Tuesday 3 February 2015

How to Customize Interview Questions for Sales Interviews

When it comes to interviewing potential candidates for a position, it is essential to find someone that would fit well with your company. Aside from the standard questions that most interviewers ask, there are several ways that you can customize your interviews in order to find the perfect person to hire.

1.      Look at an applicant’s resume and assess what they could add to your company

The first obvious step is to take a detailed look at an applicant’s resume to determine what they have to offer your company. Taking a look at their resume ahead of time will allow you to ask them further about what they think they can add to your company. Each person will have a unique reason they believe they would be an asset to your company.

2.      Determine what you are looking for in regards to the job

Another thing you can do to customize your job interview questions is to be confident on what you are looking for in a candidate you want to hire. Knowing ahead of time what your company needs will give you a chance to determine who out of the applicants you need to fill in the gap in your company.

3.      Consider behavioural interviewing

Behavioural interviewing is a reasonably new thing in regards to finding the perfect person for the job you are hiring for. This type of interviewing focuses on asking question about candidate’s past and future behaviours that can help determine what type of an employee they would be. You should ask questions about what they have or would do in certain situations or their competence with
certain tasks.

4.      Ask questions that show what the candidate knows about your company

An important thing to find out in any interview is whether or not the candidate knows anything about your company or the position they desire. A great way to find this out is to ask questions that can allow them to show you what they know. An example of this would be to ask them what your company could do to be more competitive. This would allow you to find out whether or not they are familiar with your company and the job they want do. It also can give you some insight into their thoughts on the business in general.

Although there are standard questions that most interviewers ask, in order to really get to know a candidate for a job, tailoring each job interview for the person is a wonderful way to get to know a potential employee.

5 Questions to Ask During the Hiring Process

When it comes to hiring someone new to join a sales team, the pressure is on to select the right candidate. But having to decide from a cover letter, a CV and a few face-to-face meetings whether someone is worth taking a chance on can be a tough ask. 

At Aaron Wallis, we know that recruitment is all about asking the right questions. When you’re interviewing someone for a role, asking the right questions can coax the interviewee into giving the answers you really want to hear – the answers that will tell you if they’re right for the job. We’ve come up with a selection of five great questions to ask during the interview process that will help you to narrow it down and choose the best candidate for your business.

1.     What previous work experience have you had to prepare you for this position?
Forget generic questions like, “Why are you a good fit for this position?” Instead, try to encourage the candidate to come up with specific examples and reasons why they’d be suitable for the job. Not only do they have to think on their feet, they also have to provide you with some insight into their work experience in order to answer the question. Two birds with one stone! Their answer should give you a clearer picture of the candidate’s working background, and whether or not their experience is suited to the position they’re applying for.

2.     From what you have learned about our company and this role, how could you make a contribution?
This question will help you discover whether your candidate is a serious contender for a role. Great candidates will have done their research on your company before the interview, and will know how they can make a valuable contribution to your business. The answer to this question should be bursting with enthusiasm, and must demonstrate some prior knowledge of your company. Watch out for generic answers – they’ll come from unsuitable candidates.

3.     Where do you see yourself in five years?
Want to gauge how ambitious and driven an individual is? Ask them this question. Pay attention not only to their vocal answer, but also to their body language as they respond. A truly ambitious, committed and motivated person will appear animated and passionate when talking about their hopes for the future. This is the kind of person you want representing your company.

4.     Give me an example of a time that you had to go above and beyond to get the job done or accomplish a task?
Their answer to this question will give you a sense of how dedicated the candidate is to their career. If they can’t think of any examples at all, it speaks volumes about their levels of commitment and overall attitude to their job.

5.     Do you have any questions?
This is a fairly standard interview technique – and for good reason. This question can speak volumes about a person, and it gives you more of an insight into their overall personality. If the candidate answers ‘no’ to this question, it’s more likely (though not certain) that they’re a passive person who lacks initiative. If the person asks self-centred questions about their pay or benefits, they’re more engaged but perhaps not a team player. The perfect candidate asks questions about the job itself, the role, the company and the expectations of them as a potential employee.

So you see, asking the right questions can tell you all you need to know about a potential recruit for your team. 

