How to find weaknesses of sales candidates

BY ROBERT P. MADER OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF CHARLESTON, S.C. There's a difference between a salesperson who can sell and one who will sell. The way to find that out is with the types of questions contractors should ask during the interview process, said sales consultant Mark Berezow, executive vice president of TEM Associates, in October during the 21st Annual Mechanical Service Contractors of America

BY ROBERT P. MADER
OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF

CHARLESTON, S.C. — There's a difference between a salesperson who can sell and one who will sell. The way to find that out is with the types of questions contractors should ask during the interview process, said sales consultant Mark Berezow, executive vice president of TEM Associates, in October during the 21st Annual Mechanical Service Contractors of America Educational Conference here.

Owners have business goals and they need to have people who can help them reach their goals, Berezow said. So how do business owners figure out if a prospective salesperson has the right stuff?

A can-sell prospect shows up properly dressed, speaks well, is pleasant, has some knowledge of the business and can give all the right answers. But can he execute? A contractor has to be able to ferret out sales flaws during the interview.

Flaws include items such as lack of desire or passion for the business. Does he really want to be there?

Some lack commitment. A good salesperson has to be willing to do whatever it takes even if it makes him uncomfortable, such as talking to strangers.

Contractors should look for good attitude, a person who has good self-esteem and is enthusiastic about the company and his co-workers. Another flaw is making excuses. A good salesperson has to take responsibility and not blame outside forces such as high pricing or the sales literature.

Berezow said salespeople suffer from five common weaknesses that can neutralize their strengths and skills.

The first is his personal buying cycle that does not support the selling process. How a salesperson makes large purchases influences what he will accept from a process. It can make him vulnerable to "think-itovers," comparison shoppers, price shoppers and researchers.

A second flaw is need for approval, which Berezow said is a society-wide flaw, not just a personal problem. People want to be liked more than they want to ask tough questions and close the sale. They don't want to be confrontational. A salesperson can be trained what to say to objections, but just won't do it. A salesperson who can be pushed beyond that need for approval can close 35% more sales, Berezow said.

The third is the money weakness. Many salespeople are uncomfortable talking about money and are unable to uncover the prospect's actual budget. A person may have an unrealistic idea of how much money constitutes "a lot." Contractors have to find out during the interview what the prospective employee thinks is a lot.

Another weakness is getting emotionally involved. A prospect says something negative, then the salesperson takes an emotional hit and stops listening. He strays into negative selftalk and loses control over the sales process. A salesperson can sell 20% more if he can control his thoughts and emotions, Berezow said.

Berezow has named the final weakness "the record collection." It's a list of non-supportive beliefs that will sabotage the sales process. Berezow has come up with more than 60 self-limiting "records," such as, "I can't call on top company executives," or "It's not OK to confront a prospect." Most salespeople have at least a half dozen of these self-limiting records, he said.

Berezow has a suggested interviewing method. Bring the candidate in and be neutral, the same atmosphere he would encounter on a sales call. Can he bond with you? Stop talking at some point and see if he starts sweating or keeps talking.

Ask him to rank in importance money, people other than family and performance. You want money to come up first, but performance is acceptable. If he says people, his need for approval is too high.

To test his buying cycle, ask how he went about his last major purchase other than a house or car.

Ask how much he earns. You want a salesperson making at least 80% of what you hope to get out of the position. If you want a $100,000 guy, Berezow said, then hire a $100,000 guy. Salespeople don't double their commissions by switching jobs.

Attack the prospect a little bit and see if he defends his position. That's a will-sell person.

At the end of the interview, say something noncommittal, such as you'll bring him back for testing or you'll call him — see if he tries to close you.