Are You Hiring REAL Salespeople?

Have you ever hired someone who looked good, smelled good, and sounded good, only to later find that the only thing the person could sell was themselves? You’re not alone. Join the club.

As a sales manager, one of your responsibilities is to hire people who will get the job done properly. That means finding the right person for the job — hiring REAL salespeople! And therein lies the challenge. Finding competent salespeople is easier said than done.

What is a competent salesperson? It’s someone who knows what he/she must do, how to do it, and has the drive and desire to do it.

If only there was a simple way of assessing this. Auto mechanics, for instance, must go through a four-year apprenticeship to join their trade with a certificate of competency. Unfortunately, when it comes to selling, there is no universally accepted process in place to certify that a person is capable of performing as a salesperson. Anyone can claim to be a salesperson whether or not they know how to sell, and in fact, too many do just that.

Most salespeople get into sales by accident. How a person gets into sales, however, isn’t as important as what they do after they’re in it. If they are serious about the profession, they will either get some sales training or do a lot of reading about the nuts and bolts of selling.

While there is no single secret to finding competent salespeople, here is an idea that will help you separate the wheat from the chaff during the hiring process and come up with potential winners.

If I was hiring an auto mechanic, I’d want to be sure that he knew what the timing chain was for, the firing order of the engine, how to adjust the brakes, etc. In other words, the extent to which he knows the basics of his trade. The same applies when hiring a salesperson. I want to be sure that he or she knows the basics of selling.

Here are 10 questions you can ask to determine if you have someone who knows something about selling. Some salespeople will claim to know the answers to these questions but when push comes to shove, they don’t. That’s why they often screw up more sales opportunities than they close.

I’ve listed the questions in order of difficulty. If you don’t get reasonable answers to the first four easy questions, I wouldn’t bother to ask the rest. Why prolong the pain and agony?

Here is my Mini-competency Test for Salespeople.

1. What three things do you HAVE to know to qualify a prospect?

The three things a salesperson absolutely needs to know in order to qualify a prospect are need (or want), ability to pay, and the authority to buy.

Note: I find that people either haven’t a clue and give some very creative answers, or get two out of the three. Of the three factors, most people will usually miss “authority.”

2. Give an example of two popular closing techniques.

The four most popular closes are the Assumptive close, Alternate Choice close, Minor Point close and the Direct Question close.

Note: Don’t worry if the person can’t give the actual names. They get points for describing how a particular close is executed and even more points if they describe a favorite closing technique that they use. If they can’t, they may not be attempting to close very often. If a person doesn’t know what or how to do something, chances are they aren’t doing it.

3. Define a trial close.

A trial close is an opinion‑asking question, the answer to which indicates where you are in the sale or how responsive the prospect is to your proposal.

4. What is the fastest way to get a prospect’s favorable attention?

Talk about something that is of interest to the prospect. The best way to do this is to ask questions pertaining to the prospect’s wants, needs, or interests. Ask about the prospect.

Note: The real sales pro will get this one. Others will say that the best way to get the prospect’s attention is to tell the prospect about the product/service. These are the people who think telling is selling.

5. When you are describing your product or service to a prospect, what is the prospect listening for?

Benefits! More specifically, benefits to the prospect, a reason to buy.

6. What is a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or “elevator pitch?”

The USP is a short statement that clearly and simply expresses an obvious reason for the prospect to do business with you. It often answers the question. “Why should I buy from you?” A good USP differentiates you from your competition.

7. What is the main reason for the price objection?

The prospect doesn’t see the value. There are three reasons why the price objection usually comes up. They are:

1 ‑ Your price is too high.

2 ‑ The prospect can’t afford it.

3 ‑ The prospect doesn’t want to afford it.

8. What is the first thing you should do when you get an objection?

Acknowledge it. Too many salespeople start to answer the objection without first cushioning it with an empathetic statement. A simple, “I understand how you feel,” or, “That’s a good point,” will go a long way towards smoothing out the objection‑answering process.

Note: This is a simple question so look for a simple answer. Many people turn this question into a disaster just like they turn simple objections into a disaster.

9. When are the four times you can handle an objection?

• Now – when the objection arises if the objection is a potential sales-stopper.

• Later in the sale if it’s trivial or a put-off.

• Never for trivial objections. (Acknowledge but don’t answer.)

• Before it even arises for those objections that you know are going to come up.

10. When is an objection NOT an objection?

Objections are often confused with rejection or requests for more information. If an “objection” appears very early in the sale, it might be rejection on the part of the prospect. An “I’m not interested” at the early stages usually indicates a failure to get the prospect’s favorable attention and is rejection, not an objection.

If the prospect says, “I don’t see how this would fit into my operation,” he might be requesting more information, not raising an objection. In this case the prospect is requesting clarification, not confrontation.

If a sales candidate can’t answer at least half of these questions to your satisfaction, beware! You may be hiring a problem, not a solution — a wannabe salesperson, not a REAL salesperson.

Authored by Brian Jeffrey, co-founder of SalesForce Training.

SalesForce Training & Consulting is a professional services firm and training firm based in Toronto, with training centers in Boston and Chicago, helping sales teams develop and use the right tools for the job at hand.