I’ve worked in sales roles before, but quickly discovered that I am no salesperson; and so with my own businesses, I’ve always preferred to hire professional salespeople.
There are many ways to interview and vet staff – especially salespeople.
I’ve seen the “now, sell me this pen” type of interview. I’ve seen candidates subjected to any number of psychometric tests. But for me, I trust my gut and the following factors:
1. Can they sell – are they persuasive?
Most salespeople I interview tend to overuse the term consultative selling. This approach to sales – popular with organisations like IBM – is about identifying a prospects requirement through asking questions and variations of needs-analysis techniques. The salesperson will then pitch a bespoke solution (aka “solution selling”) that fits those requirements as closely as possible so that when the prospect is presented with this “ideal” solution it is so perfect that they have no choice but to buy it.
For my businesses, I prefer people who can sell what we have to offer without the need for disruptive customisation. I want people who can take the same product and shape the features and benefits of that product to fit the varying needs of different prospects. This still involves a “Consultative Selling” approach to understand the prospects needs, but the service delivery / product is the same.
For many businesses, creating a unique (“bespoke”) solution for every client is not necessary. Most prospects think that their needs are different – but if you get your marketing right, they all need what you have to sell. They just have different ways of arriving at a buying decision.
This is where your salespeople earn their money and is why you need to make sure they are capable of “selling” and are not glorified “order-takers”. Look for past experience in selling products in the field and look beyond the sales jargon.
2. Can they close?
This is the most important tip of all. I am constantly amazed at salespeople that don’t consider an interview to be a sales call. The product they are selling is themselves. If they don’t try to close you to hire them – then how can you ever expect them to close a prospect when selling your product.
You should reject any candidate that doesn’t try to close you.
You should pay special attention to not only those that try to close you but those that “trial-close” you aswell.
An example of a trial close question that a candidate has used on me in the past: “how do you feel I measure up to your requirements for this role?” Simple, but indicative of a salesperson who is looking to progress a conversation towards a decision in his favour.
Hiring a salesperson is risky. Use whatever quantitative analysis you need to make you comfortable – and make sure you get proof of past income and references. I hope the advice in this post helps you hire your next star performer.