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Just think how much time and money you can save by choosing the right salesperson for your sales force. If you take the time to do it right by developing and implementing a hiring process that fully vets the candidate, it will pay off exponentially. Hiring too fast is almost always disastrous.
One of the poorer characteristics of being a sales manager is shooting from the hip. We all believe in our gut instinct—so much that the faster we can come to a decision, the better we feel about ourselves. This isn’t necessarily a good thing; in fact, it’s a pretty bad thing because we often make the wrong decision when it comes to choosing salespeople. Salespeople are good at selling themselves—because they are salespeople. Combine that with our pride in making fast decisions and it’s no wonder that sales managers consider finding and keeping the right salespeople to be one of our biggest challenges.
One of the many aspects of proper vetting and hiring of salespeople is identifying and evaluating the right characteristics of a peak performer. From the soon-to-be-published book by Kevin Davis, The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top, here are some peak performers’ key skills that you should look for in your next salesperson:
- Communicates well
- Is very organized
- Negotiates well
- Has great selling skills
- Develops killer proposals
- Has a great work ethic
- Is self-motivated
- Has a positive attitude
- Is a team player
- Is competitive
- Is honest
- Is creative
- Possesses problem-solving skills
Notice the ones concerning attitude—these are the most important.
As Davis mentions, as important as these skills are for a salesperson to have, even more important are exhibiting characteristics that exemplify “wills” or positive attitude:
- Prospects consistently
- Has enthusiasm for resolving customer problems/complaints
- Has a strong work ethic (hardworking and diligent)
- Has a strong initiative (can work efficiently without being told what to do)
- Has a competitive drive
- Is results-oriented
- Positively influences co-workers
- Learns quickly and is coachable
- Is tenacious (stays focused until desired outcome is achieved)
- Constantly looks for opportunities to learn and improve
And finally, again from the book, are three observable behaviors that the person hiring manager should be looking for in that candidate:
Competitive: Hates to lose. Constantly working on getting better.
Good work ethic: High activity level. Determined to complete tasks. Hates to miss quotes.
Problem solver: Accepts responsibility for solving problems. Can define the problem’s causes and solutions. Understands that their solutions can’t create more problems for co-workers.
Creating a success profile using these characteristics and applying it to the hiring process will go a long way to assuring your selection of the best candidate for the job. But it is not the only thing you should be doing. There should be team synergy; the candidate must fit in well with the rest of the team. He must comply with the company’s culture and, most importantly, the candidate must be ready and willing to sell what the company produces. This last comment might seem obvious but it is not.
If you are a quick-turn prototype fabricator specializing in producing high-mix, low-volume orders for your customers, then be careful if your sales candidate comes from a high-volume production background. Be on the lookout for the candidate who keeps talking about how much better it is to sell what he was selling before than what your company sells.
Make it clear to that candidate that your product is your sweet spot, and you are not going to change. Let the candidate know that he must decide, and then make a commitment to sell your products when he comes on board. And, if he persists in talking about the benefits of what he sold previously, then take the hint and invite him to return to his former company. You, as sales manager, do not need to waste your time convincing salespeople to sell what you produce.
Hiring the right salespeople is like everything else you do in life. It starts with knowing exactly what you want and then going out and getting it. The hiring process is the right time to make sure that the person in front of you is the right person, with all the characteristics and skills that you want in a member of your sales team. Vet that person carefully to make absolutely certain he is the right person for your team. And once you are convinced that he is, hire him.
It’s only common sense.