Benchmark Business Group

Hiring for Sales

July 11, 2017

For any business that wants to grow, there comes a time when your sales team will need to grow by adding sales associates. When your business makes the decision to grow its sales team, it needs a plan. A plan that starts with:
  • Who would make a great sales associate and where to find them
  • How to determine which applicants you should interview
  • How to conduct an interview for the sales associate position
This month we will focus on creating certain parts of your hiring plan for sales associates. With a first look this week on who would make a great sales associate and where you can find possible candidates to build your pipeline.
Who Would Make a Great Sales Associate
Each position in a business requires different characteristics and traits. Some positions require people who are detail oriented; other positions are filled with people with creative writing skills. Hiring a sales associate to join your team is different than hiring other team members due to the very essence and behavioral style of sales associates. They tend to be (but not exclusively) relationship driven, enthusiastic, outgoing, and optimistic.
To identify the type of sales associate that would be successful in your business, we suggest listing 5-10 characteristics or traits a great sales associate would have. From our experience in helping other business owners, here are some characteristics and traits identified for a sales associate:
  • Empathy - the ability to identify with others
  • Challenge others - able to make bold statements to customers and senior management
  • Driven  - either by goals, or social recognition, they are determined to get what they want
  • Enthusiastic  - are passionate about their service or product and eager to work hard
  • Persistent  - doesn't take "no" easily and will make sure to keep following-up
  • Resilient  - rejection is easily brushed off and they get back up easily
  • Great listener  - They listen more than they talk to know the customer's needs and wants
  • Responsible - holds themselves accountable and doesn't place blame on others
  • Rapport  - they gain trust easily and others like to be around them
  • Cares  - only sells the appropriate products and services to a customer and does it with integrity
This list is a cultivation of what several business owners have used for their business, but it's not the only option. We encourage you to make it your own. If you don't already have your own list, this can be a starting list for your business. You should capture the key characteristics and traits above that you want to have on your sales team and then add others you feel are important to the results of your business. Whatever characteristics and traits you choose, keep it to 10 or less. Any more than that can make it too cumbersome to select the right person during the interviewing phase.
Where to find them
Now that you know who you are looking for, you can start to identify where to find the best candidates. Below are some ways to do just that - being more proactive in finding sales associate candidates. 
  • Every day interactions - You already are exposed to great sales associate candidates on a regular basis in your everyday interactions. You probably encounter more people who would be great at sales than you realize. They are at the grocery store, community fund raisers, restaurants, vendors coming into your business, at your kids' baseball games, or even prospect and clients. The challenge is to be aware of and intentionally look for the qualities and attributes you want in a sales associate. This isn't always about identifying someone in a sales role right now, but being focused on who might excel in a sales role based on their traits and attributes.
    Tip: When you do encounter someone who demonstrates the qualities you are looking for and you want to talk with them further about joining your sales team, give them your business card and let them know you want to talk further. Be sure to make it brief and respect their time because they may be working or involved in something else. 
  • Word of mouth - Sometimes, someone you know (friend, vendor, associate, client, etc.) will come to you with a name of someone they know. They might advise you that you'll really like this candidate and believe the candidate would be perfect in sales. Of course, explore further any candidate name given. However, you should also be cautious because the referrer may not have the same standards or expectations of sales people as you do. To be more proactive with others who refer candidates, be prepared to have a conversation regarding who you are looking for and the characteristics/traits and standards you expect.

    alk with people who are well connected in the community and likely knows individuals that might be a good fit for the sales position. Make sure you are proactive in reaching out to these individuals and seeing if they are willing to send potential candidates your way. Let them know who you are looking for and the qualities and attributes you expect.
    Tip: With either scenario, get permission to follow up during the conversation. After the conversation, send a brief email thanking them for their time and attach a document that is similar to a job ad, explaining the opportunity. This refreshes their memory, but also gives them something tangible to pass on to the candidate while allowing you to position the opportunity.
  • Wanted ads and other sources -  Wanted ads have changed over the years. Many newspapers no longer contain a classified section for job searching, having moved to online ads. There are numerous websites and applications to post ads and for search candidates that fit your criteria. Leveraging your local resources such as recruiting or temporary employment agencies, or your state work force development office, can be productive, and help you establish ongoing resources for talent. The local library may have employment seminars or hiring boards. Colleges and universities often have job boards for both students and alumni. Associations that you might belong to may have job postings, social media, or even newsletters that allow for job ads. Some entrepreneurs use LinkedIn or even Facebook Ads to advertise positions. Keep your mind open for these and other opportunities in your community.
    Tip: Be willing to search for niche job sites that help a certain demographic find a career. There are often sites that will help hire veterans, people with disabilities, people with certain licenses or in certain industries. Take a few minutes to search for what is available that you might not even know about today.
When looking for the next great sales associate, keep your eyes and ears open at all times. Our challenge to you this week is as you engage in your everyday interactions, be on the lookout for great talent, then take the initiative to start a conversation to learn more about them, and what they do. Find out if they are looking beyond their current employment and discover if they might be your next great sales associate. Even if you are not currently hiring, getting someone's name and number to keep in touch is one way to have a pool of impressive candidates available when your business needs them.

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