How to Recruit Good Salespeople

Let’s face it. Recruiting salespeople is not easy.
Yet, there would be no business without sales. By definition, a business sells a service or a product to generate a profit. In fact, if you think of your company as an intricate machine, every part of it runs towards generating a profit. Your HR, your tech team, your admin–they are all contributing individual parts to the running of this machine. They may not be directly selling, but they are all making sure that a working part is in good order so that sales can be generated.

But your sales team is on the front line. They represent your brand; they are in charge of managing and expanding your network of clients; they know your product intimately, so that they can sell it; in short, they bring in the money. So, how do you find a good salesperson?

The Recruitment Phase

First, you should choose a reliable recruitment platform. In Singapore, we use because the pool of local candidates is one of the largest. Other trusted commercial platforms that I turn to include and   

Now, early in 2017, unemployment in Singapore reached its highest number since the months following the Global Economic Crisis of 2008 (read the stats here). The fact that we live in a fast economy with constantly changing needs contributes to the unemployment trend. Workers are often laid off through no fault of their own; skill sets are often transferable. This means that when you are recruiting for your sales team, you should use a little imagination. An NUS honors student in History with experience in travel journalism, for instance, might well be as good a candidate for a sales role as another candidate with the words “sales trainee” on his resume. Do not limit yourself to a word search when scanning resumes; instead, look for smart, versatile candidates!

Because in fact, you can turn a non-sales person into a good salesperson. And you can turn a good salesperson into a great salesperson. Is it possible to turn a shy but smart person into a confident marketer? What is necessary is a mindset switch and The Instant Switch is one of the best resources available these days for tapping into the unrealized potential of every person out there.

I am telling you to trust your gut instincts but to read incoming resumes with an imaginative eye!

This is particularly true if you are a small company with less than 25 employees on your payroll. Singapore produces amazing talents in all fields. But say, a corporate sales executive from Procter & Gamble who was laid off because of internal restructuring might want to work for a comparative corporation; or, even if she is hired by you, might not feel the same need to prove herself as the right “newbie” who could really bring all her energies to the role, and then some.

LinkedIn Profile

Additionally, most professionals today tend to have a LinkedIn profile. Because it is such a staple in most industries today, and because a salesperson in particular should be in the know about market trends, I would tend to trust the candidate with a good LinkedIn profile. (I know, I know… it sounds like I have LinkedIn stocks, I don’t.)

Look Through Resumes On File

One other tried-and-trusted tip that companies have been relying on for decades is to take a look again at the resumes on file from potential candidates whom have previously applied for another role at your company. This way, you know for sure that they already have an interest in your organization, to begin with.

As an employer, you might have certain preconceived notions about the kind of candidate you want to hire. Maybe you have deeply ingrained ideas about the kind of person who will be most successful on a sales team. Perhaps you are right, and you have gotten competent people on your team based on these ideas. But have you ever thought about what spikes in revenue could ensue if you were to take a chance on the candidate that you previously thought was a gamble, because perhaps he or she might not have had previous sales experience? Any business textbook will tell you that it takes various types to make great salespeople. In fact, sales is a creative field and so is hiring salespeople. Perhaps here is where your own mind as a recruiter could use a boost of the Instant Switch.

The Mindset Change

And this is where I get to something I like to call “the mindset change.”

Now, let’s say that you’ve picked your candidate. Whether you’ve chosen a seasoned salesperson or a newbie from another field you would like to train for a sales role, in most cases, you will still encounter the need for a mindset change.

Traits of a Good Salesperson

Here, I want to share my personal formula with you. This is not a formula I learnt from an MBA program; it is not a formula I lifted off some web seminar. Rather, it comes from more than two decades of experience working in the sales sector. I’ve observed people you’d think would be a successful salesperson walk away in defeat, and I have seen unlikely candidates hitting their target and quickly moving up the ranks. Let me break it down to you this way: A good salesperson has to be teachable and possess great listening skills, but most importantly, they must be open to new ideas.  

Maybe this does not sound like a very sexy formula but it is an honest one and I guarantee you that it is actually the formula that will enable you to find and mould the best salespeople out there.

The Teachable Salesperson

What do I mean by teachable? Now, every company has its own unique vision. Although there are innovations in every field, each company nonetheless maintains something like a core identity even through the fluctuation of market trends. What I mean by “core identity” can be made up of things like work culture, camaraderie, growth vision, relation to clients, the company’s place within the field, etc. The most important thing is that you bring in a disciplined, self-managing person. (This is especially important for salespeople, because sales is more of a science than an art.) But that person should also be teachable–he should be able to contribute to the company’s vision, while understanding its spirit.

A person whose own ego is not in check is not going to be a teachable person. An egotistical person does not make a good salesperson; they tend to be rigid and very much stuck on their own ways of doing things. Here, I repeat again. What you need is a versatile candidate. A versatile person is open to new ideas, open to being taught. In fact, I have found in my experience that a teachable person is also likely to be the person truly open to innovative ideas.

Remember, the point here is that your ideal salesperson is essentially humble. Yes, contrary to the popular stereotype of the salesperson as a strutting peacock-type, a showman, a theatrical, out-of-this-world character, a loud, dominant, pushy person… Contrary to this flawed portrayal, the best salesperson is actually first and foremost a good listener. Yes, you heard that right. A good listener and not a good talker. Or to put it more accurately, a good listener first and only after that, a good communicator. If your salesperson talks too much, it is almost doing your product a disservice (as though it needed that much promotion to sell an already trustworthy product). Also, it is only by cultivating great listening skills that your salesperson will be able to meet your clients’ needs. Each client may have use of the same product, but the specific nature of their needs might differ. A good salesperson understands that it is not one-size-fits-all and being able to customize their service to the specific needs of the client takes HUMILITY and great listening skills. Have someone humble on your team, and your network of clients will expand.

An Open Mind

Other than those traits, a great salesperson needs to be open to new ideas. If the old pitch does not work, they have to be open enough to ask, okay, now what can I change to arrive at a better solution? In scientific neurological terms, their brains should have neuroplasticity. You cannot underestimate how truly important it is to have the ability to be open to new ideas. How many cynical salespeople have you ever come across? They are explaining a product to you, but you can see hardened, glazed look in their eyes. They do not essentially believe in the product, and it shows. Now, why don’t they? Sure, they could be peddling an inferior product. But oftentimes, I have found that cynical salespeople are cynical because their minds are too rigid to see their product in new ways. Not only this, but they are likely to lean on tired and banal sales pitch. They do not care about the product and they do not care to explain or market the product in new, innovative ways.

A salesperson who is open to new ideas however will be innately curious about the product, and about people. They have a versatile mind, they can absorb new concepts and they are inspired by the fact that people are different, and have different needs.

Mold your versatile, smart candidate into a teachable salesperson who is open to new ideas, and I assure you, the numbers on your sales chart will start climbing!

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