More than any other type of candidate, sales people should be able to present themselves well and "sell" their qualifications to you. They should inherently understand and implement concepts of good presentation, both in their resume and their personal presence. Outgoing and gregarious, they must have an extroverted personality and possess great people skills. Other adjectives that describe the ideal sales candidate are:
Use a list of qualities as a "check list" to evaluate your sales candidate. In your interview, check off each item as you get an indication that your candidate possesses these traits. Remember, if you're not impressed, potential clients won't be either.
A good sales candidate knows about the product that he or she is expected to sell. A better candidate can learn about any product or service and get back to the customer promptly to address their needs. A great candidate asks lots of questions to help the customer assess a problem and then proposes a solution using a product or service which in turn makes a sale.
The ability to ramp up on new technology and acquaint oneself with new product lines is essential in a great sales candidate. Look for candidates who have a range of knowledge of products and services, and who have demonstrated exceptional sales records in the new areas they've dealt with in the past. This is especially important in technology, where the ability to stay abreast of trends and adapt to new technology is more important than a highly specialized knowledge in only one area. For example, as client-server, Web and telecom technologies converge, the ability to jump from one to another and recognize sales opportunities is an invaluable skill.
Some say first impressions are always right. Whether or not you've found this to be true in life, the concept applies to your sales candidates. The sales representative is most often the first contact that a company will have with a client. Whether by e-mail, phone, fax or in person, the first impression a sales person gives will be repeated hundreds of times with potential clients. A sales candidate's personal communication skills cannot be lacking in any area, be it written, verbal or physical. Resume clarity and quality, response time, and a courteous phone manner are all clues to the type of impression your candidate will make to your client's potential customers. Be aware of your own reaction to your first impression of a sales candidate.
Tip: Good sales candidates should approach a phone or in-person interview especially well prepared about your company. If they have responded to an ad that references your company, the best sales candidate will have used this bit of information as a starting point to educate themselves about the company and its products or services prior to meeting with you.
The Sales Pre-Screen
The screening process for sales candidates provides a unique opportunity to see a candidate's skills "in action". The sales candidate pre-screen, whether by phone or in person, becomes a “sales call” where the candidate seeks to sell you on their abilities. Candidates should be prompt, courteous, forthcoming and enthusiastic about their abilities and experience. They should also be a good listener, and be clear on providing the information that you, like any other customer, require before closing a deal.
Tip: Because sales candidates can be better equipped to sell themselves and often are more eager and aggressive in their job search, you'll need to focus more on the issues that motivate your candidate to make a job change. It is particularly important to determine why they are really interested in your opportunity and to assess whether or not they are just shopping to see if they are making comparable compensation with their current employer. Sales candidates should be motivated financially to make as much as possible, but they should also believe in the product or service they sell and be passionate about the company they represent.
Closing The Deal With Your Sales Candidate
Towards the end of a pre-screen or first interview with a sales candidate, try to identify the candidate's "hot-buttons." It is critical to know specifically what would motivate them to make a job change. A good way to identify their "hot buttons" is to pre-close them by asking: "In considering accepting a new job opportunity, what are the top three things that will influence your decision in order of priority?" You've now given the candidate the opportunity to make it clear what it would take to close the deal when an offer is made. You are also prepared to address any future concerns as you now know their key motivators for job change. The best candidates will appreciate what you are doing – it's called a "mini-close"; reaching a level of agreement that propels the business relationship forward and brings the "sale" just a little bit nearer to closing.
Tip: This tactic works well for ALL recruiting situations. However, with respect to sales people, look for sales candidates who are money motivated and who do not like a cap on commission. While candidates come to the table with different financial needs based on their personal situation, a candidate who emphasizes the earnings potential of your opportunity, commission rate and no commission caps (over a "ramp up" and concerns over base salary) is probably more confident in their ability to sell.