For more articles to help you recruit for your sales team visit: http://www.aaronwallis.co.uk/employer_client_advice.aspx

Saturday 31 January 2015

Do Yourself a Favour – When Looking For Sales Jobs, Choose a Specialist Sales Recruitment Agency.

Go to a supermarket to buy sausages, or whatever product you care to choose, and you will have to walk past a vast number of other products that you don’t want, or need, in order to get to them.
That’s how the system works, you see things that you didn't even think you wanted, or needed, but now you do – and you will probably buy at least some of them.

Some recruitment websites and agencies are rather like that. They are the recruitment equivalent of a supermarket. Once you are on their books they’ll show you jobs that may not be a good fit for your skills, because it’s in their interest to do so - after all, they’ll receive a commission if you, their candidate, succeeds in obtaining the job in question. It may be that the jobs that they show you are not even sales jobs at all.

By dealing with a specialist sales recruitment agency you will get to see only sales jobs. If the agency is a good one then they will drill down into your skill set, qualifications and training in order to make sure that they only put you forward for roles where you are likely to be a great fit.

This doesn't mean that you can’t change track with regard to the things you sell or the way that you want to do that selling. For example, someone with telesales experience may want to move into field sales or perhaps an experienced car salesperson might decide to go into selling computers or software services.

What’s important here is to demonstrate that you have experience in the sales process and not place too much emphasis on the product knowledge. There used to be a popular trick in sales interviews where the interviewer would hand the candidate a pen and say “sell me that pen.”

Although this is a bit of a cliché nowadays, I stopped doing it years ago, but in principle it does demonstrate the view, that many people have, which is that a good salesperson should be able to sell anything. It is, according to this theory, the sales technique that matters, not the product knowledge.

Of course, this is only a guide and it would be tough for someone with experience selling advertising in a local directory, for example, to step into selling medical equipment to doctors, but many employers will take the view that if someone comes across as a good salesperson then they could be given the product training to enable them to sell the more specialised product.

If you apply for sales jobs through a specialist sales recruitment agency they will take the time to compare your skills and experience to the profile that the employer has given them of their “ideal” candidate. Perhaps the employer might be wanting to take on a sales person with specific specialist knowledge of their product and, especially if it is a fairly senior role, they might only want to consider experienced people.

On the other hand, they may be willing to consider someone with good sales skills and then give them the product knowledge afterwards – by applying for sales jobs through a sales recruitment agency you can be sure that the agency will have established this by discussing the role with the employer prior to putting forward candidates.

As a jobseeker, all you need to do is submit your CV and other details to a specialist sales recruitment agency like Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment. They will take the time to speak to you and find out more about you so that they can put you forward as a candidate for the sales jobs that are right for you.

Thursday 29 January 2015

Despite the Overwhelming Shift Towards Inbound Marketing in Many Organisations – One Sales Role Seems Resistant to the Shift towards Outbound Oblivion – Telesales!

There can be few sales roles that vary in scope so much as that of telesales. The role can involve a variety of tasks ranging from simple service centre call answering and attempting to cross-sell or up-sell to existing product users, through to outbound “cold” calling and following up of leads which are, shall we say, not too strong.
When recruiting telesales staff employers are often keen to stress that, although basic salaries for telesales roles can be often be low, the on target earnings, (OTE), is often much higher due to the existence of a very good bonus or commission scheme.

Get Guidance From A Telesales Recruitment Agency
Guidance on industry average salary levels can be obtained from a specialist telesales recruitment agency. Those roles which involve high-intensity outbound cold calling are frequently more demanding and therefore often carry higher On Target Earnings than those which involve answering inbound calls from “warm” prospects.
Be Sure Know Your Telesales Recruitment Criteria
When recruiting telesales staff for an inbound role, one of the main criteria is to ensure that as well as being able to sympathetically handle an inbound call which may be a complaint to begin with, the telesales operator should be able to identify any opportunities to cross sell the client to an alternative product which may be a better fit or to upsell them to a product which has more, or better, features at a higher cost, of course.
A Nose For Business
This “salesman’s nose” is what enables good salespeople to identify an opportunity and develop it to the point when a sale or upgrade can be achieved. Not all operators will possess this skill so it is important to select candidates who either have it, or can be trained to acquire it very quickly.
Poor Sales Recruitment Can Lead To Missed Opportunities
Every inbound service call is a potential sales opportunity for many companies so it is important to scope out your proposed role in order to reflect this before starting the telesales recruitment process. This is a prime example of a situation where it can pay big dividends to use the services of a specialist telesales recruitment agency.
Telesales - The First Step On The Sales Ladder
For many, their first telesales role is simply the first step on the sales career ladder, leading up to a role perhaps as a field sales representative or account manager. Again, it is important to be able to recognise these qualities when recruiting telesales staff so that their career path can be managed accordingly.
It Can Be Cold Out There!
Alternatively, if your proposed telesales recruitment process is designed to attract a more hardcore applicant, one capable of successfully handling cold leads, then the criteria will be markedly different. This breed of telesales person is unlikely to be sitting around waiting for inbound calls and will usually work through a database or other prospect list until he or she finds someone willing to listen to their pitch.
Here, the qualities looked for, whilst having a lot in common with those described above for inbound salespeople, should include tenacity, dogged determination and a refusal to acknowledge the existence of the word “no”.

