The Most Unlikely Salespeople
It’s often been said that sales are the lifeblood of a business.
While there are certainly plenty of other key factors that make a business successful, you can’t ignore the importance of bringing raw revenue into a company. And that process starts both with new sales, as well as long term continued relations with customers.
With that kind of importance on sales, you’d probably want to make sure you have the world’s most seasoned, well-decorated salesperson on your team. Right?
Well, perhaps not.
Becoming Set in your Ways as a Sales Rep
Hiring an experienced sales rep who has worked in multiple different industries may not be to your advantage.
Unfortunately, there are bad habits “experienced” sales reps can bring to any company. Follow through, excellent planning, sincerity and empathy are far greater assets than experience. While a good number of the fundamentals of sales are consistent across multiple industries and channels, the most important things that customers need from their sales rep are empathy and sincerity.
For example, there are people who like to be sold to over the phone, and those who like to be sold to in-person. There are also many differences in B2B sales versus B2C sales, or sales in technology versus industrial equipment.
The ability of a salesperson to speak many dialects is important, but you may find that although an experienced salesperson is well-established in one discipline, they have a hard time shifting away from that to better fit into your organization’s needs.
Salespeople can often develop a firm sense of “I know this has worked for me in the past, so this is what I’m going to do.” Depending on the individual, this can leave them closed off to developing new techniques in your organization.
Hiring a Salesperson with No Previous Experience
Sometimes, hiring a salesperson with no experience can actually be the greatest move for your company.
Through the many years—and hundreds of salespeople that worked for our company—we most often found greater success in training salespeople with little knowledge of our industry.
In addition, we found great success moving people internally who had no sales experience, but knew the company and products.
When you bring in a sales rep who is entirely new to the art, you can focus on hiring for skill and character rather than experience.
Ultimately, sales is an ability that can be learned. A mentor of mine used to say that “everyone is in sales, whether they know it or not.” More and more, I have found this to be true.
If you start interviewing potential salespeople who don’t have experience, these are a few key things that I recommend you look for.
Character Traits for Sales
This is a quality that is imperative in just about every employee, but none more so than sales. A sales rep’s ability to receive direction, training, and be coached will be the difference between success or failure.
2. Communication and Storytelling
We all hear plenty about storytelling in business, especially as it relates to sales. Even though it has been beaten to cliché, great storytellers do indeed make great salespeople, as long as they are sincere and honest.
Customers make decisions with their limbic brain first and rationalize it second. The limbic brain loves hearing a good story that makes it feel something and connect to the speaker.
If you’re bringing in a sales rep with no sales experience, focus on candidates who can tell you a story that makes you feel something when you talk to them.
3. Listening Skills
Pay close attention to how your prospective sales rep interacts with you. Do they recall details from what you said minutes or hours ago? Maybe even in a previous conversation?
Active listening does not involve nodding one’s head going “Uh-huh, uh-huh, yeah, yeah” as so many do. This gives the customer the sense that you’re simply waiting for them to finish in order to get your next remark in.
Ideal salespeople have a calm presence while they listen to what you have to say and are able to play it back to you in a way that demonstrates a clear understanding of what you’ve expressed. You can see it in the way they sit in a chair or stand if they are truly listening and genuinely interested.
Even sales reps who have long careers may have never developed this key attribute.
Being competitive tends to be a key differentiator between sales reps that do well and sales reps that do amazing.
If you have a sales rep that strives to compete against themselves and those around them (without any needless arrogance), they’ll likely have a powerful internal source of motivation.
5. Appetite for Learning
Since your sales rep will need to learn everything about your product, service, persona, niche, and company, you’ll do well by hiring those who are naturally intellectually curious.
Seek candidates who express a genuine interest in what you do at your company, as that aptitude will extend over to their conversations with your prospective customers.
Hiring for Character Traits
Sales is such a vital role for a company that it makes sense to chiefly focus on hiring for character traits. Always evaluate the person’s level of sincerity as well as empathy. You can easily pick these traits up in any conversation.
Much of the knowledge and coaching can help you develop your new hire along the way. And, as a bonus, they’ll likely have gratitude for the opportunity that makes them loyal to the organization.
It doesn’t have to stop just at sales! Consider the most valuable character requirements for your company in any future hires.