4 tips for successful entrepreneurs looking for great salespeople

1. Steal good ones

Word of mouth is a good method, but better still is by tweaking a lead salesperson out of a competitor. It’s the best win, you win with a proven person, the competitor loses and you get up-to-date competitive info on installs, current bids, product info and issues.

2. Target-getters

So what should you be looking for in a salesperson Paul Stanley, CEO of ReD, says to look for experience and for evidence of tenacity and resilience. Have they consistently met targets in their professional and personal lives Also look for proven hard workers. The best way to double your sales volume is to spend twice as much time with customers. Can they empathise with the customer Do they listen more than they talk At the end of the day, he adds, people buy from people, so ask yourself, if I were a customer, would I want to spend my time with this person “

3. Salesmen sensitive

Steve Huxman, who owns HUX Executive Recruitment, has a different outlook. Salespeople need to be sensitive. You want them to treat your customers as individuals. A personal touch is important. Although salespeople tend to change jobs more than most, Huxman says it’s not a bad thing in itself. Former Cognisco sales director Nicola Leach says to be aware of the sales team’s dynamic. The sooner the existing team are aware of the pending staff change and have an opportunity, where possible, to meet and have an influence on the recruitment, the better the integration.

4. Play mind games

When it comes to interviewing techniques, one sales veteran who’s hired more than 100 staff in his time, advises mind games. Simply asking them the qualities they need to be salespeople is not good enough. You want to know if they can handle pressure Well, put them under some in the interview. Make them feel ill at ease. See how they cope. Ask them mid way through the interview how they think it’s going. If they say ‘alright’, disagree. Tell them you think it’s going badly and see how they react. They have to be able to recover from negative feedback.

Still harbouring doubts Try this. One recruitment consultant, who wishes to remain nameless, surreptitiously follows interviewees to the London underground station after each interview. They sit there and tell me they are confident, but are they really Seeing them negotiate the traffic and pedestrians allows me to see how confident they really are.

Written for the June 2003 published edition of Real Business.

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