So, we are officially out of the recession. That does not mean we are home and dry, but it does suggest there are pockets of positivity to be found. Companies with potential are going places, and the job market is picking up.
But, if that is the case, why can't I find any decent sales staff to help realise the potential of our business?
When I made the decision over the new year to recruit some more sales professionals, I thought there would be a huge pool of talent from which I could cherry-pick the best of the best to help drive the business forward. Instead, I find myself sitting across the desk from candidates that have not even bothered to take a look at our website, let alone bring new ideas to the table.
You know it is going to be a long hour when candidates arrive and ask if you have a copy of their CV, studiously avoiding eye contact. It does not bode well. Even if they make it past that first hurdle, they are quite often woefully underprepared for the interview.
They cannot even tell me what our corporate colours are, despite being in a meeting room helpfully painted those very colours (orange and blue, thanks for asking).
They clearly have not researched the role, and have not thought about how to use their previous experience and transferable skills to offer something a little bit different from the norm.
I want to see candidates who understand the sales process: the importance of nurturing a pipeline, creating properly qualified leads and persevering throughout a long sales cycle to get the right result. They need to be realistic about their ability to hit target in their first three weeks. I accept that you are rarely going to be able to make target that quickly, and so should they.
And don’t get me started on what they wear. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but I do expect interviewees to turn up wearing a tie (if they are male) and a pair of shoes that have been polished at least once since the last recession ended. Yes, those little things are important.
Please, if you are looking for a new sales role, look the part. Clean your teeth, brush your hair, wear your best outfit and shine your shoes. Ensure your body language is alert and says ‘I’m interested’ during the interview.
Know the role for which you are applying. I always ask candidates how they describe themselves. I get a variety of replies: development managers, new business executives, account handlers, consultants. The answer I’m looking for is ‘sales professional’. If you don’t identify with the role, how can you excel at it?
Proper preparation is so often lacking. Thoroughly research the business that is offering the vacancy, and be prepared to answer questions on why you want to work for that specific company. If you cannot answer that question, you should not be in the hot seat.
Show you understand the typical problems suffered by customers, by reading around the subject. Demonstrate some technical knowledge. It does not have to be about bits and bytes, but you need to be able to show some level of understanding of IT solutions.
If the company you have applied to has a blog or LinkedIn membership, comment on recent posts ahead of your interview. Show you’re engaged in debate on subjects that are important to your prospective employer.
You could even use ‘mystery shopper’ tactics. Why not approach the company beforehand and see how your enquiry is dealt with. You can critique this at the interview; showing what worked well and what you would do differently.
Be constructive. No doubt you will have struggled with aspects of the sales process in a previous role. Ask the interviewer how they would deal with those issues. This displays maturity and experience.
This sounds obvious, but I am surprised by the number of interviewees who ask how they did and if they have what the company is looking for. If you did well and possess the skills and attitude that I am looking for, you will know it.
Mitchell Feldman is managing director at The Internet Group
Infrastructure provider says international sales now make up 51 per cent of its revenue
Suzanne Chappell of TMS plans sailing venture after selling Oxfordshire-based TMS to acquisitive Chess
Withdrawal of credit insurance by some providers a 'reflection' of current challenge facing IT sector, according to MD Steve Soper
SMART's UK managing director joins Lenovo to boost SMB business