Are Good Sales People an Endangered Species?

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rare frog on a rockIt’s official, according to Manpower’s May 2012 global skills shortage survey, sales representatives are the third most difficult to fill role in the world.

Experts believe that this sales talent shortage is arising as a result of the shifting landscape which is changing the role of the sales professional, making some skills redundant and forcing them to develop new skills.

For example, where the field sales professional once had an end to end involvement in the sales process, the advent of cloud computing, viral social media interactions and availability of detailed product information online means that up to 70% of the sales process is now complete before the buyer even speaks to a sales person.

While the initial prospect development and relationship building skills have some part to play, sales are now increasingly being won and lost in the viral social media arena of Twitter, blogs and forums, and modern sales people must be able to engage effectively in this new arena if they are to ensure success.

On top of this, as product and services become increasingly sophisticated and consumers become ever more demanding, sales professional are increasingly being required to move not just from a transaction based sales approach to a consultative based sales model but to a more outcome focused sales discussion. They are being asked to up-sell and cross sell to an increasingly diverse portfolio of existing accounts at higher levels within a business.

5 Signs You Have Found a Great Sales Person

Recruiters have an extremely important role to play in addressing the sales talent shortage issues as they must be able to locate and identify top sales who can work effectively in this new environment. And to help with this search, I thought it would therefore be useful to compile a list of  5 key indicators that you have found a great sales candidate.

1. They are focused on the commission scheme mechanisms and earning potential.

Salespeople who are used to making a highly lucrative living via commission, e.g. effective sales people, will be less focused on the base salary, (beyond it being around market averages) and will be far more focused on the commission scheme.

They will be fascinated by the details of the scheme and will want to be sure that their passion, self belief, positivity and high performance will be translated into a very compelling commission scenario. The sort of queries that will be asking are:

  1. How much did your top sales person make last year and what activity did it take to achieve, e.g. how many calls, appointments etc…?
  2. Does the scheme include accelerators for exceeding targets and how does that work?
  3. Can I reduce my starting salary in return for a richer commission arrangement? (Ding! Ding!)
  4. How does the scheme reward repeat business?
  5. How does the scheme reward new business in relation to repeat business?
  6. How can I maximize my earnings?

2. Curious about product and service quality and levels

The best sales people will know that they will be able to earn more new and repeat business if product and service quality is high. They will be asking questions such as:

  1. Do you conduct customer satisfaction surveys and, if so, how often?
  2. Can I see your product and service satisfaction scores for the last year?
  3. How do your satisfaction scores compare against your competitors? And what you do to stay ahead or catch up?

3. Will want to know how customer centric your products are

Today’s products and services must be customer-centric and be able to deal with the increasingly sophisticated needs and requirements of today’s consumers and commercial buyers. The best sales people will know they can earn much more with truly customer centric products. Therefore, expect good sales people to be asking questions like:

  1. What is your product development process?
  2. How do you develop products that are tuned to the needs of the market and customer?
  3. How do you listen and engage with customers to understand their needs?
  4. How often do you release new products and services?
  5. When are your next product and service updates and releases due?
  6. What new products and services are you releasing over the next year?

4. Will have a good quality, transparent sales history

Sounds obvious, but the best salespeople will be able to provide detailed information on sales achieved against quota over the last few years. If they have done well, they will want to boast about it and will be able to tell you about it in great detail. Look for concrete, provable achievements that are consistent throughout their career.

5. Will want to know about the sales methodology in your business

The best sales people will want to know how they can sell effectively within your business. They will be looking to know what habits and techniques that the best people adopt and what effort they put in to create a sale. They will be asking questions like.

  1. What is your most popular sales channel?
  2. How many cold calls or connections do your top sales people make each week?
  3. How do they generate leads?
  4. What are the key factors to closing a sale in this business?

Recruiting top salespeople is a bit of an art, but by knowing what to look for, you can add in a little bit of science to the process. Good salespeople ask good questions and these give you something with which to measure their personality and motivations. If you can gauge these most important personal attributes through their questions and concerns, you’ll be on your way to knowing if that candidate is your next sales star.

By Kazim Ladimeji