Thursday, 9 August 2012

Poll: Do you look for industry experience or superior selling skills when appointing a salesperson?

Recruiting a salesperson is a vital decision and should be considered to be a long-term investment. 

Earlier this year we discussed why employers make so many poor decisions when it comes to recruitment and one common mistake we identified was that even if you poach a candidate from a competitor, there is very rarely an ‘off the peg, select and forget” solution. This leads to the question, what is the best route to take in your selection process so that you maximise your return on investment

  • Appointing a salesperson with industry specific experience and contacts? 
  • Appointing a high calibre sales professional from another industry who can learn about the building product and construction industry and provide your company with even greater skills and rewards?
Please vote in our poll on how you approach this difficult recruitment dilemma.

A salesperson, or any customer-facing professional, is given a huge amount of trust by their employer. To many involved in the purchasing process, they are the company and their opinions on the company can be formed from the professionalism, reliability, approach and knowledge of the individual or team that they deal with. 

Product is naturally of paramount importance too, but the salesperson makes the difference between someone selecting from two products of similar specification. It is no good having a great product solution if the benefits are not explained to the right people in the right way that supports the marketing activity of the company. 

Selecting someone with direct industry experience is often the correct decision, but it can also be the easy option for the employer - the one that, once the appointment has been made, they can just leave the sales person to get on with it, as they assume that they know what they're doing! 
Companies will often lean naturally towards this approach as they think that they will get some easy sales conversions and do not need to invest as much in training. They also feel that it gives confidence to the customer that the sales person knows what they are talking about – this is not always true.

However, the key area that is much more difficult to train someone in is how to actually sell? This is a talent, whereas industry experience is just acquiring knowledge. Skills are transferable and can be used to sell any product to any market. If an employer is looking from outside the industry, they should evaluate the candidate on the following:
  • What is the buying process and the motivations of those involved in the products that they have sold? 
  • How do they overcome objections from customers? 

  • How do they deal with the competition? 
  • How do they promote and position the products/services that they have sold and focus on the product and not just price?
  • How do they meet and exceed the customers’ expectations? 
  • How do they adapt their approach to different customer types and personalities? 
  • How do they build trust and confidence with their customers? 
  • How can they demonstrate that they are keen to learn and develop their knowledge? 

If the approach that the candidate takes in the above areas can be applied to the product and market that you deal in, then you can confidently think about making an appointment. 
These are also questions that candidates should be asking themselves if they are looking to move from another industry, as selling skill relevance is perhaps the most important factor that can make them stand out from the crowd. 

Of course there are many salespeople with industry-specific experience that have superb sales skills and techniques - they are the candidates that an employer should ideally be looking for. 

Our advice to employers is not to rule out candidates from other industries and cloud the decision-making process just because another candidate has industry experience. Experience can be gained - talent is something that is much more difficult to acquire. 

At Pinnacle Consulting we select candidates from across industries that we believe have the skills to succeed in the building product sector. This is why we will take the time to get to know our candidates and their skills as well as their experience. 
We aim to provide employers with one of the following two candidates:
  • Someone that has industry experience combined with excellent sales skills 
  • Someone from outside the industry that has excellent sales skills that are appropriate to be applied within the building product sector and that has the ability to use these skills in our industry.
If you are looking to recruit and to gain that competitive edge, then call us to discuss your requirements on 01480 405225. 

We would love to hear from high-calibre sales professionals from any industry. Please call us for an informal chat about your career on 01480 405225 or register with us today. 

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