The DNA of a Top Salesperson

By Paul Slezak - Sep. 6, 2012
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DNA of a top salesperson

Your salesperson is often the first point of contact a potential customer has with your organisation, so if they don’t connect with, trust or believe in that salesperson, the chances of converting them are slim.

So what makes a successful salesperson? Is it a hunger to achieve targets and aggressively win new business, or is it also about building trust and developing long-term relationships?

You know how you want your business to be represented. Your salesperson not only has to be an ambassador for your organisation, but must also have an approach that suits your company culture and philosophy.

The bottom line though, is you want someone who can sell LOTS of product, so what’s the happy medium? What are the traits to look for when hiring a new salesperson?

Eye on the prize

A good salesperson will be more interested in your commission structure than the base salary you are offering. They will be focused on the maximum earning potential the job offers and will ask about your bonus scheme and rewards for repeat business.

The retainer is of little interest to them, as they have every intention of making much more than that. This is the sign of a salesperson with their eye on the prize. If your candidate exhibits this characteristic, then the only thing you need to determine is whether they can deliver  – i.e. do they have a verifiable track record of consistently high sales?

Eye on the product

A good salesperson will also be interested in the tools at their disposal. They will ask you about your product’s quality, saleability, potential for expansion and what kind of support structure you have.

A good product coupled with good customer service means they can sell with confidence, knowing they have a good support network behind them. Higher customer satisfaction means more repeat business and more sales for them.

Eye on their colleagues

A good salesperson will want to know about other successful individuals within the existing salesforce and how they operate, or how top performers may have operated in the past. What are the rules and restrictions? How much freedom are they allowed? Will they be given equal freedom, or will they have to work up to that level?

Many high performing salespeople are independent operators, preferring to use their own methods to achieve sales. What you have to decide is whether their previous history of high performance justifies giving them a longer leash and how that will impact upon the rest of your sales team.

High sales by one individual may not be worth disrupting an entire group. You would also need to examine their methods to make sure they are above board and in line with your company’s way of doing things.

Eye on the goal posts

Good salespeople are very achievement-orientated and are constantly setting themselves new goals and measuring their performance as they attempt to accomplish them.

Characteristics to look for at interview include persistence (a question such as Tell me about a time when you failed to achieve a goal and what you did about it? may reveal the kind of determination you are looking for) and conscientiousness (ask something like Tell me about a time when sheer hard work was the only thing that got you through a task?).

Eye on the customer

A good salesperson is not only good at customer acquisition, but also at turning new business into repeat business by building relationships based on trust.

If a candidate views their previous sales achievements as conquests or quotas, you can be fairly certain they are the type of salesperson who tries to dominate their clients, so that their advice and recommendations will be followed.

While some salespeople are very successful at this, you have to ask yourself whether it is how you want your company represented and whether the candidate would be capable of maintaining good long-term relationships with your customers.

A candidate who refers to previous clients in more human terms, perhaps even by name, would be far more likely to be good at relationship building.

Eye on the sale

When you interview a potential candidate, you are selling your company to them and they are selling themselves to you. A good salesperson always has their eye on the sale and the best are those who know how to close. Many sales are lost because the salesperson is too hesitant about taking that next crucial step.

When you first spoke to the candidate by phone, did they want to meet personally? When you interviewed them face to face, did they come right out and ask you for the job? A natural closer will always take that next step and do their best to close the sale.

If, after interviewing candidates for a sales role, you find someone who addresses all your key criteria; someone hungry, focused and yet who also sees themselves as a trusted advisor, then you may just have found a perfect fit with both your business development plan and company culture.

The proof, as they say, will then be in the pudding.

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.


Paul Slezak

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.

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