This ironic expression is dead on regarding the profession's nature. Sales are the basis of any business regardless of product type and company size. Sales experts are required both for a coffee cart in a town and the country's largest industrial companies. But it has always been challenging to find an outstanding salesperson for a number of reasons.
The first problem is the brief history of market relations in Ukraine. Unlike Western Europe, it has no sales school of its own, no experience accumulated and systematized and, as a result, no continuity. True experts in this area started emerging a relatively short time ago. They have mastered the tools and can speak about how these are applied in practice. But they are present in only certain industries.
This leads to problem number two: the country offers no specialized education for salespeople. There are no departments in Ukraine to train full-fledged sales specialists.
The third problem, the key one, is a distorted perception of sales as a function. "Thanks" to the Soviet past, we started off here from below zero rather than from zero. At best, sales were regarded as distribution, i.e. handling incoming requests. At worst, salespeople simply treated buyers as an annoying source of problems. Many even now find it hard to welcome the customer with a smile: a pure vestige of the Soviet heritage!
But top-quality salespeople are beginning to appear. These may be people from an absolutely different field. For example, our company employs a military pilot who moved to sales. Young specialists who decide to find their place in the sun in sales after university are another source of highly qualified staff. There are other examples as well: UMG runs an intern selection program, where the most talented people become part of the sales team. It is often easier for young staff because they know nothing of the Soviet Union. And the market itself is becoming more efficient: consumers have been voting with their hryvnia for a long time now, so you've got to do all you can to have them happily cast their votes and want to return.
It does not matter how the person turned up on your doorstep. The key is to discern whether they can make a successful salesperson. In my own experience, when creating a sales team, I focus on the following five qualities and abilities.
Character and charisma. These are the personal characteristics that increase a person's chance for success in sales. Extroverts achieve success most often here because they are by nature more open to communication. A salesperson's talent lies, in many respects, in the ability to be genuinely interested in other people and be interesting to them. Essential qualities are sense of humor and general erudition, and the ability to sustain a conversation.
Performance. The ultimate goal of selling is a result, not a process. There should be no delusions in this respect. In all cases, goods must find their buyer at the fairest price. Every salesperson chooses what tools will be used to achieve the result. Any truly profitable transaction is always a victory, so a good salesperson should like to win and know how to do it.
Drive for development. At first, your salesperson may have limited experience and knowledge. But if the person is charismatic, eager for results and ready to develop quickly, he or she has every chance of success if he or she ends up in the right team. Some offer good base wages, commissions, perks, but they see no sense in developing their salespeople, and so do not. As a result, even a promising sales specialist risks getting bogged down in routine after a few years, with no opportunity for growth. Their peers may have lower starting wages, but at the right company they will significantly improve their professionalism and their own market capitalization within a year.
In my team, salespeople actively adopt internal company experience from their first day on the job, and learn to use sales tools and techniques. There is no time for loitering. At the same time, they are mastering related skills. If the salespeople require fluency in the local language to grow sales on the Spanish market, the company will offer them the opportunity to learn it. Training should be as fine-tuned as a conveyor belt. I am referring here to the symbiosis of innovation and experience: when the system for transferring accumulated knowledge and learning new practices runs like clockwork.
Experience. Salespeople often get attached to one sector. When changing employers, they only change offices between competing companies. On the one hand, this makes them professionals in a specific narrow segment. But the other side of the coin is that homogeneous experience can narrow your world view and lead to stereotyped thinking and selling. I believe that a productive salesperson must seek out diverse experience with different products, industries and challenges. You can only develop by stepping outside your comfort zone, by changing sales strategies and tactics, and following new trends.
Inner drive. What do a good salesperson, a Formula 1 driver, a gambler and a fisherman have in common? It’s easy — passion, sporting interest, the desire to be number one and hit the jackpot. Whether it is about money, trophies or the size of a fish is irrelevant. A true salesperson is motivated by an inner drive and must derive a deep satisfaction not only from the result, but also from the selling process, i.e., take pleasure from playing the sales game with all its rules and rituals.
These rules for recruiting sales staff are especially relevant for new businesses. Such companies should not expect to buy an effective sales team like a product at a supermarket. In sales, there are no universal solutions or panacea cures. A successful salesperson's path is always a unique story of finding the tools and techniques that will be effective in the hands of a specific person working with a specific product. When one of the two components changes, the person or the product, the path to excellence must be reinvented.
There are no fully prepared experts for most new sectors in Ukraine. However, there are people who can fill that role after a short time, especially if they meet the key condition of having the five qualities described above.