Building the Right Sales Team: The Basics

I keep this monstrous file of idea notes for writing articles and blogs. I see articles that touch me; research that intrigues me and even quotes or jokes pinned to someone’s wall. I found some time recently to dig through the files. You see, my muse had temporarily disappeared. I need to submit an article and I had no idea what I was going to write about. And, then to my rescue came Harvey Mackay. I have been reading Mr. Mackay’s books and articles for years. I had saved one of these articles where he told a story. The story was about a small business owner who was really struggling to generate sales. “She decided to hire a sales consultant to give her some help and an outside viewpoint. After she had gone over her plans and problems, the business owner took the consultant to a map on the wall where she had stuck brightly colored pins where she had a salesperson. “Now,” she asked, “for a starter, what is the first thing we should do?” “Well,” replied the consultant, “the first thing is to take those pins out of the map and stick them in the salespeople.”

Sometimes that is exactly what is needed, however, building a great sales team requires some vision and planning. I’ve hired hundreds of sales people and through the ancient, tried and true, scientific method of trial and error, I’ve come up with five foundational elements that I always look for in a great sales team member. If I’m hiring, these are the basic criteria I use before going additional steps forward.

  1. Pride and Confidence. These are elements that you can see in a person before they ever open their mouth. You can see it and sense it when they walk into a room. Do they dress appropriately? Are they proud of their accomplishments, so far, and are they confident that they can be a sales leader?
  2. Active Listener. Listening is an art and is quickly becoming the lost art of business. Everyone wants to tell. Most listen only to find an opening so they can the tell. Find someone who will ask questions and actively listen for understanding, and they move to the top of my list.
  3. Work Ethic. It doesn’t take too many questions to find out if they have a work ethic or not. I would rather hire someone that would work their tail off to achieve their goals than I would someone who felt the least bit empowered. A powerful question here is, “Have you ever sold on straight commission?” Even if the job isn’t a straight commission gig, the men and women who have done it and survived are always solid players.
  4. A Learner. No matter if the applicant is fresh out of school or a grizzled veteran, I only look for people who are avid and constant learners, no matter their age, background or experience. A great question here is, “What was the last business book you read or listened to?”
  5. Naturally Likeable. Whether we admit it or not, some people are naturally and immediately likeable. And likeability is a key factor in selling anything from an idea to a product or service. Train yourself to do a scan and ask yourself, at first impression, do I get a good vibe from this person or do I feel something else.

You can’t always get it right when hiring a sales person. Sometimes a mistake can cost you big when you add up time, energy and value of training, frustrated staff and sometimes lost business. It’s time you improve your odds when hiring new sales leaders. There are certainly other factors, but when I follow this checklist as my initial test, I seldom make a mistake in hiring.

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