Anyone who has ever operated a business knows that the No. 1 thing you must do is sell. If you are not comfortable selling, are you ready to be a business owner?
By all accounts, I am an extrovert. I can walk into a room full of people and join a conversation, shake hands and own the room if I want to. I am just as comfortable sitting behind a computer screen pounding away at the keyboard for a day. I’ve observed that most business owners can relate to this behavior.
Business owners know very well that absolutely no one can sell their business better than they can. After all, you know what you are talking about. You know how far you can stretch your commitment because you can handle the challenge. You know how to deliver. The result? Success.
But success is a double-edged sword if you are not ready for it. The operations of a business can quickly consume every last bit of air left in you. When this happens, I often see the need to add salespeople. Here are the top five qualities I’ve found every business owner wants in their next seller:
• An entrepreneurial mindset.
• Someone who’s well connected in their industry.
• A go-getter.
• Someone with a proven track record of success.
• Someone who’s forward-leaning and thinks big.
Go back and read that list again. Who do you think you are describing? It’s a mirror staring back at you. Even if you find the right salesperson, as the business owner, you can never stop selling. The only thing that changes is how you sell your company. In fact, how you sell only gets more challenging as your role morphs into a fine balance of marketing, outreach, community support and business growth.
Now that you know you will never stop selling, let’s talk about how to select your next salesperson. Here are five attributes to look for:
Selling is hard. Not everyone can sell. The anxiety of picking up and calling can be daunting. Most business owners start with their network and are great at growing the business through networking. It takes a certain type of person with a matching personality to help you grow your business beyond just networking. These are the people who can “work the room” on the phone. There are few, if any, B2B businesses that can survive, let alone grow, without having the right salespeople on staff. Look for the right personality when you look for a salesperson.
Most salespeople are great at opening the conversation, but few have the tenacity to follow up on leads, and fewer still are any good at closing the deal. We have all seen great talkers, but how many are great closers? Closing is an art form that takes tenacity — the quality of being determined to not take no for an answer. There is a fine line between being persistent and recognizing when the prospect just can’t afford your products and services at this time. Look for this character trait to determine if the candidate can make good judgment calls in these situations.
A business decides to add salespeople when the founders and owners reach the point of not being able to scale themselves. This means anyone you hire for this position is an extension of your word — of your commitment to the prospect.
At my company, I expect all employees to perform with integrity, but when it comes to salespeople, this expectation should reach new heights. Why? In the temptation to make the sale for the commission, sometimes salespeople overpromise on what the company can deliver. Assess your salesperson’s integrity by looking at how they perform under extreme pressure of making the sales numbers when interacting with a prospective buyer who’s pushing their limits.
4. Desire To Grow
When we interview candidates for any position in my company, we ask them where they see themselves in two years or five years. If the answer is, “More of the same,” the candidates don’t make the cut. I want people who have a desire to grow beyond their current positions and learn new things. If innovation is the culture of your company, you cannot have your salesperson saying, “More of the same in five years.” This question also tests the candidate’s drive, ambition and culture fit.
5. Strong Past Performance
Many leaders are turned off when they see a person has changed jobs or hopped from one industry to another in a short period of time. While frequent job changes can be a serious red flag, change of industry to sector is actually a desired trait when hiring at my company.
If a person has remained a salesperson but changed industries every two to five years, it tells you the person is willing and able to learn new traits. They have the ability to go from one unrelated sector to another. This is not easy for most people to do. Use this past performance as a positive mechanism to explore pivots for your own company’s products and services. You might discover an untapped market you hadn’t thought of before.
Once you find your perfect salesperson, don’t be afraid to start the search all over again. After all, your best salesperson might choose to leave your company, despite a solid retention plan. Remember: As a business owner, you can never stop selling. Even the best salesperson will only work for a role model they can brag about in their sales pitch.