wardell books

Building Your Sales Force

Building Your Sales Force

Your salespeople are your front-line staff. To many of your customers they don’t just represent your business; they are your business. If your salespeople do a good job, your customers will return. But if they do a poor job, your customers may leave for good. Such a powerful and important position with your company must be taken seriously. Not just anyone will do, but what exactly makes for a good salesperson?

Following is a list of attributes to help you answer this question. Not everything on it will apply directly to your business, but it should point you in the right direction. Make your notes in the space below.

Personal qualities — This should be number one on your list. This person will represent your company to the world, so who are they? Your salespeople will make or break your company, so choose them carefully. You cannot afford to have someone out there misrepresenting everything you have worked so hard to build.

What qualities make for a good salesperson in your business? One way to determine this is to identify the qualities of your best salespeople. If you are your best salesperson, try to identify the qualities that make you so effective. In general, however, some important qualities to look for in a salesperson are…

  • Self-driven — it is one of the most independent jobs in your business.
  • Organized — constant customer interaction requires good time management skills.
  • Confident — a salesperson must become your customer’s trusted advisor.
  • Positive — a negative attitude in sales will go nowhere.
  • Honest — remember, you are nurturing customer relationships, not just making sales.

Selling skills — If an applicant is skillful at selling, you will likely know by the end of your first interview. After all, they spent the interview selling themselves to you. As you know, however, there is more than one way to sell something. Your company is looking to build customer relationships, not make quick sales, so make sure they have the right kind of selling skills for your needs.

Some important selling skills to look for in a salesperson are…

  • Communication skills — Depending on your needs, this may involve face-to-face communication, telephone communication or written communication.
  • The ability to motivate others to take action.
  • The ability to think on your feet.
  • Computer skills — These may vary from business to business.
  • The ability to put yourself in another’s place — This is important when identifying a client’s needs.
  • Decision making skills — Sales is an entrepreneurial occupation. If people can’t make on-the-spot decisions they will have trouble closing sales.
  • Time Management skills — Time is a salesperson’s most valuable commodity. Every wasted hour represents lost revenues.

Product knowledge — This is one of the easiest things to teach, but a sales candidate who already understands your products or services may be worth a second look. Someone who takes the time to learn something about your company before you meet them is at the very least eager to work for you.

Technical knowledge — Your salespeople may need to know more than just what you sell, and depending on our industry, this may involve a certain amount of technical know-how and skill. If you sell audio-visual equipment, for example, your salespeople may need to understand how to design a sound system that will maximize the acoustic qualities of a room, even if it's not their job.

Once again, however, the right person will usually be able to learn what she needs to learn, so as valuable as it is, never place technical knowledge ahead of personal qualities or sales skills when hiring a salesperson.

Industry knowledge — In many cases, industry knowledge can be an asset as well. At the very least, your salespeople should understand your place in the market, but if your prospects are other businesses, it might be helpful if they understand your prospects’ market positions as well. The more they understand your industry, the better they will be able to advise your prospects and satisfy their needs.

Sales experience — Be cautious with this one. Experience can be highly deceiving. In some cases, direct experience will be desirable, especially when there is technical knowledge involved, but many people become set in their ways. Watch out for those who think they know it all.

This is not to say that experience is a bad thing. It is simply not the most important thing. Look for qualities, skills and knowledge first. Experience should come second. It may be an important second, but it is still second.

Contacts — Occasionally a sales applicant may show up with an impressive set of industry contacts. It may be tempting to hire this person based on those contacts, especially if they hold the promise of new business, but no matter how tempting the offer, hold firm to your priorities. If this is the right person for the job then their contacts will be a welcome bonus. But if this is the wrong person for the job then their contacts will only end up as a liability, promoting the wrong image of your company to a new set of prospects.

Even if this is the right person for the job, there is no guarantee that his contacts will significantly benefit your company. They may not be in your target market, or his contacts may only be superficial. The moral is, find the right person for the job and if they come with some beneficial contacts, then great.

What are the most important attributes of a salesperson for your business?