Why don't your people sell more? Seasoned sales trainer David Kurlan eschews psychological tests. "They give you the makeup of the person," he says, "but they don't tell you whether that person will sell." And skill-based training is often a waste. Why? Because it doesn't remedy the problems that separate the perennial contenders from the stars. Kurlan has identified and "quantified" five classic weaknesses.

· Unsupportive buying habits. When your salesperson makes a personal purchase, does he shop on price? If you expect your people to close within four sales calls and your new hire can't buy anything in fewer than 10 trips to the mall, there's a problem. Kurlan says a salesperson's "buy cycle" should mesh with his or her company's sales cycle. Overcome this habit? Reap 50% more business.

· Queasiness about money. Some salespeople crumble under the weight of a big deal. Kurlan knew a $50,000-a-year salesperson who was actually worth $200,000 a year -- once he got past his money block. Overcome this hang-up? Reap 27% more business.

· Need for approval. "Some people go into sales to make friends," says Kurlan. "They live for the words 'We really like you." But the best salespeople aren't afraid of rejection; they know that reps who live for approval don't take necessary risks. Most salespeople crave acceptance, so this is a most difficult hurdle. Overcome this need? Reap 35% more business.

· Weak "record collection." Kurlan's talking about the messages that play in a person's head. A salesperson who hums, "It's OK not to close," won't top the charts until she changes the tune. Overcome this distraction? Reap 30% more business.

· Emotional involvement. If a salesperson loses his cool, he's not hearing the customer. Fear sets in. Kurlan has found that even good listeners make the mistake of getting wrapped up in what they're hearing and need occasional lessons in levelheadedness. Overcome touchiness? Reap 25% more business.

Here's one way to test sales candidates: treat each applicant like a cold caller. "In 20 minutes of pressure, you'll see how emotionally involved the person gets," says Kurlan, who's based in Southborough, Mass.

Companies now spend an average of $6,287 per year on training each newly hired salesperson, according to "Dartnell's Twenty-Eighth Sales Force Compensation, 1994-1995" (Dartnell Corp., Chicago). However, companies with less than $5 million in sales cut back on training, spending just $3,688 per hire.

Published on: Apr 1, 1995