You Can't Teach 'Hunger'

Published on 2012-04-29

Kyle Marquardt@flickr
WE ARE ALL FAMILIAR with the expression ‘naturally talented’. Some people are just blessed with an automatic ability to master the skills that many of us take years to become proficient at. As an Englishman, when I think of such talent I immediately think about David Beckham. Whilst many of his skills can be achieved through practice, it is almost impossible to teach someone how, after only a brief glance, to kick a football 50 metres and land it right at the feet of an running team mate.
We often meet people in the business world who breeze through tasks that keep us awake in fear at night. As an example, the number one fear amongst North Americans is not snakes, not spiders and not heights, but public speaking. However, we all know people who seem to thrive in front of an audience.
I was chatting with ClarkMorgan’s Sales Director last week about the qualities needed to be a good salesperson. As she is always on the ready to talk to new,talented business development managers, we were discussing which skills should be the priorities to look for in a for a new hire. Of course, we went through all of the old favourites, such as;

– Confidence
– Good ‘people’ skills
– Effective influencing skills
– Organisational skills

These are all good, standard skills that we should be looking for in our sales people. It is a bonus if a potential employee can display all of these abilities on their first day of work. However, if they are lacking in any of those areas, then we can train them. It is my belief though that the one key ingredient which is vital to a top salesperson is…HUNGER!
And here’s two examples. Years ago, I was working as a sales manager for a company in the UK. I was grilling the top sales guy in the office as to the secret of his success so that I could pass it on to the other sales staff. His answer was simple. “The difference between me and the others is that when they speak to clients, they see people. When I speak to clients, I see a pay cheque.”
Now this might sound a bit cold, but it certainly worked for him. He was so successful that he had a special arrangement with the company. He would work for the six peak months of the year and then take the other six months off and sail around the Caribbean. That was his motivation. Each sales meeting potentially took him one step closer to his six month holiday.
A few days ago, I watched a documentary about the Filipino boxing hero Manny Pacquiao. He is widely regarded as the best boxer of the last 30 years and one of the best three boxers in history. When he was 15 he would fight adult professionals who were twice his size. He did this so that he could take the 100 pesos (about enough for a KFC meal in Manila) back to his mother to buy rice. He was so small that he had to put weights in his socks in order to be heavy enough to be allowed to fight his opponents. When asked what the secret to his success was, he replied “I know what it is to be poor. I know what it is to be starving. I knew that if  I beat my opponents in the ring then I would never feel poverty and starvation again.”
This does not mean that to be a successful salesperson you must have grown up in a poor village somewhere. What it does mean is that you need something that drives you to ever greater success. As employers, when we interview you we want to see a desire to succeed. Without that, all the training in the world will not take you to the top of the results chart. More than anything else, that hunger to be a success will push you on and give you the drive you need to break through any obstacles in your path.
Compare the previous two tales of hunger to a story which highlights what happens when an employee focuses on what they can receive in return for minimum input.
A friend of mine was visiting Beijing from Singapore. As the new regional head of sales, his mission was to find out the reason for poor performance from his Beijing office. He called his chief sales girl into his office and was about to inquire as to the reason for her only hitting 20% of her target in the previous year, when she stopped him and said, “I am glad you are here. I want to talk to you about a pay rise. Beijing is getting more and more expensive, so my basic wage should be raised by 10%.”
My friend laughed at this as he knew that her basic wage of 23,000 RMB per month was already rather high, and said, “Well, you already have an easy way of increasing you wages without having to ask me. If you hit your targets then the commission will almost double your monthly pay.” The girl thought about this for a moment and then replied, “Yes, maybe, but I still need a higher basic as Beijing is so expensive.”
After one of the shortest performance appraisal meetings in history, the result was that the girl went back to her desk without a pay rise and my friend began making plans for a change in personnel.
The message here being, when interviewing for a sales position, do not focus on the basic wage. Make sure that the interviewer can see your hunger by asking questions about ‘on target earnings’ and other performance related bonuses. Ask yourself, “what do I want to achieve in my life?” and “what drives me to succeed?” Once you have the answers to those questions, get out there and let us see ‘THE HUNGER!’