In 2012 SignLink Magazine asked my advice on the hiring process for Sales Recruiters…The original article can be found here
Interviewing people to fill a sales position can be a minefield! Hiring the wrong person can be disastrous both in financial terms and on the moral of your existing team, let alone losing the confidence of crucial clients and potential contracts.
Its important to get it right, but what do you look for in somebody whose job it is to “sell”, presumably if they are any good they will manage to sell themselves to you and that will be true in the field? Right?
Actually, what you really should be looking for is someone who can sell to the people who are able to buy your products and services, and that group of people, professional buyers, have a very particular hit-list in terms of what they “like” and “dislike” from salespeople.
In the course of our training we meet thousands of buyers from organizations big and small, and fortunately they have quite specific answers when it comes to the question “What makes a good salesperson?”
Perhaps their thoughts are worth bearing in mind the next time you are recruiting someone to meet them on behalf of your company…
- The top answers buyers give is that they want “someone who listens” to sit opposite them. By which they mean really listens to what they need and then react appropriately to it. They do NOT like, and can detect, someone who is pretending to listen but just waiting for them to stop talking so they can start talking themselves.
- The next thing is product knowledge. Buyers are looking for salespeople to solve their problems for them and that means being able to offer a variety of solutions based on their individual needs. They expect them to know the product or service inside out, no gaps and no excuses, they are buying an expert so present yourselves as such.
- Buyers want friendly but not too friendly. Someone who has a chat and is not too formal but doesn’t attempt to be their best friend either is ideal. They hate it when someone who is trying to extract money out of them acts like their best friend, so professional and friendly, rather than flashy, insincere and overbearing is the goal.
- Don’t use a script or pitch! Again, even if its not obvious at first once you press play and start reciting, you lose your audience, so you need someone who doesn’t practice too specifically but is good enough on their feet to explain the benefits well without sounding rehearsed.
- They like honest salespeople! No one is naïve enough to imagine that everyone is giving each other the full facts, but people prefer someone who is as up front as possible about costs, problems and mistakes.
If you look for these qualities in the sales people you are interviewing, (and they are not common skills by the way), then you might just find yourself hiring, the person the buyers are likely to buy from, rather than the person who is “the best at sales” it might well be the difference that gets you the deal!