A rarer animal, no doubt, but with the aid of a competent telesales recruitment agency like Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, they can be found.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Here’s something to ponder on when you are considering the addition of a new member to your sales team – why would any successful sales professional want to leave their current job if they are good at it and they are being properly rewarded for doing it?

After all, it takes a while to learn about a product range, build up a client base and work on the relationships between salesperson and client that produce ongoing repeat business. It takes time to build trust in that relationship, so why would anyone who has been through that process successfully want to change jobs and come to work for you?

There are, of course, lots of reasons why someone might be considering such a move but not all of them bode well for you as a potential employer.

If the sales professional has been successful in their previous role they may feel that their current employer does not offer sufficient room for growth and development of their career – this is especially true of smaller companies where there are fewer opportunities to progress into management.
Someone in this position may not be too concerned with the salary structure – as long as they were not worse off in moving to you, but would be more motivated by the realistic prospect of a sales manager role at some point in the near future.

When interviewing candidates I personally try to avoid the somewhat clichéd “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” type of question and try to shape the conversation around where the candidate feels his strengths and weaknesses lie and what he feels he has to offer that he cannot offer in his current situation.

Do younger or less experienced colleagues turn to him for advice or guidance? Does he enjoy helping other to gain experience? How does he interact with management and does he find it easy to summarise his day-to-day sales activities into a verbal or written report that can provide management with an accurate idea of the business he expects to be able to deliver in the coming weeks and months?

There are, of course, those whose motivation is simply financial – or at least that is what they will tell you.

I well remember working with a member of my sales team who simply would not consider a management position, despite being absolutely ideal for career progression in that direction.

Whenever the subject of career progression was raised he always declined to get involved with it.

Why was that? As it turns out he was very focused on one thing and one thing only – saving up enough money to put down a realistic deposit and buy a house. He had built up a decent client base through sheer hard work and repeat business was plentiful so he had set himself a timescale in which to achieve his goal and buy that house.

Interestingly, once that goal was achieved he applied for the first management role that came up – and got it!

My point is this – he always did want to progress up the management ladder but the more urgent need at that time was to buy a home for his young family. It was perfectly possible for him to earn more than a newly appointed manager because his extensive and loyal client base were producing large amounts of repeat business so a move into management, despite carrying a higher base salary, would have meant losing valuable commission.

What I failed to do at first was to recognise this fact and interpreted his reluctance to move into sales management as lack of ambition.

There are many things that you simply cannot ask at an interview and this could prevent delving too deeply into someone’s personal circumstances but I could have found out more about him and his intentions by asking about his priorities, how he gets on with management and whether he could interpret sales data in a way that would be meaningful to non-sales staff.

For example, “how would you explain your current sales pipeline to a member of the manufacturing staff, or someone working in the warehouse, or the finance manager?

If the candidate demonstrates an understanding of how his performance might impact others you may get a clue as to whether they are at least starting to think like a manager.

These are qualities and skills to look out for when recruiting sales staff who you can expect to keep on-board for a long time. Let them know that there are opportunities for development within but that they should expect to contribute more than just sales – you are looking for a salesperson that can be an interface between the management of the company and its customers and prospective customers, not just someone who can deliver a sales pitch – although that is, of course, important too.

