How to Hire a Sales Superstar for Your Small Business

Experience is not always the right indication of a salesperson’s skill. Here’s four winning sales employee habits to watch out for...

How to Hire a Sales Superstar for Your Small Business

Many business owners and sales managers struggle to identify and hire good salespeople. During the interview, they seem to be perfect, and have excellent experience, but after they start on the job they just never manage to close the deal.

This problem is particularly prevalent amongst previously high-performing salespeople from prestigious companies, because they were unaware that the company’s brand was selling itself, with the salesperson acting as a mere order-taker.

There is a simple way to uncover the best salespeople, and this is to hire for habits rather than experience. Identify the habits a salesperson needs to succeed in your company, and build a template of what your ideal candidate should look like, and then evaluate each candidate based on their success at each stage of the sales cycle.

Here are my top tips on habits to uncover in sales interviews.

Look out for an employee who is a devoted prospector

All sales managers recognise that a healthy pipeline is the best indication of a salesperson’s future performance, and the best way to maintain a healthy pipeline is to consistently and extensively prospect. This may sound obvious, but especially in larger organisations salespeople are drip-fed a succession of opportunities to work, and can be successful without extensive prospecting.

So if we’re hiring for habits, potential salespeople need to prospect instinctively and enjoy filling their down-time with some prospecting activity. After all, they’re going to have to do it anyway if they’re to meet their targets, so why not hire someone who doesn’t need to be constantly pushed to carry out a core part of their job?

A winning salesperson will strive for continuous improvement

Prospecting isn’t done for its own sake, it’s the first stage in salespeople’s self-generated sales. It’s worth asking your potential salespeople to talk you through their last few self-generated sales in the interview, explaining how they began, progressed and closed, and what they were able to learn in order to improve for the future. Remember, this is all about habits, so you need to identify how they go about the various stages involved and deal with challenges.

It’s not only sales success that needs to be evaluated; there’s just as much if not more to be learned from losses. Have them talk you through their last few lost deals, examining what went wrong, what was different between these and their successful ones, and what they’ve learned and put in place to improve their chances in the future – whether through handling problems better or qualifying out sooner.

Try to get an expert qualifier and a salesperson who is able to unstick a stuck deal

Knowing when to qualify out and doing so is a vital sales skill. Many unsuccessful salespeople tend to cling to the hope that a sale will close long after it’s become unlikely, because they don’t have a strong pipeline to replace it with.

On the other hand, successful salespeople have prospected and built up a strong pipeline, so qualifying out is seen as freeing themselves to work on a deal that will actually make money.

Of course, sometimes it’s clear that there’s still a significant and real opportunity, but that the sale has run into difficulties. Dealing with these problems and getting the sales process moving again is a key sales habit and one worth investigating.

Choose someone who will build strong customer relationships

Habits aren’t only how a salesperson approaches their job, but also the way they treat their relationship with customers. Look into how they view customers: do they believe that they cannot disagree with a customer, or that they cannot call certain people? Or do they believe that the customer is a potential partner that they need to build a trusted relationship with? At the same time, look into how they ensure the relationship remains positive and equal.

As with the other habits, you need to identify concrete examples of what they have done and the steps they follow, rather than just the outcomes, as these will inform you of how they will handle your customers.

Regardless of the specific skills and knowledge salespeople in your company need, you will get the best results by hiring for habits rather than experiences. This approach will help you uncover candidates who are willing to learn, adapt and who will instinctively perform useful activities, meaning your coaching can focus on the nuances of your business.

This article was written by Dave Akka, CEO, ABRS Smart Professional Services and Recruitment Search

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