What makes a good salesperson? What do managers look for when hiring salespeople?
Andrew Jones, Chief Revenue Officer at CloudCall, should know. With over 30 years of experience in sales, sales training and sales management, he has interviewed in excess of 1,200 people and recruited approximately 300 others for a variety of roles.
What does he look for? Read on to find out.
Sales is a science. That is not to overstate its importance or make more of the genre than should be, but there are many facets to the sales process and indeed to the makeup of a successful professional sales person.
Suitability of candidacy very much depends on the sales role and experience required, but the qualities that I have always looked for at the onset in a potential Sales candidate are as follows:
This may sound obvious, but a successful salesperson has to possess the ability to converse openly with all levels of customer and company contacts at various times in the generic sales process. The ability to discuss, uncover and agree upon common ground can only be achieved if the sales professional has a base confidence quality that enables open communication.
Understanding of the Sales Process
I look not necessarily for an in-depth knowledge of everything to do with sales but depending on the position and the role definition – it is important to understand what their experience is and what understanding around the different stages of the sale process the candidate possesses.
However, the main thing I look for when I ask “what does sales mean to you?” is a response that highlights the importance of finding common ground and understanding between two parties.
I also look for an understanding of the fact that to sell something to a client that they neither want nor need is the absolute antipathy of what we require.
This is not something I look for simply just to check that a candidate can hold a conversation but more to find out if they can ask relevant questions and to what level they can translate the information given in response to allow development of the interaction towards the desired and shared objective.
Should that quality seem to be present, then I will look at a more developed skill level around types of questioning and methods of closing an interaction when relevant. These skills are just some of the simple high level abilities that a professional salesperson should possess before looking at more refined nuances.
In most industries, businesses and markets I have worked in over the last 30 years, the ability “to present” when in a sales environment is key. It is not so much the need to stand up in front of an audience giving a structured and salient performance – but more the base ability to understand the importance of how information is given and shared toward a specific objective that is agreed at outset.
Salespeople are often found to over-inform and over-present, which can more often than not confuse the purchasing party. I like to understand what experience of product and commercial presentation a candidate has and how likely the candidate will be in delivering a demonstration of a product /service and an explanation of that product’s salient points of interest.
When I ask candidates where their moral compass lies, most of them need this term explained or the question expanded upon before they can provide an answer. I have met and worked with a lot of salespeople who (sometimes unwittingly) believe that sales is about stretching the truth /reality/accuracy regarding their product or service wherever needed to achieve the sale. This is not and never has been my understanding of sales as it does not help meet the needs of the customer.
The candidate must understand that they are not simply being employed to sell, but they are first and foremost paid representatives of the company and their moral compass – their attitude to right and wrong and their ability to know where sales creativity stops and an absolute truth begins – must be firmly in place for me to take them further. As the face of the company brand, it is essential that they are aligned with the company values.
Other areas I look at:
– Ability to operate internally as part of a team and towards upward reporting lines and management, as well as individually or at a home office. This takes self-discipline and is not for all salespeople.
– Experience of travel and long-distance working. The customer will often determine /decide when we are needed to be on site – so flexibility is key.
– I look for positive and real working examples of past success and stated achievement.
References where relevant (and discussion about them in the interview) are also very useful in examining the reality of a person’s claims.
– A competitive spirit is another important quality. Not simply against others in a target environment but also the drive to maintain levels of effort and work ethic – when things may not always go to plan.
– Technical knowledge is now a must-have for any employee, but especially as a software company, it is important that sales candidates are able to speak intelligently and be more strategic around a solution.
It should always be remembered that in looking at a prospective candidate, the recruiting company /interviewer has a duty of care in ensuring that the job role is one that is relevant to the interviewee. Recruiting someone for a role that is not suited to them could ruin their career or chances of progress through time wasted in a position that is not for them.