The principles of selection for potentially successful sales personnel have not changed over the years. What may have changed is the attitude of people to selling; how they think about it and how they are influenced by the latest sales fashion. What actually makes a sales person great is the same now as it has always been, but it will depend on what is being sold and the length of the sales cycle.

The approach to selling recruitment services, as compared to selling capital equipment, is quite different, but the underlying principles remain the same. The primary success factor in most endeavours is having a good work ethic or commitment to the task or goal at hand; that is, being able to attend to the detail and having the vision to know what you want to achieve and how to achieve it. A strong work ethic, better described as the passion for the work you do, is absolutely essential in achieving greatness. In an ideal world, to achieve maximum productivity people should do what they do best. Unfortunately, most people don’t know what that is. Psychometric assessment can help answer this question.

In sales, the courage to engage with potential clients either to make the (cold) call, or to close the sale is possibly the next most important success factor. Just how do you find the person with the money, the authority and the need? The aim of the cold call is to introduce yourself, interest the potential client in what you have to sell, close the call by making an appointment, confirming it and getting off the phone. This can be tough, because mostly, you’ll be rejected.

How you cope with this rejection will determine whether selling is or is not for you. May I suggest you stubbornly ‘push through’. Once you’ve developed the resilience to ‘push through’, selling becomes much easier. Optimism lets you believe you will be successful but too many rejections will inhibit your performance, call it ‘call reluctance’. Rejection and the resulting ‘call reluctance’ is a performance inhibitor. It is possible for some people to associate cold calling with failure. If this occurs, self-confidence will be lowered and fear of cold calling can result. On the other hand for those who take the decision to ‘push through’, resilience can be the result. Resilience is an important personal characteristic which is displayed by a stubborn desire to succeed in the face of adversity.

Relationship skills or rather the ability to establish rapport quickly will engage the prospective client and develop trust. Your phone manner is important but it is unlikely the prospective client will base their decision to see you only on the basis of your ability to establish rapport. More likely they will have become interested in what you have told them about the product or service you are selling in the short time on the phone. And they would like to know more. They don’t want you as a friend and they’re probably not all that interested in telling you how their day has been. There is a real skill in asking for the appointment and ‘closing the sale’ but once you’ve made a date and time confirm the appointment, thank the potential client and get off the phone. Things won’t get any better.

The sales meeting with the prospective client provides an opportunity to display another essential range of skills. Engaging the client in a face-to-face meeting is a topic for a future discussion.

Philip Drake-Brockman, Principal Consultant, Human Resources Consulting Pty Ltd