How To Hire A Great Salesperson

credit to Adam Chandler (Open)

Hiring a good salesperson is both an art and a science. In the past, “relationships” were at the top of many hiring managers’ lists. But while relationships are important, especially given how fragmented the digital-media space has become, it’s definitely taken a back seat to other important qualifications. Here’s what I look for in a great salesperson:

Challengers. Harvard Business Review recently published an article that concluded that the sellers who have a deep understanding of their customers’ businesses and use that to take control of the sales conversation come out on top. These “challengers” are not afraid to share controversial views and are thoughtful about the broader business issues a particular client may be working through. It’s important to find people with the confidence to be a challenger.

FIO sellers. Skills such as adaptability, speed and FIO (figure it out) sellers often excel. Given how much innovation is happening today, those who thrive in an interruption-driven environment are typically the people I look for.

Creative thinkers. Another skill I see great value in is creativity. Sellers who have proven that they can break through the noise and target the right brands that fit their audience and create strategic partnerships are at the top of my list.

The closers. And yes, you have to make sure they can close big, too. The person must be adept in the ABC’s of closing, and that should go without saying.

The Lowdown on Hiring

Now that you know who to look for, how do you go about hiring these great salespeople?

First, your network is everything. In a world closely connected by social media, putting the word out has never been easier. Blind references are way more accessible now that the majority of companies and contacts are a keyboard stroke away.

When recruiting, I’ve found that putting all your eggs in one basket is detrimental. If you have a budget, use multiple recruiters combined with your own network. If you are a manager working at a high-growth company, the amount of time spent recruiting adds up—so the more people involved, the more volume you’ll see. Of course, it’s up to you to weed out the good from the not-so-good.

In addition, I’m a big fan of recruiting the passive versus active job seekers. While these hires are far more work, I’ve found the retention rate and results tend to be quite favorable.

And finally, as with any hire, the interview is paramount. An interview, after all, is just a back and forth sales pitch—the interviewer is selling the position and the interviewee is selling him or herself. And if a candidate can’t do a good job selling his or her ability, then that person probably won’t be very successful at selling anything else.


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