Many midmarket and large companies often consider expanding their sales forces to beat their competitors to emerging markets. Finding effective sales people has always been a challenge, and most sales consultants will tell you that the 80/20 rule applies, 80% of sales people deliver 20% of sales revenues (and vice versa). What are those hard-to-find qualities that employers should seek in expanding their sales force to meet anticipated demand?
- Trust-Building - a good sales rep needs more than personality and communication skills. Building and maintaining relationships from prospect through customer stages combines many skills including active listening, problem definition through questioning and creative solution formulation. Knowing your product or service is not enough. Understanding how your product or service solves a potential customer's problem is essential.
- Track Record - most interviewers look for experience, usually in years in a sales role, but longevity can be misleading. How effective has the candidate been in closing sales and in what markets? Few occupations are as well documented as sales, and your candidates should be able to document their success throughout their careers. You should also be able to check their claimed results with former employers.
- Organization - you can't afford to lose business due to missed opportunities. Sales people need to be well organized and proficient in using pipeline development tools such as CRM software. Daily goals and activities should be well documented, not only for personal consumption but also for monitoring by sales managers. Appointments should be scheduled in advance and lateness should never be tolerated.
- Professionalism - dress, speaking style and manners are important in nearly every profession, but never more so than in sales. Even in telephone or online sales, reps need to be mindful of the impression they leave on prospects and customers by means of their personal style.
- Training - sales is not for everyone, which is reflected by the 80/20 rule. Effective sales training improves a rep's ability to prepare for sales calls and respond to any scenario in the most effective way. Training provides the mental "tools" to deal with rejection and often to turn apparent defeats into closed sales. Ask your candidate about their sales training and how they have applied lessons learned in specific cases.
As you build your sales force to increase sales revenues, remember that your sales reps are the "tip of the spear". Look for these qualities in your candidate interviews. Remember that if your candidates are deficient in any of them, you will need to provide additional training before they become effective sales reps for your company. Partnering with a sales consulting firm can relieve some of the pressure of hiring and training new employees.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in February 2011 and has been updated for accuracy and relevancy.