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Ask the Experts: Essential traits of salespeople

By John Asher

Q: What are the best traits to look for when hiring a salesperson for your franchise and why?

John says:
Many franchisees make the mistake of hiring salespeople based only on their resumés and interviews, but with studies showing 50 per cent of sales success is determined by natural aptitude, it is best to use a personality assessment. There are several good ones available. I prefer the Advanced Personality Questionnaire (APQ) because it helps reveal nine behavioral traits that are attuned to an individual’s sales and business performance.

For a naturally talented ‘hunter’ salesperson, for example, you want to see high intensity and drive. You want salespeople who are internally driven to make their sales quota and who have the ‘fire in the belly’ needed to succeed.

You also want to see a high need for independence, as you want to hire salespeople who like to be in control of their own schedule. In many cases, this is the main reason such people enjoy a sales job.

Finally, you want to see high assertiveness. You want sales staff with the confidence to ask for the order when the buyer is ready.

Q: On the other hand, what traits should be avoided and why?

John says:
Franchisees should avoid hiring salespeople who are not naturally suited for the job. This is a common, costly mistake that hurts both the company and the individual.

A high ‘need to analyze,’ for example, is a very good trait in technical staff, but with salespeople, it should be avoided, as they can get stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’ and miss critically important deadlines.

Another trait to avoid is a high need to serve. This may seem counterintuitive, given you want your staff to focus on customer service, but when salespeople spend too much time on this, they are not fully generating revenue for your business.

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Finally, a trait that is particularly ill-suited for salespeople is low optimism. Sales is a tough process, where you need to fight through many a ‘no’ before you get to a ‘yes.’ Naturally talented salespeople are resilient and optimistic. They have positive expectations and confidence in their ability to achieve success, both for their employer and for themselves personally.

Q: What techniques will help a franchise develop its sales efforts further in the future?

John says:
There are many techniques franchisees can use to develop sales growth. You can make sure your salespeople are knowledgeable of your products, your customers, your market space and the competitive landscape you are dealing with.  You can boost their sales skills with training and by fostering an internal culture where ‘everyone’s in sales.’ You can equip them with software and other technologies, so they have the right tools to be as productive as possible. You can support best practices in sales and marketing processes, so your salespeople work more effectively in teams.

All of those are good, but the biggest return on investment (ROI) I have seen has come from using the APQ as a developmental tool, rather than just for hiring. Businesses where the entire staff is assessed end up seeing dramatically positive changes in terms of how those people work with each other going forward, because everyone learns to acknowledge differences and improve internal communications, which gets reflected in better sales communications with external buyers. Businesses that go through this ‘self-discovery’ process have been shown to reap an average 18 per cent increase in sales within one year, without making major changes to their staffing resources.

John Asher is chair, CEO and master facilitator for Asher Strategies, which offers sales advisory services. For more information, contact him via e-mail at jasher@asherstrategies.com.

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