My kind of salesman, my kind of sales job
When asked by one of the soldiers, what he did for a living, the somewhat sozzled brother replied that he was a salesman - actually what he said was that he "travelled in novelties," (meaning that he sold jokes and cheap toys), and then produced a few joke-shop tricks to show to the men in the regiment.
Although by today's standards, swigging from a hip flask, dressed in a flamboyant but slightly unkempt way and visiting his customers almost as if it was a social occasion and not a business appointment would be strictly non-acceptable behaviour for a sales person, in those days, it wasn't.
I'm not suggesting that people tolerated drunkenness in the workplace of course, the character was exaggerated for comedy effect, but the underlying point stands. Field sales jobs were almost entirely a male territory and salespeople were expected to be personalities, taking clients to lunches that lasted most of the afternoon and doing deals on the shake of a hand and without a shred of due diligence or a credit check in sight.
Product knowledge was important but not in an obsessive way, the social skills of a salesperson outweighed the product knowledge in terms of importance, by a long chalk.
The saying, "people buy people" was certainly true then, as it is now, but for different reasons.
So, back to the point - what qualities do you need to look for in a candidate when recruiting a salesperson to fill one of your sales jobs and how do they differ from just a few years ago let alone from the days when Captain Mainwairing and his army of geriatric heroes saved us all from the threat of the Hun?
It's time to be sociable - againThe answer, I would suggest, is not so great as you might think. Thanks to technology, we've learned to be sociable again, but in a totally different way and the line between personal interaction with friends and with business associates has been blurred. It can all be blamed on Social Media - Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and, of course, LinkedIn.
Many of us reveal a lot more about ourselves than we realise when we take part in social media exchanges. We know much more about our customers before we contact them, or call on them, because they voluntarily make that information available on their websites and on social media sites.
A canny salesperson, who knows how to use and manipulate LinkedIn Groups and to deep-dive into the demographic data on Facebook and Twitter, is at a distinct advantage when picking up the telephone to speak to those prospective clients.
If he or she has access to a carefully maintained CRM and prospect database then a much greater depth of knowledge can be gained about the person he or she is going to interact with in the hope of landing some business.
Not only that, but there are so many more ways of interacting with those people than there ever were before. Mainwairing's brother packed his whole business into a kit bag and carted it around with him. Now, that is rarely necessary - in most sales jobs a few videos and a slide deck and the job is done.
More to think about when recruiting for sales jobsSo now we should be thinking in terms of recruiting sales staff who have a good understanding of how their customers and prospective customers tick by way of their understanding of how social media ticks.
Nowadays, the winners are the ones who can pick up on a Tweet that indicates someone may be in the market for your product or service, or intercept and interact with a conversation about your product or others like it in a LinkedIn thread or a Facebook post. Wherever this "Buzz", as it is called, its taking place your sales staff should be aware of it and interacting with it, creating opportunities, creating sales.
So at your next sales recruitment interview, along with all the "usual" questions, remember to ask a few to establish how at home the candidate is with the art of being sociable and interacting with people, online and off.
Specialist sales recruitment agencies like Aaron Wallis will provide you with all the right questions to ask when recruiting sales staff, having already screened the candidates to include only those with genuine potential to add value to your business. Contact us today and discuss the sales jobs you may with to recruit for - we're always happy to help.