Finding and hiring just the right salesperson

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

A great salesperson will expand your business and help you thrive; a bad one will cost you both salary and lost opportunities. Dorane Wintermeyer, sales vice president at Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, urges companies “to wait for the right person.” When you are ready to expand your team, devote time and resources to the process. The long-term investment is worth it.

Great recruiting leads to great hires. Here are a few tips on how to find the best:

CREATE A CLEAR JOB DESCRIPTION. Decide what kind of salesperson you need and what they will do. Determine the skills the job requires and the personality or work style you need. Do you want an independent and aggressive rep to expand sales? Or do you need someone more collaborative to support existing clients?

WRITE A BROAD ADVERTISEMENT. Don’t limit your potential pool with a requirement for, “chemical sales experience.” Bill Raymond, of Sales & Marketing Leadership Group, a sales training and consulting company in Beaverton, suggests trying “industrial sales experience.” It is more important to find someone with an inherent ability to sell than someone with specific knowledge of your industry.

NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY ASSOCIATIONS. Let trade organizations relevant to your business know you are hiring. Beth Wickham, director of Bend’s Small Business Development Center, points out they may also provide you access to a bank of resumes and sample job descriptions.

RECRUIT 365 DAYS A YEAR. Even if you aren’t hiring today, pay attention to other companies selling to your clients. Find out who your clients like and who are the best salespeople in your industry and region.

FOCUS ON ATTITUDE AND BASIC STRENGTHS. Someone with the drive to succeed and a positive outlook will work to make the sale no matter what. It is much easier to teach skills than to instill desire and commitment.

CREATE A FORMAL HIRING PROCESS. Informal interviews easily lead to hit-or-miss hiring based more on liking a person than on their qualifications. Structured interviews also ensure more of your time is spent with qualified people.

PREPARE QUESTIONS AND LEAVE TIME FOR ANSWERS. Questions should get at a candidate’s competency, “When have you lost a sale and why?” as well as attitude, “How did you feel, and what did you do about it?”

GIVE ASSIGNMENTS. Ask applicants to research common objections to your products and how they will address those challenges. This will show their commitment and how well they understand your company and client needs. Answers will also give you insight to their work style and level of creativity.

CREATE REAL WORK SITUATIONS. Use role-playing to see how applicants make a pitch, handle a dissatisfied client or introduce themselves to potential clients. Pay close attention to body language as well as verbal answers.

Whether your company is large or small, the quality of the salesperson you hire will determine your company’s success. Don’t skimp on the upfront work.           

BROOKE MATSCHEK


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