As a CEO and founder, I know how tough it is to find and hire great salespeople—and I’ve been in the business for decades. According to Manpower Group’s recent Talent Shortage Survey, sales positions (including sales representatives, sales executives, and sales advisors) are the third-most difficult roles to fill and retain.
To avoid making a very costly mistake and hiring the wrong candidate, here are a few red flags to watch out for, contrasted with the traits of a truly great salesperson.
Red flag #1: The long-lost connection
There’s nothing worse than a sales professional who doesn’t value the importance of maintaining relationships with his or her network. Successful salespeople are good at cultivating strong relationships—it’s what they do. When a contact who you haven’t heard from in years, reaches out to ask for something, whether it’s for a job or to use you as a reference, that’s a red flag.
Red flag #2: No-effort contact
Experienced salespeople maintain relationships with their network by keeping in touch and finding ways to provide value. Simple gestures like sharing a relevant article, offering advice when appropriate, or commenting on a recent LinkedIn post, are great tactics to establish trust and build long-term relationships.
If a salesperson reaches out to you but never really contributes any value, she’s making no-effort contacts and likely trying to stay top of mind. Are you thinking red flag? Me too. If sales people are not willing to put in the effort with you, it’s likely they won’t put in the time with your accounts.
Red flag #3: Fake interest
People can only fake interest to a certain extent. If someone only knows basic details about your company (probably from your website’s homepage) and doesn’t make an effort to ask questions and learn more, that’s a major red flag. It’s very difficult to fake genuine interest. If they try, they’re probably not a good fit.
Now that we know some of the most common red flags, let's talk about a few qualities of a good salesperson. Relationships require cultivation, time, and energy, and when these are present it’s clear.
Top trait #1: Relationship builders
Great salespeople truly understand networking, as well as the right balance of timing between contacts. Often, these are driven by an interest in helping you, not the other way around. This is when you’ll notice the value. The best time to build a solid relationship is when someone needs help from you—not when you need help from them. These touchpoints are deeper than the “no-effort contact” because a quality sales leader has knowledge of your business and a level of empathy that leaves you feeling like you’re on the same team.
Top trait #2: Curiosity
Great salespeople, the ones you want on your team, are curious. They listen, ask questions, and challenge your responses. They’re eager to learn. These traits, combined with a genuine sense of curiosity about your business and its values and objectives, will help quality sales leaders rise to the top of your list.
By knowing what traits to identify, both good and bad, during a sales interview, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress, time, and money.