For as long as I can remember, one of the hardest jobs to fill has been sales. It takes a unique person to succeed in these positions—they need to be aggressive enough to complete the sale, but not so aggressive that they turn off prospective buyers. Forbes recently noted that a significant trend for business-to-business sales in 2017 is going to be customers wanting salespeople who are subject matter experts. As the items that consumers buy grow more and more complex, salespeople are expected to know every detail about the product the customer is buying, and they need to be able to answer questions quickly, accurately, and confidently.
Consumers don’t want to be marketed to, they want to talk to someone who knows everything there is to know about the product. However, it can be pretty difficult to turn a new employee into a subject matter expert right away, which is why some CEOs prefer to look internally to find new sales talent. If you’re in a position where you want to sell to other businesses, internal employees who are already very familiar with your company and products may no doubt be the premier choice for sales talent. But, just because you choose to hire from within certainly does not mean that you should forego a thorough risk assessment.
The Changing Role of Salespeople
The “sales funnel” is likely a familiar concept. While sales funnels can vary from company to company, they are all essentially step-by-step processes whereby a salesperson guides the consumer through the purchase, from awareness of the product to closing the deal. The process used to be a straight shot from beginning to end—hence the term “funnel.”
But, as people have gained more access to information, the process has changed. Someone might become aware of the company, but then choose to research the business and products online rather than contact them directly. They might stop and start the process several times and talk to several different people representing a wide range of products.
It’s those communications where the right kind of sales people are going to stand out. Because the new consumer so often leaves the funnel, an effective salesperson needs to prevent that. They should be able to answer any and all questions regarding the product, to include potential problems the consumer may have. Once that consumer views them as a subject matter expert, they’re going to take their questions to that person, rather than look to an outside source.
Generally, your best salesperson is going to have the following abilities, qualities, and soft skills:
- They understand the concept of the product they’re selling and what it provides.
- They take a “solutions first” approach to sales, in that they look at how the product will benefit the customer.
- They’re able to collaborate with multiple departments in an organization.
- They’re familiar with known issues in the product, as well as workarounds for those problems.
- They have industry certifications, experience, and credentials that show their expertise.
Reading through these new criteria may bring to mind individuals who already work with you and your product. They may not be in a sales position now, but likely have all of the above experience from working with the product on a day-to-day basis. In these cases, hiring from within may be just what you need to help drive sales.
How to Hire From Within
While most think the key to hiring from within starts with an internal job posting, it’s best to take a more personalized approach. Approach is the key word here, because you should reach out to the candidates, rather than the other way around. Think about the people within your organization who you would go to if you had a question on the product your company produces. Who has a reputation for being a capable problem solver? Once you’ve thought of that person, see if they’re interested in segueing those skills into sales. If they are, you’re going to want to do some additional vetting to ensure that they’re right for the job. This process can involve:
- Personality testing – Personality testing is a great way to determine if someone has a personality which would be a good fit for sales. Myers Briggs is a common one that companies use, though there are many reputable tests that help you find people who would do well in sales.
- Use Remote Risk Assessment (RRA) to spot check the candidate’s background and integrity – Keep in mind that when transitioning someone to a sales job, it’s very likely they’re going to have far more access to customer data, financials, and other sensitive information than they did in their old position. As such, you may need to “re-up” their background check with technology like RRA. The individual can be given a brief automated interview, via phone, that assesses for risk using voice-based biometric indicators. RRA can help indicate if the individual is someone who would be considered a low risk or high risk candidate.
- Sales call ride alongs – Consider having the candidate go on a sales call with someone in your office, while acting as a consultant on the call. This serves two purposes. It gives the customer the subject matter expert they want, and it gives you and the candidate the chance to test drive the sales position without having to do so under pressure.
- Offer a hybrid position – Rather than transitioning someone entirely from their old job to sales, add sales to their existing job description and make it a small part of their overall job. This can work well for individuals who are unsure if they want to do sales full time, but may still make good candidates. Often, this hybrid position works best as a commissioned position, to increase the incentive.
Using these steps, you can ensure that your candidate is a person who has both the technical skills and the people skills needed to be successful in sales. To help with your hiring process, AC Global Risk developed RRA technology, available for use on a global basis. Our proprietary technology is highly accurate and can be rolled out quickly, meaning you can hire faster without sacrificing due diligence. For more information on adding RRA to your hiring process, contact us today.