It’s a struggle for B2B organizations everywhere- how can you recruit the best talent. Sales is a career many are keen to embark on, but very few have the proper motivators, values and skills to be the best choice for your business. When looking at B2B sales specifically, some organizations have niche and individual products on the market, so finding sales talent with the necessary experience and knowledge is even more difficult. It’s time to stop focusing on the “sell me this pen” interview technique and dig deeper. What does an exceptional salesperson need for B2B sales success, and how can you learn quickly if they’re cut from the right cloth?
The qualities of B2B
Let’s start by looking at the characteristics of a B2B sales process. How can we assess where the best talent lies without knowing what we need from that talent first? Let’s delve into what makes a B2B sales process different from any other, and what that means for sales recruitment.
- More decision makers: We all know, a key distinction of a B2B sales process lies in the amount of decision makers involved in the buyer journey, with an average of 7 invested in every B2B purchase. Sometimes, this is easy for the salesperson, where one decision maker holds the ultimate power, and just needs a small nod from the other 6, but sometimes, it’s much more difficult. Pleasing one person on the end of a call is difficult, pleasing a room of 7, now that’s a skill! And it’s imperative to a successful B2B salesperson. Your candidates needs to have the ability to work with all different personality types, gain charisma in a crowd and continually come across a respectful expert. No easy feat!
- More money: Again- it will come as no surprise that another enormous factor to bear in mind for B2B sales is the amount of money involved. Business purchases can be for hundreds, even thousands, and when we remember that the money rarely belongs to the person spending it, the value intensifies. Encouraging people to hand over a large amount of money they don’t own? That’s another skill. Your sales talent needs the ability to truly prove the value of your product, justifying the large spend by proving the future return, especially if it’s a contractual service. There is little-to-no emotion involved in a business purchase, which differs hugely from the “impulse buying” we often do as consumers, so your candidates need to curate and nurture a relationship between your product and the prospect, confirming its true value and helping prospects part with those big figures.
- More product complexity: People often forget that products sold to businesses are often much more complex than products we buy as consumers. We may initially dispute this, as objects like “office furniture” seem very simple and not complex at all, but when put them into a business environment, where chairs and tables are bought in hundreds to fill an open office space, it all become a little trickier, and indeed, much more complex. This is a struggle seen by many B2B organizations serving unique industries, as their product can’t just be sold like a pen, it’s got specific use cases and fills intricate needs. Their sales team need to not only fully understand these complexities, but also have the ability to mold them to the prospect, and understand how it can benefit their business needs.
Along with a myriad of other skills, these three are essential to any B2B sales process, and therefore, are essential to the talent you go on to hire. So now the eternal question- how can you tell if the candidate is the right one? How do you know if they are (or can be) an exceptional salesperson? Here are a few hints, to help get you started…
Know their values
When it comes to recruiting sales talent, this is vital in so many ways. Knowing someone’s values encapsulates a huge amount, and you of course can’t know all of them, especially from a piece of paper and a short 20 minute interview. However if you ask the right questions, you can find out what you need to know.
Firstly, you need to know what drives them. Many say that to be successful in sales, you need to be driven by money- this is a total lie. Being money driven can get you only so far; to be great in sales, you need to be driven by people, be keen to help them and enjoy problem solving. You may be selling a product for money, but it will be sold by your desire to understand people’s needs and solve their problems.
You also need to know their moral values. It’s a common thought that being a good salesperson is synonymous with being a good liar. This is a toxic attitude to sales, and causes B2B buyers to lose trust in every call they have, so don’t promote this myth. Give candidates a scenario, where they must choose between telling the prospect the truth, though it could hurt their chances, or lying to them. If they chose to lie, what does it say about their values? Lying will only hurt your chances of retention/upsell later- don’t stand for it.
Ask them also about their career goals and aspirations. This is an obvious one, but it tells you how much they value their career, and if it’s just a job to them, or if they’re driven to achieve more. Even if they aren’t 100% sure sales is for them, if they value their career and professional reputation with a drive to learn and grow, they could be an exceptional candidate further down the line.
Assess their technical abilities
This may seem like a curve ball when recruiting sales talent, but it’s actually very important, and as technology advances, the skills needed to use it become paramount. Successful sales teams have software to help them, from a good CRM to sales lead generation tools (like Lead Forensics), so any talent you recruit needs to be tech aware, with a healthy understanding they can put to good use. Recent studies show 90% of B2B sales professionals describe sales tech as either “important” or “very important” to closing sales. Teams refusing to embrace new technologies will soon start to suffer, so don’t miss the boat and on-board new candidates that only have basic computer knowledge.
Technical ability helps candidates perform well in every aspect; they’re able to easily manage and organize data in your CRM, they can use software such as LinkedIn to help their sales processes and are able to easily work technology in front of prospects if called for, like running conference calls or showing online demonstrations. You can also confidently rely on them to have basic knowledge of spreadsheet softwares, benefiting reporting and analysis- a vital skill if they’re looking to progress in business.
Be thorough with references
References can sometimes fall by the wayside, especially if you’re already so convinced the candidate is excellent, a small part of you doesn’t want a reference to ruin things… But skipping references can be a huge mistake. Of course everyone looks great on paper and comes across well in their interview- it’s a given! To get the exceptional talent, go the extra mile and call in their references. It may seem overkill, but ask for 4 references, including their previous employer. This ensures the references you get are balanced, and you’ll get a genuine feel for how your candidate performs.
When you contact the references, ask the usual questions about their conduct, but also ask about things they mentioned in their interview. If they said that whilst at XXX company, they did XXX amazing thing, check that its true- they may not have been involved at all! Also ask about what career aspirations they expressed whilst working there, so you can be sure they align. If they’ve told you their passion is and has always been B2B sales, but just a few months before they said it was market research- then you need to get some facts straight.
Test their sales knowledge
We don’t mean a literal test! See how much they know about the world of B2B sales during the interview, and drop in a few bits of basic B2B sales terminology and mention some on-topic sales techniques followed up by a few questions, and see how they react. We’re not saying they need to know everything from the off, but having some sales knowledge proves that they’re actively learning. Exceptional sales people go through their training, then continue to train themselves, reading and researching sales practices and techniques. This is what separates the promising candidates, from the general run-of-the-mill; they don’t believe they’re already perfect, and they continue to grow their abilities and better their success.
See if you can discuss sales strategies with them, and ask them to draw on experiences of using certain tactics. Ask them as well about their favourite business blogs or content they like to read- anyone actively researching will have a few go-to inspirations, who they enjoy keeping up with and learning from. Talking about these things lets the candidate open up, and become more comfortable, so you can really see the passion that drives them in this discussion.
Make sure they know what to expect
This is something you need to check- are they sat in your interview room because this is a job of preference or because this is a job of last resort? At the start of the interview, ask them what they think the job role entails- stress there is no wrong answer! This gives you insight into how much research they’ve done into your company, and how they expect to spend “a day in the life”. From this, you know if they applied because they’re passionate about what you do, and the role you’re offering, or if they applied because they need the work, or hate their current job, and are desperate for something new.
This also helps the interview itself offer more value, as you can set the record straight from the start. As you’re both on the same page with what’s expected, the candidate will offer you their best answers, so you can get a better gauge of their skills and experience in relation to the role in question. It’s all very well them talking you through a recent experience where they performed well, but if it’s not relevant to the role, then it’s not helpful to either of you!
Recruiting exceptional sales talent helps your team produce the best results, generating valuable revenue and driving business growth. Take time and pride in selecting the most outstanding candidates, so you can build a world-class sales team!
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