How can you save $25,000 on your next new sales rep?

Twenty five thousand dollars is a lot of money to gamble with.  That is a very conservative figure when totaling up the cost of hiring and training a new sales rep.  With that kind of cash outlay a few wrong decisions can be quite costly.  Here are some specific qualities to look for while conducting the interview.

Patience.  If you take a walk through any book store and look and the success section, many of the titles hint on the idea that your sales success is guaranteed instantly if you follow their formula.  Turn on the TV and during a commercial break all of your problems can be solved within 30 seconds after taking a certain pill.  The generation coming into our business has unrealistic expectations when it comes to success as a sales professional, and when it doesn’t happen instantly, they quit.  They are used to instant gratification.  The key to finding out if they have patience is to ask them: “How long they think it will take to become a true professional in this business?’ See how close they come to three years. Most of them will say 3 months.

Persistence.  Many sales training programs are built with all the emphasis on closing.  Some say that you should close after a maximum of three calls, others say you should try and close at least 5 times during any interview.  If you are calling on an account and the close comes too easily, you can be sure that someone else can take your business away just as easily.  The best accounts are the ones that are hard to get, and this is where persistence comes in.  There are success stories in our business that are simply unbelievable when you hear about the length of time it has taken someone to open an account or build their territory.  This quality of persistence is of vital importance in hiring a new sales rep.  During the interview ask them:  What their biggest accomplishment has been and how long it took to accomplish it?  See how close they come to two years.

Personality.  Everyone knows that distributor sales is a relationship business and a good personality is important.  It is easy  for a person to bring out their best side when everything is going smoothly.  The true personality test is to see how things are handled when the chips are down.  Especially when the things that are going wrong are someone else’s fault.  If a product is out of stock, the truck is late, the wrong product was shipped, will they take the side of the customer and fight against the company, or will they work towards solving the problem? The key question to ask is:  “How do you feel about accepting responsibility for someone else's mistakes?”

Product Knowledge.  Considering the number of line items it takes to maintain a competitive inventory, gaining sufficient product knowledge is a long, slow process.  With new products being introduced continuously and old ones being changed or discontinued, it becomes a real challenge to stay on top of the necessary information. The secret of gaining product knowledge is to compare points of difference.  What is the difference between a Choice and No Roll?  What is the difference between a Water Added and a Ham and Water Product?  Each point of difference will change the price and the value of the product.  As professional foodservice sales people we must be able to sell value added products.  See what kind of definition they come up with when you ask the meaning of “Value Added Selling”.

Motivation.  At least 80% of a sales persons time is spent unsupervised.  In our business it is important that a sales person has a high level of self motivation.  They should be hungry and have a strong desire for success. The key question to ask:  “What motivates you to keep doing the things that are necessary for success?”  Look for goal setters, people who have personal and financial goals big enough to make them do the things the failures don’t like to do.

Self improvement.  Nearly all of the top sales professionals I have met over the years have one thing in common. Even though they are on the top of their game, they still believe they can do better.  They are the first ones to step up to the plate when it comes to learning new skills or hearing about a new product that will help their customers.

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