There are two types of sales roles: positions that require salespeople to follow directions and positions that require salespeople to interpret maps. Determine which role you’re hiring for before you write the job description.

Roles that require sellers to follow directions are roles that are best filled by the conventional concept of a salesperson. In these roles, the salesperson’s company defines the destination and route. These directions are given in the form of persuasion tactics, objection-handling, and sometimes even scripts. The salesperson is expected to learn these directions and then use the directions to persuade the customer to follow them along a predefined journey.

The other type of sales role, the ones that popular media often forget, is the map interpreter. Salespeople in this role are given a map and expected to use the map to navigate in response to the conditions around them. Maps are in the form of product knowledge and the needs of their ideal client. The salesperson is expected to use the map to work with the customer to identify their destination and how they might collaborate to reach it.

If you hire someone who has map interpretation skills for a role that requires following directions, they’re likely to get lost because they’ll go off-script and they won’t have a map to find their way back. If you hire a direction follower for a map role, this salesperson will get lost because they’ll never know where they are on the map.

While salespeople generally fall on a spectrum between those that work best with maps or directions, it’s unlikely that you’ll find someone who is proficient at using both tools. And it’s even less likely you’ll find someone who enjoys using both tools.

Define the type of sales role before you write the job description. This will allow you to pre-filter candidates who aren’t the right fit for the role, boost the efficiency of your hiring process, and increase your likelihood of hiring someone who's built to succeed in the role.

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