What makes a great sales person? That person with a nose for the right opportunities and ability to drive to the close? It’s interesting to hear the range of executives’ responses to that question, especially if you look at the variety of requisitions out there and see who tends to be hired by companies– particularly in the federal marketspace. Identifying the traits that really make a salesperson great is crucial to the success of your organization, as is, establishing a way in which you truly vet those traits in your candidates.
Successful Sales Traits
A lot has been written and studied about “grit” as the root of success in many fields; sales is definitely one of those fields. Your average salesperson is told “no” more times in one day than your average non-sales person deals with resistance in a year. But they have to press on through shut doors, cancelled meetings, non-replied emails, and unreturned phone calls. They must define persistence and have the discipline to create a structure for themselves that enables them to follow up on all activities. A great sales person stays eager in the face of resistance and perseveres on tasks that drive results.
Understand the Close
While the term “close” may seem like a no-brainer, it is often overlooked. In a drive for meetings, information, understanding stakeholders, garnering intelligence, and a barrage of buzzwords like “hopes”, “biases”, “opportunities”, and “threats,” if you ask “how does the deal close,” many sales people cannot provide a quick and clear answer. Great salespeople understand the process to get to the close. They clearly see the goal line, understand how to get there, have money and accomplishment drive, and truly believe they will succeed.
Rapport, not Relationship
We have all heard the adages like “people buy from people they know and like” or “sales is all about relationships.” These are ambiguous oversimplifications of reality and often lead to a deceptive evaluation of sales candidates. Rapport is interpersonal or group synchrony across ideas and activities. It is based on trust and mutual understanding. To build rapport you must have exceptional communication skills, empathy, and courage to communicate on uncomfortable items. While we may end up having a great interpersonal relationship with our customers, they are our customers. We are in place to provide a value-added service and the desire to create a relationship, as opposed to rapport, can actually backfire.
See your Candidates in Action
Beware of charlatans! I have often seen sales persons hired because of the laundry list of opportunities included in their resumes; but we should always remember that –”losing opportunities are orphans while winners have many fathers.” Or, we’ve seen the extreme extrovert who comes into the office and can talk about process and contacts. However, that is not what makes any sales person successful.
Create tests and opportunities and pay attention to the interactions and behaviors as they reveal themselves. How does your candidate interact when you bring them into the office? Can they create quick rapport with multiple personality types within your office? When and how do they communicate throughout the process? What assignment can you give them? It takes a lot of thought and attention but those who are driving revenue are some of the most important hires you will make for your business and your brand.