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How to identify candidate's sales acumen ?

15 Apr 2011

How to identify candidate's sales acumen ?

Sales ability is not just a question of experience. It's also a matter of personality and motivation. Whatever the sphere of activity or the particular requirements of the job, it's clear that the most successful sales people all possess the same common denominator: an ability to sell – a skill that may be difficult to describe, but which is identifiable if you adopt a multi-faceted approach.

Selling is a profession, but it's also an amalgamation of different jobs, a fact that certain businesses in search of the rare pearl tend to forget. Not content with looking for a good prospector who's capable of developing a business base and maintaining good relations with clients, they also look for someone with management and marketing know-how – not to mention four or five years' experience in a specific sector. The problem is that the five-legged sheep simply doesn't exist! Instead of searching for the impossible, recruiters should define the job according to its dominant characteristics, concentrating on the priorities that will occupy 80 percent of the time of the person ultimately recruited. Then, to widen their search, they should concentrate on candidates' sales acumen.

Analysing motivation

In interviews, it's not unusual to hear candidates say that they can only sell products that they themselves are convinced by. That's a view that tends to indicate that such people are less inclined towards selling than they would have you believe. Research has shown that a flair for sales is a quality shared by most talented salespeople. It's very much like the talent for negotiation that generally becomes evident during the discussion of their own contracts. In much the same way as you can determine whether someone is a self-starter or enjoys making contact by telephone, these aptitudes can be discovered during interview, but they can also be accurately identified using tests that focus on professional priorities as well as tests aimed at recognising sales potential.

Looking at personality types

As well as considering motivation, it's also worth taking a look at the personality of the candidate. Personality tests and interviews will allow a more rounded evaluation of motivation and will identify whether or not a candidate has the character traits common to the best salespeople. Such individuals are generally dynamic extroverts with a taste for action. Independence is another common trait, as is the fact that such people are frequently less consensual than average. Without resorting to stereotypes, these personality traits can be valuable signposts for identifying the sales acumen of any candidate.

Focus on expertise

Taking both motivation and personality as a given, will the candidate have the expertise and the skill of a good sales person? An ability to compete, resourcefulness, good interpersonal skills, and adaptability are all indicators to watch out for. In this context, role-plays are a very useful exercise. CVs, interviews, motivation and personality tests, analysis of expertise, and role-plays ... it's by looking at each of these different factors, and by using the tools available in each case, that recruiters can successfully identify candidates' sales acumen.

Patrick Leguide,
CEO Central Test