With all of these things in mind, it's now time to get a big cup of coffee and begin wading through your stack of resumes. Set aside the "maybes" and the "definites" into two piles. Schedule your first interviews with the "definites," and hold the "maybes" for round two if you need them. Keep in mind that you will probably have at least one or two more interviews with several of the prime candidates, one of which could be a mock sales call where the candidate comes in and sells you your product. This can be an important evaluation tool, and can also help weed out candidates who aren't actually comfortable with sales even though they think they are!
Now that you've narrowed your choices down to your initial candidates, it's time for the warm and fuzzy side of things. Do they have the personality traits that will enable them to sell for and represent your company in the best way possible?
Personality Traits to Look For
When interviewing candidates, look for those who:
- ...are adaptable. Your ideal sales candidate should be able to deal with any type of personality, from the stern to the jovial. Put your candidates to the test by bringing in different personality types from within your company during the interview, and observe how they handle the changes in demeanor. They should be able to adjust their own mannerisms to meet the mood and tone of the person to whom they are speaking.
- ...are articulate. A well-spoken sales representative can sometimes make or break a deal. Proper grammar, vocabulary, and usage are important in any position that acts as representative for a company. Make sure you pay attention to this aspect of your candidates.
- ...are energetic. The energy level and alertness of your sales representatives is directly related to their success as sales reps. They must possess both an energy level that will keep them on the trail of leads, and a level of keen alertness that will enable them to notice details that may lead to future business.
- ...are confident. Giving the impression of knowing what you're talking about can go a long way. Your sales reps should possess this quality if nothing else! Confidence when selling your products or services can be built by training and practice, so during the interview process you should look for self-confidence as an indicator of how well they will perform.
- ...are enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious. It is also a very necessary attribute for a successful sales representative. A sales rep who is enthusiastic about your products can also get their prospects enthusiastic about your products. Candidates who can show enthusiasm for your company at an interview will probably also show enthusiasm with your clients. Look for it and test it out. Ask them about things that get them excited, even if it's a hobby or other non-sales-related activity.
- ...are self-reliant. One of the more independent positions within any company is that of the sales representative. Many times, sales reps work alone, work out of a home office, and only sporadically come into contact with the rest of the company. For this reason, you need to make sure the people you hire as sales reps are independent and self-reliant. Are they self-motivated and able to make decisions on their own? Do they show confidence in their judgement so that you feel comfortable with them making decisions on their own? Will they keep their schedules full? These are all questions to ponder when you're interviewing your candidates, and aren't often easy to determine in a single face-to-face meeting.
- ...show integrity. Look for signs of integrity during interviews. How does the candidate speak of his former (or current) employer? Granted, there can be instances where they are leaving a bad situation, but watch carefully how they describe the situation. Do they seem loyal to their customers? Do they appear to be trustworthy? Is their work ethic strong?
- ...show patience and perseverance. These are two very important traits for sales positions. With sales cycles for some products or services taking months or even years, you have to have patience and drive to keep on working the deal. Patience and perseverance also come into play when dealing with various customer personality types. In addition, listening patiently as clients talk and being able to teach them about your product are valuable qualities.
- ...are good listeners. Listening is perhaps the most important quality of all. A good sales representative must be able to listen to the customer's needs, complaints, interests, and anything else they want to talk about. With today's emphasis on "relationship selling," if your sales reps don't listen very closely to their clients' needs, and then take that information and turn it into an offering, they won't be able to establish the relationship that is necessary in selling so many types of products and services.
- ...are sincere. Without the sincere desire to help customers, many sales representatives will fail. It is all too often very obvious that a sales person simply wants to sell the client what they have rather than what the client needs or wants. Watch for signs of sincerity during the interview process.
- ...are pleasant. A warm smile and handshake can go a long way at a sales call. The initial impression the sales rep makes is as important as you've always been told that it is. Simply smiling and having a cheerful demeanor can make inroads into many clients' doorways.