Characteristics of the “A” Player Sales Professional

by | Jul 1, 2010 | Relationship Selling

We’ve all heard the term “A” player when it comes to putting your All Star team together. The question I’d like to pose is this, is it possible to hire a sales professional who is good at every aspect of the sales process or environment? If you say that the answer is yes, find me twenty by tomorrow! Sales turnover of the last decade has been on the rise. Is it because the talent isn’t there or because companies have a wrong or broken sales process? Or maybe they hired the wrong sales talent for their sales model? I believe the answer is yes and yes.

If you take a look at the differentiating factor when it comes to winning new business, you will find that people always trumps process. Customers buy from sales professionals that take the time to build a long term relationship. I define that as a relationship that is based on solving their issues and delivering value. All customers know the difference between being sold to and having someone truly understand their issues and how they can best be solved.

When you are looking to recruit “A” players to your sales team, what are you looking for? Is it experience in your specific field; is it a great database of contacts, someone with a great track record and references? More specifically, what talents are needed to be successful in your sales environment? You know there are many responsibilities in a sales position. You will typically expect the sales person to do all of them including: prospecting (networking, cold calling, developing sales campaigns), presentations, proposals, qualifying the prospect, knowing the competition, overseeing the response to a request for proposal, handling objections, gathering the right resources, closing, account management and post sales support. Whew! While the sales person is the primary interface with the customer and acts as the team quarterback, many times they are treated as the water boy! Is it really possible to be good at all of these? No, yet all sales managers expect it.

Another question that needs to be addressed is what are the characteristics of your sales environment? Is it long sales cycle or short; are there multiple decisions makers or just one or two? Does the sales person need to be better at asking questions or presenting? You probably know the answers to these questions, but are you hiring the right talent for your environment?

Knowing the sales skills needed is a critical start, but as stated earlier, people trumps process which means we need to assess three key characteristics that “A” players bring to your sales team.

– First and foremost is relationship development. Customers buy from people they are comfortable with. So when you are interviewing a sales candidate put yourself in the shoes of a customer and ask yourself how attentive the person is to what you are trying to accomplish. Are they affable and would you take the time to develop a relationship with them. Do they appear to be trustworthy and sincere when addressing your goals and needs – that’s what every decision maker will be evaluating. Bottom line: are they focused on you?

– Second are they flexible? Are they open to new ideas and are they creative? Do they go with the flow of the conversation and balance asking questions with presenting their views? Are they displaying confidence when they bring up possible solutions to your goals and needs? How do they handle objections? Are they defensive or do they welcome customer concerns to better understand what’s really going on in their mind?

– Third point is, would you take their advice? Many sales professionals make recommendations but not all customers take them. Why? Because they haven’t proven their credibility. This can occur if there is pressure from the sales person to move the sales cycle along not understanding that it’s not their cycle but the buyer’s cycle that matters. We take advice from those we trust. Trust comes down to character and competence. We usually have no problem taking advice from someone we know is trustworthy and knows their business.

Think about this, if a sales person gave you three options to choose from and they asked you which one you thought was best, I would say your fired! You should be telling me which is best for me since you’re the expert!
If you want to build an all star team, hire “A” team players. Understanding what your sales process and environment needs, and then finding the right match will get you over the goal line much more often.
Good selling!