With 68% of salespeople planning to look for a new job in the next year (according to Glassdoor), sales positions can be one of the hardest positions to fill in any company. It can also become a bit of recruitment merry-go-round for the employer as well as for the customer – who eventually gets fed up seeing a new face every six months and then jumps ship (just like the salesperson).
The main reasons for salespeople leaving their jobs are well documented and these reasons typically include uncompetitive pay or commission, lack of training and development, unrealistic targets and unreasonable managers i.e. people leave managers – not companies!
Getting the right candidate the first time of asking – saves everyone involved a lot of time and hassle as well as saving the company money and resource. Customer retention will also improve when salespeople are retained – because the customer gets continuity and has time to ‘Know, Like, Trust’ their appointed contact.
This is easier said than done but drawing on my twenty-five years’ experience in working with and recruiting salespeople for all types of business – I have come to the conclusion that ‘sticky’ salespeople (who stay beyond the obligatory six-month probationary period), consistently display these five traits or attributes:
1. They are naturally confident
You can’t fake natural confidence though some salespeople can do a passable job at ‘faux’ confidence. This is probably the most important attribute for me because if a salesperson isn’t confident in themselves – then how can they expect others e.g. a customer, to be confident in them. Confidence can be built on over time but there must be something to work with from the start and I’d rather take on a young salesperson that has natural confidence in abundance but needs a lot of polishing – rather than someone lacking a certain level of self-belief. Make sure to observe your candidates’ body language and demeanor, throughout the interview – to pick up on their confidence levels but remember they will be naturally a little nervous due to the pressure situation!
2. They are diligent and trustworthy
This means that they have a good work ethic and are not afraid to get their hands dirty. They should be self-starters i.e. able to work unsupervised and be open to taking on new thinking and new working practices. Honesty plays a big part herein that a manager can trust this type of salesperson to do what they say they are going to do and carry out what is expected of them – without being supervised. Ask your candidate to give several examples of when they had to go above and beyond e.g. to meet an urgent deadline, keep a customer happy or get a deal over the line? This will give you an indicator as to their commitment levels
3. They are good communicators
Sales involves interacting with different people in different scenarios – so a good salesperson will be a good communicator. This means that they can deal with different personality types i.e. they are ‘people’s people’. They naturally build rapport, which then builds trust with their customers. Empathy and active listening skills will be strong with this type of salesperson and whilst many extrovert salespeople fit this profile – introvert sellers can also be effective communicators. Observe how your candidate converses, answers questions and pose questions themselves throughout the interview process – as this will give you a good idea of how effective a communicator they are!
4. They are creative problem solvers
Sales often means thinking on your feet. The most effective salespeople can adapt to different situations at a flick of a switch. Modern customers expect salespeople to provide real insight as well as information about their offering – and creative salespeople find ways to use this insight to further the sale. Outward looking salespeople who encounter problems, look at this as a challenge and an opportunity to learn something new. Their ‘can-do’ attitude sets them apart from the journeyman salesperson who normally fail to last the distance. Ask your candidate to give several examples of when they previously overcame a challenge – as this will help uncover this particular trait.
5. They are naturally competitive
Naturally competitive people will strive to better themselves – as well as get the better of their fellow peers. Even if a salesperson would be working on their own (rather than in a team) they will still be competing with rival companies – in what is now a very competitive market i.e. with continuing business uncertainty, the latest downgraded growth figures and customers keeping their hands in their pockets. Look for signs of competitiveness in the candidates’ CV, such as a top performer award or a personal achievement outside of work e.g. a sporting accomplishment – as this is a good indicator here.
Often, what separates a journeyman salesperson from a high flyer is not how educated or experienced they are but whether they have a true belief in their own ability. They will adhere to the principles of self-discipline, ethical behaviour, perseverance and wanting to better themselves. A rigorous interview process that involves questions around these highlighted attributes – will help you unearth a potential superstar salesperson.
Lastly, do a values exercise as part of your interview process – to make sure that the candidates’ personal values align with your company values. This will mean that you are more likely to get a good match, the first time of asking – and not have to jump on the sales recruitment merry-go-round for a good while!