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The trouble with hiring a rainmaker – Pancho Mehrotra

Are superstar agents really all they're cracked up to be, or are they just a problem in the making?

Pancho Mehrotra explores which personality traits are essential when hiring a rainmaker and how to avoid common blindspots to ensure you choose the right agent.

We have all heard about finding a superstar salesperson.

You know, the one who can add millions of dollars to your bottom line. 

You’re interviewing for a sales position, and the candidate is telling you about their gross commission income (GCI) and offering a valid reason for moving agencies.

If you’re the principal or senior director interviewing this person, perhaps you are already starting to imagine your bottom line improving in leaps and bounds, so you compromise sound business decisions and give in to their increased commission split and extra demands.

All you see are the positives and the smooth talk wins you over. 

Fast forward a year and the superstar salesperson may have achieved the GCI you expected, but something still feels off.

The experience is not what you expected, and the atmosphere in the business is different.

What happened? 

I have often heard from principals who, after the fact, continuously complain about the ‘gorilla’ in their midst.

To put it more pointedly, they mean the salesperson who brings in the big dollars only to leave a trail of destruction behind them.  

Sure, they bring in the big business, but they often turn out to be poor role models, discourage competition and make it difficult to recruit other salespeople.

There can also be a level of intimidation with them guarding their territory.

Employee morale is affected.

Moreover, you have inadvertently increased your business risk as now the main revenue earner rules the roost.  

Is it really worth it? Only you can answer that question.

Having observed many businesses, I rarely find that the business evolves or grows consistently.

There may be a lot of talk of change but little to show for it.

As one principal said to me, “why hire a superstar when you get super headaches”?

How do you identify the problematic Emotional Intelligence (EI) components in a superstar and, more importantly, what are the desirable personality traits that could bolster your business?

What traits will motivate the rest of the team and potentially attract other topflight salespeople?

I developed a profiling tool to examine the personality traits that could be classed as predictors of strengths and weaknesses.

It also looks at the aspects of emotional profiles that could become relational liabilities or assets.

There is always a specific reason behind a salesperson’s actions; even the irrational ones.

This means that all behaviour has an explanation, driven by unconscious needs and desires. 

Thoughts and emotions influence behaviour and create a personality.

At the early stage of development, a person’s emotional reactions are primarily biological.

As a child grows, they are influenced by their caregivers and the environment.  

Fast forward to adulthood, where childhood experiences and development have now been ingrained in their personality – including how they express emotions such as anger, happiness, frustration and deal with challenges. 

Many behaviours are learnt through thoughts, feelings and emotions, and sometimes people don’t know, or are unaware of, why they do things.

Good or bad.

The underlying issue is that salespeople develop blind spots to their behaviours, as do principals.

The salesperson will certainly change as they move through their lives, shaped by their experiences and their ability to identify what they feel versus what they think.

This becomes a crucial skill not only for sales but for life.

Knowing what they like and don’t like is important, especially when it comes to achieving their goals.

This impacts how they communicate with themselves and others.

For example, in a tough negotiation, does the salesperson get stuck for words because they get angry and proceed to take it out on everyone when they get back to the office, or do they have the ability to overcome the pressure and close the deal?

Our development comes from the past, the environment and caregivers, while experiences create our responsive patterns or imprints.

So, how do you identify the profile of the person who will (A) perform at the highest level and (B) motivate your team to reach their highest potential?

What EI components are essential to test in a superstar performer?

Personalities can generally be classified in four orientations:

  • Sensitivity – which refers to a feeling-oriented mode of relating, always striving to keep harmony and teamwork. 
  • Achievement – as the word suggests, is about accomplishments and achieving results.
  • Logical – the desire for precision and accuracy. Often perfectionists.
  • Energy – refers to a random, less predictable approach with a lot of energy to burn. 

Stand alone, each of these qualities have their advantages and disadvantages. 

The challenge is to find the people with the right mix of each personality trait for your requirements.

To this end, I have developed a profiling tool that measures specific traits to indicate the impact on the role and the team.

Let’s compare two salespeople and two of the above components, the achiever and the energetic personalities, and look at how to decipher their traits in relation to their role.

The good traits of a high achiever personality are the ones you can count on to deliver the results.

They do not quit, no matter what the situation is.

They can handle the pressure well and are quite independent – picture the lone wolf. 

Now, this is where it gets interesting when assessing two salespeople – both rated relatively high in the achievement trait but with significant underlying behavioural differences.

The difference in 10 points on the scale has a dramatic impact on the response to pressure to perform and how they communicate with others.

Let’s call one salesperson Tom and the other Sally.

Tom has a rating of 35 and Sally has a rating of 44, in achiever orientation.

Both ratings indicate they are superstar performers, but are they? 

Achievers like to take charge, but Tom will only take control when asked and is quite empathetic when communicating with others.

On the other hand, Sally won’t ask anyone and will not consider anyone’s opinion. Picture a bull in a china shop. 

Let us examine the next trait, which is their energy levels and responsiveness.

A person with an extremely high achiever number, such as Sally at 44, also has a correspondingly high energy rating (39).

This makes sense as the superstar is driven to succeed at all costs and requires a highly energetic personality.

This is especially important for a sales role, as you tend to find energetic salespeople to be very persuasive and keep going until they achieve their goals. 

The challenge is the high number on the achiever rating indicates a forceful personality and someone who is driven and extremely competitive, not only looking to beat everyone in the outside world, but also others in the business.

Their way of communicating can be direct and forceful.

This can put support staff offside and you may find that they don’t stay with them long.

At the end of the day, how long can you put up with an insanely driven individual who expects everyone else to be the same, and put up with their extreme mood swings when they don’t get their way?

Can you do anything about it, now that this ‘superstar’ is part of your team?

Are they disrupting the dynamics of the team?

Is there anything you can do to change their behaviour so they become a role model for everyone in the business?

Definitely. 

As you can see on the chart, Sally’s sensitivity can be improved along with several aspects that go with the personality.

We have found that, ideally, if you can hire around the 35-38 mark, you may not get the superstar, the million-dollar producer, you might get the $500,000 to $800,000 producer, but you don’t get the acrimonious atmosphere. 

It’s about understanding specific numbers in a personality profile and their EI.

Think about the power of the following emotions and how they can affect the thinking and actions that you take. 

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Sabotage
  • Determination
  • Stress
  • Impulsiveness
  • Joy
  • Happiness
  • Enthusiasm

They all are demonstrated in a variety of ways, some visible, others not so much.

At the end of the day, they will result in either good decisions or bad decisions.

You need the business to grow in a way that empowers every team member without an over-reliance on one or two superstar salespeople.

An attraction business is highly dependent on the behaviour of your people, not just the results.

Unfortunately, there is a significant focus on million-dollar performers, and few principals understand the power of a united team or culture.

Short-term thinking results in long-term pain.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule when it comes to recruiting superstar salespeople, though it is very rare.

Get a superstar that works for you and your team. 

Identifying the specific behaviours that are good for your team will impact on the bottom line of your business. 

Get the right people in your team and your business will produce superstar results.

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