It must be hiring season.
A number of my clients are in the process of interviewing candidates for large account-selling. To help them find the best candidates, we go through an exercise at the beginning of the process to create a list of the key questions, establish the best metrics for determining success, figure out a job description, and so on. One of the components of this process is defining and ranking the qualities and skills that we want the ideal person to have. Here is a list of those qualities I look for in Superstar Salespeople through the interview process:
- Get to the Top--The best start at the top rather than work their way up. Some remarkably-effective salespeople take the harder route, working their way up. Others go high and go low, using a pincher approach of working top down and bottom up. Regardless of the approach, the best of the best know how to get to the top of the executive chain. For big sales, the support of the senior-most decision maker, those who make the real decisions of size and strategy when selecting vendors and partners, will be necessary.
- Speak Senior Exec--"You get sent to whom you sound like" is a truth that shows up in action for most people in sales. The issues of a senior-decision maker and a frontline user may be aligned at a high level but measured and experienced very differently in their individual roles. The best salespeople can speak all of the languages of the members of the buying group, but most importantly, they can speak to the senior executive with confidence and relevance.
- Translate--Complexity is the enemy of speed in the sales process. Companies and their subject-matter experts are wary of solutions that are complex in their description and execution. Superstars know this and work well in translating what appears to be complex into simple and relevant explanations to customers. Those superstars also do a great job of coaching their own subject matter experts in representing the solution cleanly and answering questions with the right level of detail.
- Facilitate--Complex sales require a variety of people from your organization and the buyer's to communicate, document, exchange information, and stay on task. Often this is facilitated through meetings, but more often through transactional exchanges. A great salesperson keeps an eye on the details as if he or she was a Project Manager, ensuring progress and that nothing gets missed.
- Create--Big sales are rarely large volume purchases of off-the-shelf products or solutions. Rather, they typically have some unique challenges included. If they did not, then the purchase would be shipped off to the Purchasing Department and a structured and competitive process would be used to select a vendor by meeting minimum standard and price. The great salespeople have the creativity to design a solution that meets both their own company's and their buyer's needs in a way that is sustainable over the term of the contract.
- Move on--Superstars are persistent, but they can move on when they realize a deal is just not achievable. Much has been made of the quality of tenacity. It is a great quality to have, but not at the expense of efficiency. A clear ability to determine when it is time to move past a prospect that cannot or will not change from their current provider or approach is necessary in order to achieve all of the goals for the year.
When we work with companies, the expectation is that questions and metrics are included in the interview process that give these qualities a thorough evaluation against attitudes, evaluation scores, and past experiences. Most average salespeople can anticipate what answer you want to hear. You have to design your interview to reveal the Superstars.