The people you hire for your sales team should be natural customer advocates, regardless of the size of your company. They should be able to guide your prospects to the finish line. However, with so much information at our fingertips, customers aren’t looking for a sales pitch anymore. They need a reliable and trustworthy expert who can clarify any inconsistencies they may have. They also need someone who can calm their fears, confirm their decisions, and give them the best buying experience. Below we will go into how to build a strong small business sales team. 

Look for empathy over knowledge

Product knowledge and sales processes are critical. However, they can be learned. Soft skills are impossible to teach. Being customer-centric is all about building relationships. So when growing your sales team, look for candidates who are naturally adept at communication, teamwork, empathy, and other social skills. It’s also important to have an instinctive aptitude for helping customers choose and implement the best products/services. This part of the job requires critical thinkers with soft skills such as creativity, organization, collaboration and adaptability. Of course you also want candidates who have hard skills like prospecting or handling customer objections. 

Test for self-awareness

There are two questions that you should always ask candidates, and one to follow up with. These are:

  • What are you most proud of?
  • Tell me about a time you failed.
  • What did you learn?

The answers will reveal whether a candidate has the most important soft skill, which is self-awareness. If they’re self-aware, you can be confident that they will constantly want to learn and grow in their role. Also, you’ll find out if they run a disciplined process, collaborate well, and are resourceful in leveraging all of their available resources. 

With all of this, your candidate should always ask you “What else do I need to do in order to convince you that I’m the right person for the job?” Even in a customer-centric world, you need your team to close the deal. If they don’t try to close the deal with you, they probably won’t do it with customers. 

Hire for the long term

One of the most frustrating things for a sales manager is pouring time and money into onboarding and training a new salesperson, only to have them leave shortly after they should finally become productive. 

So how do you avoid this? First, you need to clearly define, document and communicate what your core values are. Then, make sure everyone involved in the hiring process is measuring each candidate against the same yardstick. This brings us right back to where we started. When formalizing your core values, make sure that being customer-centric is always front and center.