How to Hire a Great Sales Rep

Author: Rieva Lesonsky | July 20, 2015

Whether you’re hiring your first salesperson or your 10th, this is one of the most important hires you’re going to make as an entrepreneur. After all even the best products or services don’t sell themselves. So, what should you look for? Is there a way to tell if a job candidate has the skills and experience your business needs?

Every sales pro or expert has their own methods of identifying stellar sales reps. During the interview you should, of course, cover the basics. Look for these traits:

  • A good listener. You sell more by talking less. This trait is easy to spot in an interview. Are they listening to you? Or do they spend the time telling you how great they are?
  • This is an often-overlooked trait—especially in salespeople. Do they ask questions during the interview? Did they research your company and industry before coming in? Curious people always want to know more, which makes them well-informed and more natural sellers.
  • Knows the competition. In these uber-competitive times, a good sales rep must know who or what they may be competing with, their prices and what makes your company stand out.
  • Good salespeople don’t oversell, badger or exaggerate. Their main job is not to sell stuff, but to build credibility and trust with their clients and customers. Consumers (whether B2B or B2C) buy from people they know, like and trust. It’s about building relationships, not must making sales.
  • We’ve all heard about the people who “were born to sell.” Don’t believe it. While some people can certainly have the innate characteristics of a good salesperson, you need more than that to close deals. You need a strategic plan.

Zorian Rotenberg, writing on the InsightSquared blog recommends you dive a little deeper. His five top traits to look for are:

  1. He cites old (1993) but still relevant research on sales rep performance from the American Psychological Association that found “the most predictive indicator of sales rep success is conscientiousness,” which he defines as achievement and dependability. Conscientious people, he says, are “goal-oriented, hardworking, persistent and have high expectations for themselves,” which are precisely the traits you want in a sales rep. Rotenberg recommends asking job candidates to tell you “about a time they set difficult goals. What did they do to stretch themselves and achieve these goals?”
  2. Rotenberg says the most successful salespeople find the healthy balance between being a self-starter and the ability to be coached. Of course Rotenberg points out, this won’t matter if you don’t invest the time in coaching them.
  3. As Rotenberg points out “sales is a data-driven field,” so the job candidate must have the ability to analyze data and translate that into action.
  4. Prior success. What is the candidate’s track record? Even recent graduates should have some achievements they can point to. Ask them to tell you about their biggest accomplishment.
  5. Now this is something every entrepreneur understands. You can’t expect them to be passionate about your products/services yet, but Rotenberg says make sure they’re passionate about selling—and about your mission. I’d add they should also be passionate about engaging with customers.

A common “test” is to ask them to sell you your product. Make sure to challenge them with a few objections and see how they handle them and you.

Remember, salespeople are public representations of your business. It’s vital to make sure you hire the right ones.

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