What to look for when hiring a salesmanDown to Business is a weekly small business advice column featured in The World Newspaper, originally published online by the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network, and republished here with permission.

What qualities do I look for when hiring a sales person for my company?

Top sales people are the ones who listen to customers and partner with them in finding the right solution. They are people who want to help the customer succeed, not just make the sale. A great sales person is knowledgeable about the industry, the customer’s needs, and the products they are selling. A positive attitude, a pleasant demeanor, a willingness to ask open-ended questions then listen carefully to the answers, and a willingness to learn are all important sales traits. The best sales people set goals and plan how to reach those goals. In the interview process it’s important to ask questions that address these desirable characteristics.

The best sales people also require a fair compensation package. There are a number of sales compensation models ranging from 100 percent salary to 100 percent commission with a draw; most are some combination of salary and commission. Commissions tend to motivate employees to sell harder and spend less time learning about what the customer needs. Salaries tend to attract sales people who may excel at service and building relationships but take more time closing the deal. Your compensation package should be a reflection of the type of sales cycle your business has, the kind of salesperson you want to have, and the kind of product you sell.

One of the resources available to business owners as they design a fair and reasonable compensation package for sales people is the company human resources department. Working in conjunction with the accounting department, the human resources department can help develop an overall compensation package that has incentives for the sales staff without jeopardizing the profits of the company. Those companies too small to have a human resources department or an accounting department often turn to their industry association, their CPA, an employment agency, or the internet at large to learn more.

Sales personnel are an important part of the business team in growth-oriented companies. Sales people are often motivated by compensation that allows them to control how much they can earn by the amount of work they are willing to do. Develop a personnel plan that sets sales goals and identifies a compensation package to give the company and sales people the ability to succeed together.

If you have a small business question for Arlene, you can reach her at asoto@socc.edu.

Arlene SotoArlene Soto

Arlene M. Soto is the director of the Small Business Development Center at Tillamook Bay Community College. She came to Oregon in July 2007 from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network, where she managed the Region 4 office in Cheyenne for almost 13 years.