What qualities make a good salesperson for a small start-up?

I’m looking to hire my first sales person and I don’t know quite what to look for. What qualities make a good salesperson for a small start-up business like mine?


To find the right salesperson, you have to know what you’re looking for. You need to consider what’s important to you and your business and what’s important to the applicant. You’re looking for a good fit. I believe that the most important quality in a salesperson is the ability to communicate.


Ask questions during the interview that give the applicant the chance to demonstrate their personality, experience and expertise. Listen carefully to their responses and see whether you can identify traits that would make the applicant a super employee.


Think about the personal attributes that are important to you. Ask applicants a question or two that pertains to some of these attributes. Rate applicants’ responses on a scale of one to five. The following is a list of attributes that are commonly valuable in a salesperson:


  • Attitude
  • Sales skills
  • People skills
  • Common sense
  • Communication skills
  • Motivation level
  • Product knowledge
  • Promotability
  • Leadership

If you rate employees on a scale of one to five, don’t be afraid to hire the “fives” just because they make you feel inferior. You need great employees to make your business grow; weak ones will drag you down. Hire attitude; train skills.


Questions to ask:

To gain a pretty deep understanding of your applicants (and to be better able to measure their suitability to your business), ask the following questions:


What did you like best about your last job?

If the applicant says “lunch” or “rostered day off”, you’re in trouble.


What did you like least about your last job?

This question can help you pick up negative attitudes and find out more about the person.


Why did you accept your last job?

 This is an important question because some of the reasons the applicant took their last job may be the same reasons they accept their next job. Listen carefully.


What is the most important element to you in your job?

You want to find the thing that excites them.


What are the most important features to you in a manager?

The answer to this question can provide valuable information because you can use it if you hire this person. It can help you understand what your staff want.


Could you describe your ideal job if you were to work here?

This is my favourite question because you want people to stay with you a long time, and the applicant may if you use their answer to create an ideal job situation. You want people to feel that they’re working in their ideal job.


In addition to the preceding questions, I recommend using the following two lines, which I believe are the two most important things you can say during an interview:  


Tell me about that.

Get the applicant talking. The interview isn’t about you; it’s about the applicant. You’ll have plenty of time to describe the job. Whenever the applicant makes a statement, ask them to tell you more about it. This technique will help you keep your mouth shut and the applicant’s open, and that’s what you need.  


Which means what?

When the applicant says something that you don’t quite understand, just ask, “Which means what?” Keep asking, and you’ll eventually get to the real meaning.

Trust your intuition and check their references!


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