Most business owners that I work with tell me that good salespeople are hard to find. The Manpower May 2012 Global Skills Shortage survey showed that sales representatives are the third most difficult position to fill in the world.
This makes it more crucial than ever that employers are able to effectively identify top sales talent in an interview. I have had some experience hiring and working with effective sales staff and I thought it would be useful to set out five clear signs that I use to establish if I am speaking to a sales superstar.
1. They will be focused on the details of the sales commission scheme and potential earnings
Salespeople who are used to earning big commissions (that is, good salespeople) will naturally want a competitive base salary, but they should be equally, and ideally more, interested in their on-target earnings figure (OTE). They’ll be trying to understand the mechanisms of the scheme and will want to see success scenarios with earnings illustrations as they will want to be confident that they will receive adequate return on their performance.
Less able salespeople who lack confidence in their ability to sell will be more focused on base salary. The kind of questions that a potential sales star will be asking are:
- How much commission did your top sales executive earn last year and what work did they need to put in to achieve this, e.g. number of cold calls, meetings and pitches?
- Are there accelerators so I am rewarded if I exceed targets?
- May I lower my base salary in exchange for a more lucrative commission scheme?
2. They will be curious about the quality and competitiveness of your products and services.
Top salespeople realise that it will be easier to sell quality products and services that have great after-sales service, particularly if they want to win repeat business. This is why they will be posing questions such as:
- How regularly do you perform customer satisfaction surveys?
- Can you tell me the results of your most recent customer satisfaction surveys?
- How do you compare to your competitors in terms of customer satisfaction?
- What does your firm do to maintain or improve customer satisfaction scores?
3. They will want to know whether your products and services are customer-centred
Today’s consumer expects high levels of customisation and sophistication in their products and services. Customer-centric offerings which address the consumer’s wishes for more sophistication will generally be easier to sell. Top salespeople will be aware that they can earn much more commission if the products/services they are selling are truly customer-centric. So, you can expect top salespeople to be asking questions such as:
- Can you describe your product development process?
- How do you tune your products to suit the tastes/needs of the customer?
- How do you listen to customers?
- How often do you update and improve products and what is your update/release schedule for the coming year?
4. They can show you a transparent history of high performance
I realise that this may seem like a more obvious point, but it should not to be taken for granted.
Proven salespeople will be forthcoming and will be able to present concrete evidence to back up their stated sales performance, and this should be specific and include dates, targets, performance and types of product.
5. They will want to know how you approach sales in your business
Top salespeople will want to know all about the most effective sales approaches deployed by your business as they will want to be able to quickly adapt so they can hit the ground running. They will ask questions like:
- What is your most effective route to sale, e.g. cold call, email, social network etc.?
- How many cold calls do your top sales people make in a week?
- What do you consider to be the most effective lead generation techniques for your business?