Hiring the right sales people is all about understanding what selling is really about. There is no doubt that it helps to hire somebody who knows about your industry, but no amount of industry knowledge is going overcome inadequate selling skills or people skills.
Here are some of the reasons people hire the wrong people.
1. They believe a sales person must have industry knowledge
Think about your customer base? What are they buying? When people are buying your product or service, the chances are they have done their research and know what they are looking for. Insisting on detailing the ins-and-outs of how you are going to deliver it, connect it or the statistics on the speed of your technology, will dilute the opportunity you have to motivate your buyer to consider the value of your offering. People buy value and experiences. There is many a polite buyer who has sat through the sales presentations wondering, “When are they going to talk about me and what I need?”
Relationship and communication skills are at the heart of great selling. You may be missing out on good sales people by overlooking those who know how to sell, while selecting the CV with great industry knowledge and the weaker sales skills. Pick the sales performer and teach them about your products or industry. Selling is about people and the value they attribute to your offering. Hire a sales person who knows how to find value in what they sell, you will see their selling soar.
2. They believe high performers in a previous job will deliver immediate results
How many sales people have you seen crash and burn within six months of hiring them? They seemed to have all the right traits and selling skills, yet they don’t seem to be able to deliver on the job. What is very often missed is, even if a top sales person is hired into your sales team, they still need some coaching, guidance and education how you run your business and sell to your customers and how your solutions are purchased in your market. There are often high expectations set for new sales recruits in the first six months, which is often the relationship building phase.
Set realistic targets, even it’s it just over breakeven for the first six months. As long as they are actively building relationships, getting meetings and you see progress in their sales pipeline, you know they are on the right track. It is costly to hire somebody train them and then have to let them go. A few trial runs, where you go out with them to key customers will get them on track.
Everybody needs time to acclimatize. And when if it doesn’t work out, it is important to explore what both sides did or didn’t do to make it a success. It is too easy to blame the sales person, when the company could have done more to support them. An often over-looked problem is lack of a sales coaching and industry coaching. Make sure you do your part in supporting the sales person’s success.
3. They believe product experts make great sales people
Product experts are great to have out meeting customers, when you have to close the sale. The problem with product experts is they talk too much about the bells and whistles of the product. Meanwhile the buyer is wondering about the value he is getting from sitting through a product demo or a detailed work-flow plan.
If you do have product experts out selling, make sure they can answer the question without mentioning features and benefits of a product, “Why do people buy our product? What value does it bring them?” Deep down, people are not just buying the product, they are buying the intangible value they see that it will bring them. People do not buy the features of the flat-screen smart TV, they buy the experience they are going to have while watching it, as they visualise how it will look in their TV room and how it’s going to make them feel.
4. They believe great sales people make great sales managers
Transitioning from a sales role to sales management job requires training and conscious awareness of the difference between understanding selling and understanding people. Using the analogy of the star soccer player who retires from the game and moves into management, there are many stories of failed team managers who just didn’t have the core skills required to manage, motivate and inspire the football team. At the heart of sales management is an understanding of behaviour and how people are motivated or demotivated, coupled with the skills of communicating a vision, team building and coaching the team to excellence. When deciding who should manage a sales team, look closely at their people skills, communication skills and consider investing in some coaching or personal development training.
So what should you look for in hiring sales people?
If you are hiring sales people for your business, look for the strategic thinker with an ability navigate through the thinking of the buyers (mental skills), who can build great rapport and relationship (people skills), can get the balance between the big picture of business and the details of getting to the results in a consistent systematic way (project management skills).
During the interview, pay very close attention to their use of language and listening for their thinking style. A dazzling personality is a bonus, but personality does not maketh the salesperson. I am sure many sales managers who hired people they wished they hadn’t might agree with me. Great personality, but no substance, or all talk and no delivery. Let’s not be dazzled by personality, past results, industry knowledge alone. Start asking more questions when you hire sales people. Discover whether they have a flair for business and can demonstrate their business acumen. If they have that on top of the industry and product knowledge, you are on to a winner.