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The Selling Skill Distributors Should Seek from Their Sales Force

Soft skills make a real difference in achieving hard sales results.
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Hiring top sales talent is no easy task. More than one sales manager has been frustrated when discovering he hired a terrific interviewer — not a terrific salesperson. There are several reasons for misfires on talent acquisition. 

Salespeople get promoted to sales management with little or no training on behavior-based interviewing skills. They don’t have a defined hiring playbook, which means they hire salespeople that aren’t capable of executing the company sales playbook. Think of athletic teams. You can have a great set of plays but you need the right players to execute the plays effectively and consistently. 

A common mistake made by many sales managers is vetting potential candidates only for sales experience or industry experience. This criterion is important; however, equally important is interviewing for emotional intelligence skills. EQ is a key predictor of success in life and in business.  

There are several emotional intelligence skills that impact sales success. One such skill is assertiveness. It’s the ability to ask for what you need nicely without defaulting to aggressive behaviors or passive-aggressive behaviors. Research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board found a common trait in top salespeople is assertiveness — a soft skill, not a hard selling skill. Assertive salespeople are comfortable asking the tough questions during a sales call. They are good at stating what they need to create a true win-win business relationship.  

A great interview question to test for assertiveness is, “Tell me about a sales call where the prospect was hesitant to share budget or didn’t have a budget. What did you do?” Listen to see if the salesperson demonstrated assertiveness and uncovered budget before writing a proposal. Non-assertive salespeople acquiesce to the buyer’s process and default into ‘go along to get along’ sales behaviors. The result: Wasted time writing practice proposals for prospects that aren’t willing or able to pay for your company’s services.  

No Room for Instant Gratification

Delayed gratification is another emotional intelligence skill sales managers need to assess when interviewing sales candidates. Salespeople with delayed gratification skills are willing to put in the work to earn the reward. For example, major account sales. “Elephant hunting” takes time. There is no room for instant gratification in the pursuit of large deals. The high self-control salesperson puts in the time on pre-call planning, designing effective questions and value propositions to uncover the gaps in the competitor’s services. They take time to meet with multiple decision makers. They avoid the pull of instant gratification, which results in salespeople pursuing low-hanging fruit and smaller deals. 

Good interview questions to test this competency is, “Give me an example of a deal that took a long time to close. What did you do to remain relevant during the sales process?” Listen to see if your idea of a long sales cycle matches the candidate’s idea of a long sales cycle. 

Building a great sales team starts with a careful hiring process. Interview potential sales candidates for hard selling skills, industry knowledge and emotional intelligence skills. Soft skills do make a difference in achieving hard sales results.  

Hear more from Stanley next week at MDM’s Sales GPS 2019 conference in Las Vegas, where she will present a session how to build a high-performance sales team. 

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