Good salespeople are essential for every business – and for buyers.

Most people have experienced being on the receiving end of a good or bad salesperson as employers or clients.

Whilst money and commissions are an important aspect of sales roles, the most crucial factor should be to HELP the client solve a need. If this ingredient is missing, very quickly you will face challenges with the team member or the quality of the service.

The saying “good sales people can sell anything”… but should they?

Here are some TIPS when hiring sales people, following a Q&A interview with Performia international founder Marten Runow.

It is interesting that sales people in many countries often have a bad reputation. That is why we sometimes see that instead of calling oneself “Salesman” you can hear people saying I am a “Consultant”, “Representative” or “Product Specialist” to denote that one is a serious person.

However, if we really look at it, sales is necessary to spread new ideas, to get better products being used in the market and developing cultures. The salesman is an important person and when we look at really successful sales people they normally have a strong intention to help people and that is actually what salespeople do – help people make good decisions they otherwise would not be able or willing to make at all or as fast as they can do with the help from a sales person.

Sales roles can be some of the hardest positions to fill but it depends a lot on how you present the job in the hiring ad. The best salespeople and the ones who make the most income and normally not motivated by just making money.

The best salespeople are interested in helping people and thus they look for products and services where they see that they actually can do that. Companies who mainly promote that they will potentially pay a lot to their sales people will have a much harder time to locate great salespeople compared to those companies who promote that they are looking for sales people who are interested in helping their clients and prospects achieve more success.

Have you ever tested a group of salesmen?

Yes, many, many times. In fact, through Performia I think the role of “Salesman” is one of the most tested categories in the system.

Are there any average data about Salesmen according to the tests?

Absolutely. Salespeople are special to deal with in hiring as they are normally more experienced and sometimes more interested in presenting themselves. This makes the job of the Hiring Manager more challenging as you might run into sales people who are extremely good at making a good impression while in fact they’re not that good at selling products or services. That is why you need a hiring strategy with sales people that is looking much deeper than just how well the person presents him or herself.

When it comes to what test results are most important for sales we need to understand that there are a huge number of different sales jobs.

A salesman who functions well in one sales job might be a catastrophe in another sales job. To give an example of this imagine a salesman who works in an airport electronic store. He sells very well and can get customers to quickly make a decision and buy. However, this sales person’s ability to focus and plan over a long time is very limited. At the airport store, he does not need a lot of focus or planning as each client will either buy right now or not at all.

Imagine that you need a salesperson who will sell huge computer systems to big corporations. If that person cannot focus and persist, he or she will never become successful in that job as a normal sales cycle might take 6-12 months if not even longer.

A successful salesperson in one job can be a failure in another sales job. And there are many different sales jobs that all can have different challenges and difficulties and thus you need to know what are the critical criteria in THIS particular sales job. When you know that, then you can get a lot more use from testing when you hire sales people.

What are your experiences with testing and finding (hiring) salesmen to Swedish companies?

We have hired a lot of sales people in Sweden and we have a very high success rate due to the fact that we know what features and abilities to look for in each special case. For example, some sales jobs have a lot of routine like when you work as a salesperson in a clothing store or one selling bread to supermarkets, compared to the salesman who needs to contact and meet totally new and different prospects in their offices to then do product demonstrations and close the deal there. In that type of job there is normally much less routine, and sales people who “must have routines” will have a difficult time there as well as sales people who like new challenges and hate routine will normally not be long lived in a clothing store.

Are there any traits which shouldn’t be missing in a salesman?

Generally one can say all sales people handle people through communication most of all so if you want ONE trait I would say that sales people need a decent trait on communication. However, depending on what product or service they sell, what competition there is, what the complexity of the product is, how much pressure clients push to get lower prices the salesman gets and many other factors, you might need many other good traits to be able to really produce at a high level over a longer time.

What trait shouldn’t be missing in a Sales Director?

When we look at those who should manage sales people the most important trait is the ability to understand quickly each individual salesperson. Thus we see that great sales managers have generally a high result on the trait called “Correct Estimation”.

What do you think about the approach of insisting on several years of experience?

Experience can be of two kinds: Positive or Negative. Just having “experience” is not enough. And “no experience” is actually much better than negative experience. Some people learn very fast and simply don’t need much experience to do a good job. Some learn very slowly and could have trouble learning a new product or service even with long “experience”. So, I normally consider it to be a mistake to ask for experience in the hiring ad as it can disqualify people who you actually could hire very successfully.

What role does Motivation play in the good results of the salesman?

It plays a big role. As I mentioned before the best motivation in sales people is when they “love to help people” and when they really do, selling actually become quite easy and effective and gives the salesperson a good income over time.

When the motivation is only “I want to make money” you can get sales people who don’t care much for their clients and who can say or do anything to get a sale. That is one of the fastest ways to lose clients and sales and eventually you might see that the salesperson loses interest in selling anything completely.

Do you have any concrete tip connected to the motivation of the group of salesmen which definitely works?

Use targets! Not just on the amount of sales done but on what we call “sub statistics”. It is an interesting fact that increased sales activities gives more and higher sales results. So setting targets for your sales people that they should reach like x number of meetings per week, can really not only increase the number of meetings but as well the sales amount. And make it into a game!

The size of the “prize” is not the most important. Have you ever been running like mad after a football just because you played a game? If yes, I think you can see that it was the game and winning that was most important for motivation, not necessarily the size of the medal.

Contact Performia to see how we can help you build your high performing team. We look forward to partnering with you and showing you the strategy to get your team and business to that next level of productivity and results.

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