October 31, 2013

iStock_000012256921.resizedRelationship skills are critical for high-performing salespeople, whether they are in account acquisition or account maintenance roles.  Many companies look for candidates who can start producing very quickly.  Whether they are cold calling a new account or managing a demanding current client, the best salespeople are skilled at making emotional connections that last a lifetime.  One of the most important aspects of doing so is dealing with difficult customers.  To gauge a candidate’s ability to do so, we can ask one key question . . .

“Tell me about a customer relationship that was particularly challenging to develop.” 

After asking this question, stop and listen carefully, probing deeper if necessary.  Look carefully at the following three areas:

  1. What was the most challenging aspect of the relationship for the candidate?  Was the candidate successful in developing the relationship, or were the obstacles too much to overcome?  Would these obstacles be present in the open position?
  2. Was the customer’s personality an issue?  If so, is this type of person typically difficult for the candidate to handle?  Would the candidate be calling on similar individuals for you?
  3. Does the candidate need training in dealing with individuals at specific levels in the company (e.g. C-level prospects or individuals on the shop floor)?

If you determine that the candidate needs considerable development, consider whether you will be able to invest in the resources necessary for training.  It not, you may want to hold out for a more seasoned candidate who is able to hit the ground running.

To learn more about our DriveTest™ for assessing sales candidates’ Drive as well as relationship skills, please click here.

Dr. Christopher Croner and Richard Abraham are authors of Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again and developers of the proprietary and patented sales test, The DriveTest™, for sales candidates. For more information, click here.