It’s no secret that a major component to your business’ success involves securing a well-rounded sales team. However, knowing what to look for—or even where to look—can be a frustrating process, resulting in wasted time and high turnover rates. To help guide your search in the right direction, Print+Promo spoke to three industry experts: Bill Farquharson, vice president, Epicomm, Alexandria, Va.; Kelly Mallozzi, principal, Success.In.Print, Chicago; and Andy Mealor, owner, Proforma Ascension Marketing Group, Independence, Ohio. Read on for their sales-recruiting insights.
Where to Recruit
In today’s changing business landscape, the possibilities for uncovering sales potential are endless. While the tried-and-true techniques still hold value, there are other avenues that can make the search more efficient. Mallozzi relies on online platforms such as Indeed and LinkedIn. Farquharson, on the other hand, said sales opportunities can exist within the workplace. “There are lots of online answers (e.g., Indeed, Craigslist and Monster), but I believe the next sales rep is the person who handed you your coffee this morning and instantly made an impression on you,” he shared. “Your next sales rep might be working already, but just in the wrong job.”
What to Look For
Once you’ve located a promising prospect, you must determine which skills translate to closing. For Mealor, it’s all about efficiency. “One of the most important traits for being a successful sales rep in this business is being a good manager of time,” he said. “I think those that separate themselves and excel in this industry are those who know how to get a return on investment for their time.”
According to Mallozzi, attitude sets the best salespeople apart from the rest, particularly when it comes to curiosity. Among the most valuable skills, she listed, “asking great questions, being able to process information and provide answers and solutions that make sense for the customer—even if it is not the biggest moneymaker for the organization.”
With personality at the forefront of desirable qualities, it might be surprising to learn that past experience is not always necessary for success. “In a perfect world, past experience is critical,” Farquharson stated. “However, this is not the case any longer. Clients are coming to us far more educated because of Internet searches. I don’t want someone with 1980s or 1990s skills. Of personality, product knowledge and experience, I’m going to go with personality 100 percent of the time.”
Mealor agreed that less experience has proven beneficial. “We tend to have more success with people with little-to-no experience. They come in and learn our way of doing things,” he noted. “When you bring someone in with 20-plus years of experience, it may be hard for them to adopt to [your] culture. We bring anyone on who is a good fit for our company and culture regardless of their experience.”
What to Avoid
Looking for the wrong qualities can be just as important as looking for the right qualities. If you notice certain red flags from the beginning, it can save you from future problems.
Mallozzi suggested avoiding overblown egos and candidates who ask for big base salaries upfront. Mealor agreed that an uncontrollable ego can mean trouble. “If our first conversation is all about them that typically tells me that they may not be a team player and they are focused more on ‘What’s in it for me?’ That goes against our culture,” he said. “If everything revolves around them, that usually is not a good sign. We avoid people with negative attitudes or who are full of excuses.”
Farquharson stressed the importance of candidates who understand their place in the sales team. “I want to hire someone who is a contributor and, yes, I am open to new ideas,” he said. “However, I do not need a know-it-all.”
How to Master the Interview
The interview is the apogee of the entire hiring process, so it’s essential to use it wisely. Mallozzi handles the first-round phone interviews, and then hands over the qualified candidates to the clients for face-to-face interviews. She plans on migrating her phone interviews to video chat interviews for the face-to-face advantage.
Face-to-face also is important to Farquharson. He advised interviewers to watch body language—eye contact and handshakes—closely. In addition, he cautioned hiring managers against describing their ideal candidate to the interviewee—in other words, don’t make it easy for them to fit your aforementioned criteria.
Mealor puts candidates at the front lines of the sales action during the interview process. “I’ll have them come down to our office and then we’ll go visit a few of our clients for a ‘field interview.’ This seems to be particularly valuable for people with little-to-no experience,” he said. “We want to make sure before we both agree to move forward that this is what the candidate thinks it is and it’s what they want to do.”
Finally, he gives the prospective sales representative a chance to speak to the existing sales representatives so he or she can ask any other questions.