Challenge the Pros: What Do You Look For in a Salesperson?

Challenge the Pros: What Do You Look For in a Salesperson?

What do you look for in a salesperson, and what are the critical elements to building a great sales and development team?

Larry FlahertyLarry Flaherty
Director of Franchise Development
Pet Supplies Plus

If you ask five different franchise development professionals this question you'll get six different answers. When recruiting salespeople, I look first and foremost to their integrity. I want a team I can trust to do the right thing, make the right decision, and not simply make a sale. I expect our sales team to look at each candidate and anticipate how they may or may not fit within our pet-centric culture. I look to them to provide me with their honest recommendation based on their observations. Next, I look for someone who has all-around sales qualities, such as a strong sense of urgency, and assertive personality, and who looks for solutions, not problems.

Once you have a group of great sales people, the next stage is the establishment of a strong sales and development team. To develop a first-class team you need to have clear objectives. Our objective is to be "America's Favorite Neighborhood Pet Store." To accomplish your objectives, you must have internal alignment, from the CEO to each store leader to your franchisee community. Everyone in the company needs to inherently support the franchise expansion to achieve success.

The next step in the establishment of a great sales and development team is the three "Ts": Training, Technology, and Team. It is important to provide the time for the sales and development team to "keep their saws sharp" through seminars, networking, and conferences. Additionally, it is important to provide the sales team with the internal and external technological and resources necessary to accomplish their jobs and measure the organization's effectiveness.

Fostering the development team's culture is critical. Many franchisors use salespeople who work remotely. It's important to bring the salespeople together regularly to bond, share experiences, and to understand the operational side of the business. This is done in conjunction with the exhibition of best management practices, leading by example, positive recognition, and two-way open communications by the development team's leadership.

In today's recruiting environment it's apparent that there are no silver bullets. A multi-faceted approach to recruitment is critical. You should not invest in a sales team unless your company is financially committed to develop the leads for them to close. Not only does the organization need to have the desire to grow, it has to be fully committed to investing in the people, the and the marketing resources needed to successfully accomplish the franchise development plan.

Jason MattesJason Mattes
Chief Development Officer
Fierce Brands (Retro Fitness, Let's Yo! Yogurt)

David Sandler, who was one of the brightest and most gifted sales trainers of his time, once said that "Selling is a Broadway play performed by a psychiatrist." This novel, yet profound, idea formulated many moons ago, has helped shaped the way I defined my role when making my bones in franchise sales, and it still provides a GPS of sorts when comparing and contrasting the skill sets of folks I interview today.

Obviously, there are a handful of qualities that most successful sales professionals possess to some degree--integrity, accountability, high level, self-image of success, drive to excel, and persistently determined--but the characteristics often overlooked when looking for a salesperson are their listening skills and their ability to ask high-value questions and build positive business relationships with the individuals they sell to.

Popular opinion leads us to believe that product or industry knowledge is key. It's not. In fact, it's probably the most overrated quality sought when evaluating a salesperson for a position. Unfortunately, most business people make decisions about hiring salespeople based on the amount of product knowledge that person has, more than any other single factor. While product knowledge is nice, it's not necessary. Knowledge is just that, knowledge, and can be gained and best applied by salespersons who possess the ability to not just sell features and benefits, but who know how to ask the right questions and when to zip it and listen. Often, customers will tell a salesperson everything they need to know and give them the blueprint for their purchasing decision--if just given the opportunity to do so!

As far as the critical elements to building a great franchise sales and development team, I find they are the same as what helped the Boston Red Sox, Seattle Seahawks, and San Antonio Spurs become world champions. Leadership, shared vision, attitude, commitment, mutual trust, and collaboration are all essential components to winning, whether on the field or in the office. Having these elements in place creates chemistry, and by adding in a system and process that is duplicable and replicable, you have all the makings of a sustainable championship environment for your sales and development


At the end of the day, month, or fiscal year, looking for a salesperson who is a great communicator--not just by how they talk, but by how they listen and build a team with an emphasis on the whole--will allow you to hit your sales and development goals year after year. The audience (your boss or board of directors) will applaud, and then it will be time for you to take the proverbial bow.

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