You may purchase top quality flowers and employ creative designers with prestigious accreditation, but if your sales staff lacks confidence, ambition or tact, your business will never meet its potential.
Training, an invaluable exercise for every employee, improves these shortfalls — to a point. Some people simply aren’t cut out for certain roles, says Mitch Mohanna, of Mohanna Sales Representatives in Plano, Texas.
“Just as there are natural born opera stars, major league pitchers, and world-renowned sculptors, some people have an innate ability for sales,” Mohanna said. “It takes practice to refine the God-given talent, but you have to be endowed with it by the time you’re about 5 years old to really thrive.”
That’s why Mohanna insists it’s worth taking time upfront to find candidates who not only possess the work ethic you crave, but also the natural charisma to make sales with ease. “If you don’t have the correct person in the correct position, everyone’s miserable,” he said. “If you have a shy person who has to talk on the phone all day every day, he or she is uncomfortable, your customers are unsatisfied, and you’re unhappy with your sales numbers.”
The next time you’re in search of new blood for your shop, follow this three-pronged plan to land a natural-born sales person, Mohanna said.
- Write a “mean” ad. The first thing you have to do is place an ad in your local newspaper or on a site such as Career Builder or Indeed. “Make it mean,” Mohanna said, emphasizing that the ad is your first screener. If you focus on the benefits and describe a cushy job, you’ll get hoards of applicants. “It’s a waste of your time going through them and you risk hiring someone who isn’t a fit,” Mohanna said. Instead, you should lay out all your expectations for the job and ask challenging questions, such as “Can you see a project through to completion?” and “And are you in the top 5 percent of your field?” If you only get a handful of responses, rejoice. “Five good candidates is a lot better than 150 bad ones,” Mohanna said.
- Assess a candidate’s virtues. “You want more than a drug test,” said Mohanna, who pays Profiles International $25 to screen candidates for qualities such as integrity, reliability and work ethic. He also has them test his top employees. “You have to know where to set the bar,” he said. “See how your best performers score and scrap any candidates who fall below that.”
- Get personal. For an extra $100, Profiles International (and many other companies) can screen candidates for specific personalities and skills, such as buoyancy, sociability and self-assurance. This goes beyond whether a candidate can and will do a job, but also if they will be happy doing so. The test uses true/false questions, asked multiple times in different ways (to minimize the chance of lying), to generate a report. “We simply could not conduct our talent searches without the tests,” said Mohanna, who has used them for 40 years and estimates he’s had a 90 percent success rate with hiring. “The cost of testing is peanuts compared to what you’d spend training,” he added. This approach is widespread in the corporate world. According to the Wall Street Journal, one of the most popular tests, 467 of the Fortune 500 companies use Gallup’s StrengthsFinder, one of the most popular personality/aptitude tests.
For more information on optimized hiring, check out this June cover story by TIME magazine.