How to know a great salesperson if they hit you in the face
It’s one of the biggest dilemmas an entrepreneurial business owner faces. Hiring a great salesperson is going to cost a lot of money – and what if the person you think fits the bill turns out to be a waste of space? Or perhaps even worse, they are distinctly mediocre (because it can take longer to realise – during which time more damage is done).
- Do you like them? People buy from people they like, so a fundamental skill of a great salesperson is knowing how to rapidly build an effective personal relationship with a large proportion of people. So if you don’t like them (and I’m assuming you’re not racist, sexist, ageist or suffering from other similar narrow-minded stupidity) then consider that it might not just be you. And consider whether they present themselves and behave in such a way that most people will like them.
- Do they actively listen? Sales is 80% listening and 20% talking. Don’t fall for the stereotype of the smooth talking salesperson – great salespeople listen carefully to customer requirements and present the aspects of their products and service that meets those needs. Look for clues like visible interest, verbal confirmation, checking understanding and relevant responses.
- What’s their track record of sales achievement? Top salespeople know exactly what they’ve achieved against their sales targets and will communicate that clearly and concisely. No waffling around and avoidance of a direct answer.
- What have they done outside of the pure sales function in order to positively influence others in the business? Sales is a lot more than order taking. The best sales people drive the rest of the business to be completely client-focused and to do what is needed in order to maximise sales results.
- Have they been made redundant? I hesitated before I wrote this because I suspect I’ll get some angry reaction. But cutting to the chase, who’s the last person you’re going to fire when the going gets tough? Your top performing sales person. So unless the whole sales function or the business has closed down, it’s something you would ignore at your peril.
- Have they got the skills, knowledge, expertise and intelligence to become an expert in your products/services? Your products could be simple and straightforward or highly complex, but a great sales person has to become rapidly knowledgeable and talk from a position of expertise when presenting to clients, if they are going to have any credibility at all. The sales person who is completely reliant on sales support staff is unlikely to be really ‘great’.