If all of this sounds a little daunting never fear - there are specialist sales recruiters out there who can help you by supplying candidates who demonstrate all the necessary properties for making a successful move into your organisation. At Aaron Wallis we concentrate of finding the best sales professionals for your requirements so contact us today and find out more.

Friday 16 January 2015

As Digital Marketing Takes Over As The De-Facto Standard For Most Business, How Should That Affect Your Sales Recruitment Policy?

When recruiting sales staff, most companies should bear in mind that the old “banging on doors,” mentality is largely redundant, due mainly to the changes in marketing methods and lead generation technology.

So what qualities do sales recruiters now need to look for in a typical salesperson?

I fully accept and acknowledge that every company is different and what works for one may not work for another but the onslaught of inbound digital marketing processes has caught many organisations off-guard and left them reeling.

The biggest change witnessed by many has been the change in the way that leads are generated and the degree to which the prospect has progressed along the sales process when an enquiry is made.

Take, for example, PPC, (Pay Per Click) marketing as a method of generating leads.

PPC works something like this:

A prospective customer for your product or service carries out a search on Google, (there are other versions of this for Bing & Yahoo as well as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook).

He  or she enters the search terms that are relevant to the product they are searching for, eg:

“Volkswagen Golf”

and they are shown a page of results which includes a number of ads or “sponsored messages”. These ads are small, (Google only allows a total of 95 characters in total, 45 less than a Tweet), so they have to come straight to the point, e.g:

Wide Range of VW Golf
Low prices, part exchange welcome
New & Used, call for test drive

What happens next is very important - so far, the business owner who placed this ad has not spent a penny. If, and only if, the prospect clicks on the ad and is taken to the website, does Google make a charge for showing the ad, hence “Pay Per Click”.

Now, lets imagine that the prospect is more specific when making their search:

“Buy VW golf”
“Used VWGolf prices”
If either of the above variations is used, i.e. the word “buy” or “prices” is included in the search, then this is an indication of intent. They are going to buy - all the salesperson has to do is respond accordingly when answering to any enquiry generated by this process.

Because the salesperson is aware of the search terms used he or she can gauge their response accordingly. The “tyre kickers” can be sent a simple email offering more assistance if required whereas the prospect who included “buy,” or "used" in the search phrase would definitely be worth a bit more effort, planning and a follow-up email or telephone call if possible.

Now that many organisations are generating sales leads this way, the level of data available to the salesperson is much more detailed than ever before.

Has this made the sales process easier? Well, yes it probably has but the problem is - it has made it easier for everyone, including your competitors.

So what qualities are needed in a salesperson now that were not needed before?

The main difference is in the way that people expect to be interacted with in a way which is appropriate to their method of enquiry.

In some cases, an online shop for example, there may not be any interaction, the buyer will place their order and that’s all there is to it, but this type of operation will probably not employ salespeople anyway.

In other cases however, the enquiry is just that, an enquiry. Yes, the prospect does intend to buy but they still need convincing that yours is the right company to buy from.

Enter the salesperson. This time, however, it is a well-informed salesperson, armed with a pile of relevant data about the prospect. 

The exact details that they searched for, when and where they searched. Where they saw details of the product - was it Google, Facebook, LinkedIn or on a specialist website about cars, or golf, or whatever is relevant?

If a telephone number has been provided then a quick call could close the business. If no number is provided then maybe we have the email address - a quick response offering a catalogue, a test drive, or a free assessment, whatever is relevant, should clinch it - after all we already know what the prospect searched for, looked at, and responded to.

So yes, we are still recruiting salespeople, they still need to be ambitious, hard working and enterprising but, crucially, they also have to be responsive. Today’s inbound lead generation methods are sophisticated and cut out a lot of the time-wasting involved in cold calling, leaflet dropping and other outmoded methods of generating enquiries.

It follows then that when recruiting sales and marketing staff we should be looking for people who can generate focused enquiries, respond to them quickly and turn the prospect into a customer as quickly as possible. This requires an awareness of Social Media, EMail and the use of a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), to monitor and progress leads from inception to fruition. It is also useful to have a thorough understanding of how people behave on websites and the level to which they should be interacted with.

