August 1, 2018

How to Hire the Best Tech Sales Reps

By Richard Lowe

Sales leaders in the tech space understand they need to hire reps who know how to sell value to customers. In fact, the size, complexity, and advanced technologies usually used by tech customers require a highly experienced, motivated, and knowledgeable sales professional.

So just what should sales leaders be looking for in their next hire? Start with these three elements.

#1: Look for the key personal attributes of resilience, good judgment, and composure.
Large-value software sales deals are often complex and time-consuming. The very nature of these opportunities exposes sales campaigns to greater challenges and more competition. You’ll need sales professionals who are resilient enough to recover from setbacks while maintaining energy levels and optimism.

Given the constantly evolving nature of sales, having a team of individuals willing and (perhaps more importantly) able to listen, learn, and analyze is a must. The effective salesperson will seek feedback from customers and colleagues in order to constantly analyze their win/risk probability of the sale. With this in mind, the ability to adapt and change is critical. As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable.”

The capability to remain calm and clear thinking during difficult negotiations or setbacks will be crucial to a salesperson’s ability to keep deals on track. To quote English former rugby union player and coach Clive Woodward, you need to “think correctly under pressure” (TCUP).

#2: Look for a blend of knowledge and communication skills.
From a client-facing perspective, any salesperson will ensure the customer is at the heart of everything they do. However, the best professionals will become embedded in the company and its sector, competition, and strategic plans in order to gain greater knowledge and insight that will help them get the C-suite on board.

To achieve this, individuals need to be able to articulate crucial information, thoughts, and actions in a manner that is easily digestible by multiple audiences – a skill that can all too often be overlooked. Added to this, the ability to concisely demonstrate direct value to the customer – whether it is bottom-line cost savings and efficiencies or a top-line growth increase – is also a necessity for the modern salesperson.

And, while it might sound like a given, having a team of professionals with the intricate knowledge of your solution and the ability to preempt what the competition is doing and saying about your firm will be vital when it comes to future-proofing your business. An ability to link unique technical features to business value is vital to avoid creating a need that competitive vendors can solve.

#3: Find planners and networkers.
Planning is a must in the world of high-value B2B tech sales. Sales leaders need to seek professionals who are not only disciplined and detail-oriented, but also have the skills to foresee, and subsequently plan for, any possible hurdles.

As mentioned earlier, the buying process for large-value customers will almost always involve multiple stakeholders and influencers. When selling to large customers, the best salespeople will network across different departments – building a coalition of support and understanding the decision making process.

Trust Your Choices
Finally, I’ve learned from my time in sales that leaders need to trust their team and feel fully confident that they will flag any concerns instantly rather than attempt to hide the problems. Overcoming challenges is a part of the sales cycle that has to be faced – but what senior managers need from their staff is the reassurance that these will be raised with enough time to effectively put alternative plans in place.

Richard Lowe is managing director of RBL Associates – the specialist search, recruitment, and training consultancy focused on the technology sector. He has over 30 years of experience in sales, including time as global VP of sales.