Guest Column: Modern Salespeople Must Be Agile
In the current environment, we are looking for more agility: people who can sell transactionally by phone or email, are adept at social media and have the ability to nurture relationships when it's appropriate. In addition to telephone and in-person interviews, I've employed a psychologist for the past two decades to help me before we make an offer. (We also use the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire or 16PF.)
To judge a prospective seller's agility we look for proven success on complex assignments. This provides us with some reasonable assurance that the person has the capacity for an account that will surely require more complex selling. We don't have a single assignment today where the publisher isn't thinking about changes to their products that will invariably add to the seller's challenge.
This new breed of salesperson must be able to express herself in writing, and understand and be able to communicate mathematic concepts quickly. There are two methods we use to gauge a person's mathematic ability. First, the 16PF testing includes some basic math problems. It's a simple screen but one that's very telling. In addition, every interview today includes discussions around pricing since price is an essential part of every selling situation, especially since the publishers' product menus have become longer with varying audience sizes, product frequencies and, hence, costs.
We find that writing skills are easy to judge because candidates have multiple opportunities to express themselves throughout the application process: the cover letter, the thank-you note after the initial interview, and perhaps the most overlooked tool-the interview itself. When you have a candidate who butchers syntax in a face-to-face or phone interview, you can be sure that person will be equally troubled with the written word. And, poorly crafted proposals always have a predictable ending.