As long as you recruit sales staff that display all of those qualities then success is assured. When using a specialist sales recruitment agency like Aaron Wallis then you will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the candidates referred to you will have been assessed in order to ensure that they demonstrate the right qualities for the job that you are offering.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

The 3 Main Characteristics Of Successful Sales Professionals – PMA, Hard Work And Process

I’ve spent the last seventeen years meeting circa 200-300 sales people per year and often ask what particular quality, or attribute, they put their success down to.  Of course there have been many, many answers but of these thousands of sales people, they’ve commonly mentioned similar ‘themes’ which I’ve distilled down and summarised as the following three qualities:

Positive Mental Attitude
Hard Work

1. Positive Mental Attitude

Having a positive attitude  is vital in sales. If you don’t believe in your product, and more importantly believe in yourself, then why would any customer want to buy from you? Having a positive attitude  in everything that you do leads to more positive outcomes, and these, in turn, increase your chances of success.

Some people have an ‘ingrained’ positive mental attitude, but others have to work hard to develop this self-belief and to try to see the positive in every situation no matter how tough it may be. 
I used to work with a recruiter who after every cold call rejection said, “thanks very much, you’ve helped me to make it one call closer to my target today." The target client was always puzzled by his response, they questioned his rationale?  His answer was that he knew from his own stats that if he made 50 completely cold calls, he’d get 1 ‘yes’ and that’s all he needed to hit his daily target leading to his weekly target leading to the monthly target. Okay this was a long time ago and selling has somewhat changed, but he was consistently a top-performing sales person out of a team of eighty (and actually his cold call-lead rate was more 1:5 as this approach always intrigued the target clients to want to find out more!).  This approach of seeing a positive in every rejection was, he felt, the key to his success. 

2. Hard Work

Achieving success in any field takes hard work but this is particularly pertinent in sales.  No matter how sales has changed I still firmly believe in the ‘mathematics of sales’, i.e. the more that you put into the top of the pipeline the more return you get at the bottom. 

It always helps to break down the ‘big sales goal’ into manageable weekly, daily and even hourly targets.  Working hard requires discipline and dedication to take the small steps towards your goal every day. Working hard means dedicating a percentage of each day to topping up your pipeline even if it feels it is full to the brim. Working hard is keeping going no matter how many rejections you’ve taken.

In sales, it’s always tempting to ‘call it a day’ and not bother prospecting for the final hour that you should be doing.  However, it's commonly when your back is truly ‘up against the wall’ that you get that break, and everything starts to turn around.  As Seneca once said, and I’ve plagiarised and regularly quote:  ‘Luck is the crossroads between preparation and perspiration’.

3. Process

All great sales professionals work to a sales process, sometimes intuitively.  It’s amazing how many salespeople I’ve met who claim ‘I don’t work to a process – I don’t need something as inflexible to work within’ and so on.  I then ask them to walk me through a recent sale, and it’s typically ‘Seven Steps’ or ‘Needs Creation Selling’.  Perhaps they hadn’t learned it formally, but they were subconsciously following the same path or approach, in every sale that they’d concluded.

These sales processes can be sales strategies, daily plans, a workflow, a formal ‘sales technique’ or even following a CMS path ticking every step along the path as the client is taken through the buying process.

There are many advantages to utilising a sales process, and this could be as simple as learning from successful colleagues, replicating it and adding your own style.  Alternatively, it could be as complicated as formally reviewing the best practitioners in your business, what works-what doesn’t, structuring it against formal models and creating your individual process to follow.  By working a process and being disciplined to consistently use it and to add all data to a system you ensure that none of your sales leads fall through the cracks.

More importantly, however, by using a well-defined sales process, you can ensure that you prioritise and this helps accurately forecast your own performance and move your leads through to closure at a considerably quicker rate. Overall, a sales process makes planning and closing greatly more efficient. With a sales process in place, it’s also easier to measure success, get consistent results and be on top of your forecasting and your KPIs leading to that ‘big target’.

To conclude becoming a successful sales professional takes time, sweat, skill and tenacity. Of course there’s some major generalisations here as there’s no ‘set blueprint for success’ that will work for everyone.  

However, IMHO the three common ‘themes’ required for success are a positive attitude, working to proven processes and hard work/application.  Do you agree?

Rob Scott is a geek about sales and has commissioned the largest ever surveys of UK sales professionals.  Click here for statistics on the UK sales industry.