Building a high performing sales team is one of the most important responsibilities of every sales leader. When your team is filled with great salespeople, they’re usually committed for the long run. And that translates into reduced turnover and inconsistencies with your customers and prospects and increased sales.
You understand the thrill you get when you make a sale. Now you need to find more of the people like that – your right people. Ones that fit your culture, and that are committed to working hard to be successful.
What makes a successful sales team?
Start by thinking about the attributes you look for when you hire. Spend some time listing them, then highlighting the most important ones. Then when you get a virtual pile of resumes, see if their experience, education, extra activities within the community and some key words about the candidate’s strength are a good match for the attributes you highlighted. This information can help cull the field. But the real possibilities open in the interview, where you can learn everything else that they couldn’t put on paper. Asking the right questions is critical to see if the candidate has what it takes to be successful.
In addition to whatever attributes you listed above, I believe there are four other strengths a sales rep must have to be a contributor to a successful sales team. To discover if the candidate has them, requires asking the right questions in the interview process.
Here’s a shortcut.
Good salespeople will have what I call “SALES”, an acronym for the characteristics that you won’t find on their resume. Here is the breakdown: Sense – Ambition – Learner – Empathy – Sure
Let’s take a look at each of these qualities of good salespeople and consider how they fit into your recruiting efforts.
Sense – Having sense in sales is being able to make the right judgment. It’s being realistic when you are prospecting and realizing that not every company is a good fit for your products and services. It’s also having discernment on what is best for your company’s business. But having sense in sales also requires intuition and that you listen to your gut, being adaptable and flexible with customers. It’s what some would call street smart, which is the ability to read into others and being able to decide if they’re telling us the truth or just what we want to hear. Without sense, your sales leader might be reporting an unrealistic pipeline because the rep was too optimistic in his projections. Don’t kill the value of your sales reports by entering every prospect. Good sense and being grounded in reality will prevent that from happening.
Ambition – This is probably the number one trait you’ll never find on a resume. Even if the sales rep shows overachievement on their numbers year after year, it doesn’t mean they have ambition. It could be the accounts they had, or the way success was measured at a company. Ambition is drive and hustle. It’s never letting up on the gas pedal. It’s having the persistence to call a prospect more than a dozen times to get that first meeting.
To be good, salespeople must proactive and prospect every day to build their pipeline. It’s having confidence and believing in themselves and moving on to the next opportunity when a prospect says no. Ambition is the desire to overachieve at any cost. It’s imperative that as the sales manager, you ask to determine their level of ambition. You could ask them to tell you a real-life story about the longest it took them to close a particular prospect. Ask them about what they did to stay motivated to keep calling. What they did to build a relationship in spite of no meeting? Ambitious sellers will help to offset a downturn or crisis.
Learner – Good salespeople love to learn and are open to new sales techniques and skills. I’ve met many salespeople that say, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve seen it all, and I don’t need any more sales training.” That salesperson is not open, they’re complacent with doing things the way they’ve always done it. Good salespeople are also readers. They say that readers are leaders and I believe that to be true. Reading best-seller business and sales books will open their perspective to new ideas and ways of doing business. Just as every great golfer has a swing coach, you are their sales coach, working to help them improve on some aspect of their ‘game’.
Empathy – Sales reps with empathy better relate to the customer. It’s the ability to see the customer’s point of view and walk in their shoes. The goal of these reps is to build long-term relationships rather than putting their products & services first. Once you have demonstrated this, it’s easier to discuss your offering because they’ve begun to trust you. But, never stop building trust, no matter how many times you’ve met or closed deals.
Sure – Good salespeople are sure of themselves. They have confidence in who they are and how they can help their customers. They’re not afraid to hold their ground and can push back if necessary. Reps who are sure of themselves are not afraid to ask the tough questions and they’re not afraid to answer the objections the prospect may have. These people are not afraid to walk away from an opportunity if they think it’s not a win-win for both the customer and company. It’s having the ability to bounce back from rejection and work through tough times just like they do during the good times. Being sure is believing in who you are and being successful.
These are SALES characteristics that you want to look and ask for in your interviews: Sense – Ambition – Learner – Empathy – Sure.
You know that hiring the right people is critical to your success. How do you build a winning sales team?
Look for the “SALES” characteristics and as you assess each person, also ask will they work well with the other? Are they a team player that will jump in and help others, or do they like to work solo? A good sales rep is the quarterback for every sales opportunity. They are the main face to the customer, and they orchestrate the entire team from your company to succeed. They know when to bring in professional services or a technology expert. They respect everyone’s time and plan accordingly to make sure they’re not overstepping their boundaries. They know the best way to advance the sale to the next step.
A successful sales department requires the right team. As its leader, pick people who will deliver more than their fair share to help build it. Use SALES to help pick well.
Good luck with your relationship selling!
©2021 Stu Schlackman