More than 8,000 Interviews Boiled Down to 16 Observations about Sales Hunters

As a busy sales recruiter in San Francisco, California I’ve interviewed more than 2,600 people in-person at all kinds of places: coffee shops, airport terminals, tiny interview rooms, bars, airport lounges, fancy offices, restaurants, city clubs, Starbucks, and more. I’ve video called and phone interviewed more than 5,500 sales candidates not including the 2,600 in-person interviews.

With rare exception, every candidate I’ve met in this population has had at least five years of experience post college. They are candidates from across the country, from New York to San Francisco. They’ve earned from 120K to 700K a year.

16 Observations I‘ve Made about the top 1% of Elite Sales Hunters

Sales Hunter Poem

1. Money is the primary motivator. Many salespeople share this attribute, but hunters keep score, especially with money. It's the primary target: simple to track and easy to measure.

2. They prefer to work independently and with freedom. They request the company's best talent for support. Whether they need pre-sales engineers, sales assistants, or consultants, they will make sure to get the company's best people on the project.

3. They thrive when the primary goal is to bring in new business. Workarounds are provided for most other tasks. If the task gets in the way of making money, it won’t get done, or it will be done by someone else.

4. Client acquisition is top priority. They completely integrate their work with their personal life. Work is their obsession. They befriend and regularly entertain clients.

5. Listening to prospects is one of their premier skills. In some ways, this makes them less traditional and even less stereotypical. They make clients and prospects feel understood. They serve as a true business partner and build a unique level of trust.

6. They constantly work on the heavy lifting. They don't waste their days with the trivial. Where they put their attention is critical. They free up time by planning, prioritizing, and eliminating deals that won’t or can’t be turned around. The focus always remains on winning new business.

7. No matter what changes–internal or external--they always find a way to meet the challenge. They live for achieving difficult goals. If they aren’t reaching for something and stretching themselves, they aren’t happy.

8. They're more uptight about achieving results and less concerned with popularity. They earned their way out of the popularity contest by selling their way to the top.

9. They don’t need a motivational boss. Sales Managers who let them hunt --without interruption, politics, or distraction help them achieve success. They need bosses who recognize their achievements, ensure commissions get paid, remove obstacles, and gather essential resources.

10. They’re no stranger to high anxiety. They live with the constant fear of failure. This trait fuels their desire to be number one, every single year. 

11. Lady luck is fickle. They fear being one-hit-wonders-- so when faced with success, they work even harder to repeat their achievements. Eventually building a track record of success in many places, over many years, multiple times.

12. Following rules are easy--up to a point. When rules support goals-- all is good. Rules are up for interpretation when they don’t support desirable outcomes. Apologies will be made and wrongs will eventually be righted but there will be a few bent rules along the way.

13. They’re doggedly focused on winning. It’s an all-consuming focus.

14. They plan, strategize, strive, and agonize over the details of achieving goals. They are internally driven to keep number one status at all times. They are ultra-competitive.

15. They can get very creative and take great pains to make the magic happen. 

16. They aren’t big on internal political agendas. Their master political skills are reserved for money making. They’re played out at the prospect’s company—by getting the right people involved in decision making.

Sales Talent Identification: Catch a Sales Star if You Can

Not every company has a top 1% hunter. If you’ve managed one, did you hire him? How long ago? Would he be able to get through your current recruitment process to interview with you?

What would an interview with him look like? What would he have done in an interview?  What did his resume look like?

Since 1% hunters are a rare find, it’s easy for them to get screened out and overlooked –because most hiring processes are built to support strong candidates, not exceptional ones.

Hunters behave differently. They don’t check the same boxes. Make sure you know what to look for, so when you see the exceptional sales hunter—you can make the extra hiring effort!