Do you have a SPiNO on your sales force?

A Sales Person in Name Only sells himself and drains your resources

We’re amused by clever acronyms and our colleague, Chuck Sink, came up with one that reverberates with chilling shudders from experienced business owners: SPiNO – Sales Person in Name Only.

SPiNO sells himself very well and plays the sport of office politics like a varsity starter. He interviews well, has an acceptable resume and even a few references. On the surface, and even on paper, he seems like the right guy for the sales opening at your firm. Only one problem: He sells himself but cannot sell products and services at a sustainable professional level.

At best, SPiNO proves a disappointment after four to six months and is sadly let go. Much worse, he hangs on for a year or two, continually drawing a base salary, showing occasional flashes of promise by his charm and a few decent prospects he brings to the table. Without closing any profitable new business, he wins a few new customers by discounting or overpromising, costing the firm even more money.

Always seeming to show some promise, the cost of firing him, rehiring and training a new salesperson deters the decision for another quarter, and then another quarter, until cutting further losses is the only option.

Identifying SPiNO early

Unfortunately, there are a lot of SPiNOs out there. Perhaps not intentionally, they are essentially professional sales imposters, with several one and two-year sales jobs making up their work history. They may have a decade-long career of selling themselves into good base salary arrangements and milking them for all they’re worth.

Although most SPiNOs may believe they are good salespeople, the facts show otherwise. Some of those facts may be hard to uncover, and that’s why assessment tests are worth every cent you invest in them.

Qualifying sales professionals is not a risky gut check, but rather a process that can literally mean the difference between perpetual sales mediocrity and exceeding the company’s highest goals. These tests are completely objective and amazingly accurate at revealing success or failure characteristics in sales candidates, therefore highly predictive of potential success.

Aside from professional assessment tests, there are questions you need to ask in interviews. There are ways to discern answers for red flags that may otherwise be overlooked.

The way a potential salesperson answers certain questions says a lot about how they will accept responsibility and act under its stresses. Therefore, a good assessment test and the right interview questions will focus largely on prospecting ability and the required self-discipline it takes to succeed.

The skilled sales interviewer can learn to recognize key identifiers that should raise red flags; the numerous telltale signs that a sales candidate isn’t up to the job. Here are seven major ones:

1. They talk too much. The “gift of gab” is conventionally thought of as a good sales trait but good salespeople ask smart questions and listen more than talk.

2. They’re people-pleasers and make friends with everyone. While you want friendly, approachable people on your team, this is a sign that they will probably avoid tough questions and be weak at closing. They may be wasting energy and company money chasing dead ends or facing endless stalls by prospects.

3. They’re uncomfortable talking about money. This is a sign of weakness that results in discounting and lost profits. Professional salespeople believe in the value of what they sell.

4. They avoid the hard work of prospecting and may expect accounts to be handed to them or be given an “established territory.” Good prospecting habits, such as cold calling and the effective use of a CRM, require the kind of self-discipline that usually can’t be trained.

5. They’re indecisive. Only good decision-makers can get decisions from others. A good interview question can be: “How do you go about making major decisions, including this job?”

6. They “need” a high base salary. Accountable sales professionals understand their responsibility to the bottom line and don’t want to be a financial drag on the company. They are willing to work under fair incentive-based or combined compensation plans.

7. They lack a network. How willing are they to provide references and who are the references? Who are their LinkedIn connections?

Now for the tough question: Business owners and sales managers reading this may be asking, do we have “SPiNOs” on our sales force?

The key to addressing the problem of hiring the wrong salesperson lies in how you recruit – how you advertise for, assess and interview candidates. You need to understand the skills, behavior and character traits needed for sales success.

Great sales professionals are out there getting amazing results for their companies. Their customers will tell you how they perform great work as trusted vendor-partners. Attracting and hiring these high performers requires exceptional understanding of sales and more importantly, sales management.

Kevin Hallenbeck, principal of Sandler Training-Manchester, can be reached at 603-232-1520 or through

Categories: Business Advice