To Hire, or Not To Hire: Evaluating Sales Skills

salesThe key to a great organization is great people.

And identifying great people starts with the hiring process.  How well you evaluate a potential employee’s skills, cultural fit and overall personality will dramatically impact your team’s future performance.

To help you get it right, I’ve put together a three-part series on evaluating candidates.

First up: Sales Skills

In his book To Sell Is Human, Dan Pink posits that like it or not, all of us are in sales.  Or what he calls “non-sales selling“.  We might not all be selling a specific product, but we’re all trying to move others to do something.  Pink suggests that 40% of our time at work is spent persuading, influencing and convincing others.

Does it follow, then, that all job candidates should be evaluated on their sales skills, at least to some degree?  I think so.

I look for three things in an effective salesperson:  Resilience, Relationships and Relevance.  (Sorry, I can’t resist a good alliterative list.)

Resilience – Effective sales people respond positively to setbacks.  They accept rejections as a necessary part of the job. They are self-confident, tenacious and have an overall sense of optimism.

Relationships – Effective sales people are an ally for the customer.  They focus on long-term customer value and are able to work with all kinds of people.  They have the emotional intelligence to adapt to the needs of a particular situation or person.

Relevance – Effective sales people are able to identify key drivers of behavior.  They know how to ask the right questions and bring clarity to a situation.  They focus on the benefits of their product/idea/objective and easily convey them to their customer.

To evaluate these characteristics in the interview process, try these questions:

Describe a situation in which you weren’t successful.  How did you recover from this setback? Resilient candidates will focus on what they learned from failure and how they applied it to their future successes.

Describe a situation in which you built a positive relationship with someone very different from yourself?  This question is intentionally broad and open-ended.  It allows you to see how the candidate interprets and adapts to differences.

How would you sell me this pen?  This is a classic scenario in sales interviews.  For the non-sales candidate, this is a good way to see how well they think on their feet.  Did they start with questions?  Did they identify your needs?  Did they sell the benefits of the pen for your particular situation?

Other things to look for:

A good collaborator is an expert at asking questions.  During the interview, did the candidate ask follow up questions to topics you introduced?

And finally, remember the old ABC’s of sales?  Always Be Closing.  How did the candidate end the interview?  Did they express their enthusiasm for the position?  Did they identify where they could bring value to your business?  And ultimately, did they ask for the job?

 

Next week: Evaluating Cultural Fit

 

This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.

 

(Photo credit: Microsoft)

 

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3 thoughts on “To Hire, or Not To Hire: Evaluating Sales Skills

  1. Pingback: To Hire, or Not To Hire: Evaluating Cultural Fit | The Management Maven

  2. Pingback: To Hire, or Not To Hire: Evaluating Locus of Control | The Management Maven

  3. Pingback: Can you explain your management philosophy? | The Management Maven

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