You Can’t Have an Entire Team of Michael Jordans – But Try Anyway

This is sixth of several blogs delving into the origin and meaning of my sales leadership “Words of Wisdom” catchphrases. You can access the complete list here

My previous blog described sales leaders willingness to settle for B players and the perils of doing so.

Michael Jordan was arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. Blessed with insane talent, Jordan also had an unbelievable desire to win. He made everyone around him better.

I label top performing sales people “Michael Jordans”. Top performing reps constantly overachieve their quotas, many times by 2X. Considering that average sales productivity is around 70%, a sales leader needs one or more top performers on their team.

But here is the reality – hiring quota carriers is very challenging right now. Finding “Michael Jordans” is almost impossible. But it can be done.

Let’s start with the typical AE  hiring profile. Companies are looking for certain experience (e.g. selling SaaS to enterprises), track record of success (% of quota achievement) and personal attributes (intelligence, work ethic, etc). Usually relevant experience receives more weight that the other hiring criteria, especially during the initial screening process.

I suggest incorporating  an additional criteria – potential (or upside).

What do I mean by potential? Simply how much the person can develop and in what time frame.

How do you determine potential in the hiring process? I look at several factors:

  • What has been their life’s journey to date? Are they a consistent high achiever?
  • How far have they come? How much help did they get?
  • Have they done something really hard? If yes, what was the result and how did they work through it?
  • What aspirations do they have for their own life? How bad do they want it?
  • Do they have the raw intellect, emotional IQ, work ethic, and figure it out factor to succeed in the role in the time frame we need?
  • Do we have an adequate on-boarding program and support system?
  • Can I envision the person becoming a CEO or CRO some day? Or will they hit their career ceiling with this role?

So how will adding potential as a criteria help you build a team of Michael Jordans?

Utilizing potential will broaden your candidate pool by making it easier to get referrals. It’s really hard to get your contacts to refer sales people with specific level /type of experience. But EVERYONE knows and can identify high achievers. Just ask “who is the most impressive person you know from school, work, or come across in your life?” Even if the referred person is not fit for the role, they probably know someone who is.

High achievers also raise the bar for others on the team. Like the real Michael Jordan, they will make those around them better. Team culture will emit high performance. Mediocre players will not feel welcome and leave.

Of course, it’s virtually impossible to have a sales team made up of entirely A players. With that said, never settle during the hiring process. Always be looking for your next Michael Jordan.

Don't miss these stories:

Join Sales Leaders from companies around the world for tips to help your organization hire top talent, accelerate skills and enhance processes

JOin newsletter