The dynamics of modern B2B sales have changed a lot over the years. With several touchpoints, many decision-makers involved, different buyer traits and behaviors, and longer sales cycle, B2B sales reps need a wide range of skills and techniques to get deals through. Identifying exceptional B2B sales reps takes more than just looking into their quota attainment.
To recruit the right people, you must consider the distinct elements of the B2B sales process. Look for candidates who meet these indicators:
1) Strong communication skills
The ability to lead prospects through sales conversations defines a sales rep. The best B2B sellers can listen to prospects and deduce their biggest concerns even if the prospect isn’t saying it outright. The key to that is empathy. Knowing the customer and empathizing with them allows sales reps to build relationships and anticipate customer needs. They know how to steer the conversation to uncover pain points and handle objections without coming across as abrasive or domineering.
Observe if the candidate displays brevity and empathy during the mock sales pitch – or even throughout the interview. Being able to deliver their point across using concise choice of words while showing empathy to their customer are indicators of a strong communicator.
2) Creative problem-solving abilities
Each B2B sale is unique. Over the course of a nine-month sales cycle, many problems can crop up—and many of them will not have easy answers that can be looked up in the sales playbook.
That means B2B sales professionals cannot rely on a cookie-cutter approach to making the sale. They will need to assess the situation and come up with a creative solution to the roadblocks.
Many parts of the sales process reward creativity. Ask candidates a few situational questions that will demonstrate their ability to resolve unprecedented problems in the sales process. A B2B salesperson who comes up with an innovative and effective way to reach out to prospects, for example, is likely to enjoy success.
3) Active listening
In order to uncover the customer’s pain points, B2B sales reps need to ask intentional and precise questions. This is only possible if they listen attentively.
Candidates who take notes by paraphrasing what was said and summarizing main points are good active listeners. Aside from asking questions that show that they understand the message being communicated, their gestures also indicate that they’re listening intently.
4) Displays persistence and tenacity
In B2B sales, a sales rep might have to contact the same prospect multiple times just to schedule a phone call. They must be able to brush off a constant barrage of rejection and remain focused on the end goal. Giving up after a failure is not an option.
During the interview, ask candidates to describe experiences that required them to display persistence and tenacity. What struggles, professional or otherwise, have they faced to prepare them for the gauntlet of sales?
5) Ability to research prospects in-depth
A great B2B salesperson is also a high-powered researcher. They know how to find great prospects and collect a wealth of information before ever getting on the phone or writing an email. This skill is especially handy during the discovery phase where sales reps try to uncover prospects’ needs which do not surface during initial phases of the sales conversation. They dive deep, going well beyond the “about” section on a prospect website.
Sales candidates’ research abilities can be gauged by how well they prepared for the interview. A candidate who demonstrates an in-depth understanding of your company and industry can deploy these skills when researching prospects.
6) Willingness to learn and be coached
The best B2B sellers are successful because they’ve put the time into continued learning and are constantly working on improving their skills. They can put aside ego and use critical feedback as an opportunity for growth. Time spent coaching them is a good investment because they will take it seriously.
Select people who are open to coaching and passionate about continued learning. Ask the candidate to describe a situation in which they used feedback to change their approach. How did they go about making these changes? What activities do they perform on a regular basis in order to keep learning and growing?
7) Strong organization and time management skills
B2B sales professionals have a dozen different things (or more) going on at any one time. They need to be able to complete every task efficiently and in a timely fashion. A prospect isn’t going to wait a month for a follow-up email.
Ask candidates to describe what they do to stay organized and on task. Most highly organized salespeople have a system, whether it’s a relatively simple to-do list or more complex tech tools.
8) Able to remain invested in long-term goals
Generally, B2B sales does not reward people who thrive only off short-term gratification. Successful sellers are able to stay focused on their goals even when the completed deal may not come for several months. They have strategies to keep themselves motivated in the meantime.
Select salespeople who have a history of working towards major goals over the course of months or years. Whether they’ve trained for a marathon, completed an advanced degree, or become a master craftsperson, this shows that they have the discipline to complete a goal that requires long-term effort and dedication.
9) Capable of learning new tech tools quickly
Today, B2B sellers use a variety of tools on the job: CRM, sales enablement tools, pipeline management tools, etc. Look for candidates who are technically proficient. It’s fine if they don’t know your exact tool stack, but they should understand the value of technology and be capable of learning quickly.
If you can find a sales candidate who displays these traits, they stand a good chance of becoming a high-performing B2B salesperson.