generated sales in excess of $10m” to “increased business by 140% year over year”. A smart guy I met at the airport once told me over one third of all résumés are fake – I did not believe him but I do now.

The problem is not that résumés are fake, the problem is the numbers and the fact that we tend to compare them. While a financial analyst should compare revenue figures to find out how a company is doing compared to another, you as an entrepreneur should not when hiring sales personnel. Here is why.

The level of sales someone creates with one product is no sufficient indicator for his or her sales brilliance. In fact, selling a disruptive innovation for $10k can be more challenging and require more sales brilliance than achieving $10m sales of a standard product from a famous brand. There are real sales gurus in the world who can sell you an umbrella in the desert. But they are at least as rare as rain in the Sahara – don’t believe you find them.

When I see such résumés the first thing I do is crossing out the numbers and the references – often, nothing substantial remains. You can look at the person and try to see if you find what is required to sell YOUR product or service. Look for passion, intelligence, perseverence and resilience and you will make a smarter selection. If you then look again at those figures you crossed out, you will be surprised. Numbers can be hollow, untrue and illusionary.

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2 thoughts on “Why it is wrong to judge a salesman by numbers

  1. Sam Chia says:

    Look for passion, intelligence, perseverence and resilience…….

    The 4 traits pretty much sum up the whole article 🙂 Well written and good reminder when comes to hiring someone for sales.

  2. […] , I wasn’t impressed. It is a very big number, ok, but as I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, numbers can be […]

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