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What to look for when recruiting sales people


Selling is increasingly complex, which means sales recruitment is critical.

Many managers prioritise sales experience in the recruitment process, but this can prove a big mistake. By focusing on industry know-how, you could be seeing the same old people with the same tired ideas.

What you really need is fresh thinking, open minds and new ideas.

When I worked in recruitment many of my best sales placements were people not from the industries I was recruiting for. They weren’t tainted by current thinking; they brought new qualities and capabilities that opened up new market opportunities.

What I looked for in these people was curiosity, self discipline, focus and goal orientation, personal responsibility and accountability, interest, open mindedness, drive and determination, courage, creativity, innovation and an overall sense of wellbeing. I found candidates with these qualities were adaptable and prepared to give new ideas or opportunities a go.

Of course, sometimes there were limitations with respect to certain knowledge requirements. However, if these people had a proven history of learning required knowledge relatively quickly, I was confident they would transition well into the new industry.

I recall one candidate who had a chemical engineering degree and some industrial sales experience. He transitioned into a very specific medical keyhole surgery sales role and was dux of his class, going on to become the medical devices company’s most successful sales person for over eight years.

Creating a sales force blueprint

Do you need to bring fresh talent into your sales team? If so the first step must be to create your ideal sales force blueprint.

To design your sales force envisage where you’d like to be in the next three to five years. What will your customers look like? What will they want from your business? How will you need to sell to ensure the viability of your business? Will you need a telephone sales team, a complex B2B field sales force, or a combination lead sales team approach?

Your sales force needs to be able to give your clients what they really want. Today, many clients expect:

  • To deal with a real professional
  • To be ‘helped’ and kept informed
  • A reasonable level of business acumen and commercial awareness
  • A definition of what ‘success’ will look like
  • A planned approach for change
  • Conceptual thinking and creative problem solving
  • Results
  • Consistency

Research shows that there are many types of effective sales people for different clients, products and markets. Just because a salesperson is excellent in one market doesn’t mean those skills are automatically transferable to another field. Hence the need to define your sales force blueprint first.

Once you’ve defined your ideal sales people you can use structured sales recruitment processes to help answer the following questions about your sales candidate:

  • Why will this person sell? (Motives, Ambition, Goals)
  • Will this person sell? (Attitudes, Mindset, Not Hesitant, Accountable, Energy, Drive)
  • How does this person sell? (Style, Ethics, Behaviours)
  • Can this person sell? (Skill, Knowledge, Mindset)
  • How well can this person sell? (Job match, Values, Perceptive Reasoning, Self Belief, Mastery Mindset)

Remember everybody lives by selling something

Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations. Visit www.barrett.com.au