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You will truly never understand sales, until you put the customer first – always. That is probably the most important phrase one can use to describe the professional salesperson.

If you are planning to hire a salesperson and you are looking at their resume to see their level of experience and what other jobs they might have had prior to the interview, you are looking at the wrong information. In fact, you might make your decision on hiring them (or not) based on the ill-advised criteria.

To me, what is most important are the things that you cannot train in a salesperson. Anyone can learn product knowledge, how to manage their territory, how to use customer relationship management properly, how to ask questions properly and even how to close the customer if necessary.

But, you cannot train the two most important qualities to look for if you want to hire a successful candidate. They are a must and they will constitute the trademarks of a champion salesperson.

They are the drive or desire. To succeed, they have to have the desire to succeed, to make more calls than expected, especially to their own customer base and naturally trying to find new business prospects.

The other is empathy. Simply put, the definition of empathy, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Does the salesperson have this trait and does it show in the interview, assuming you are asking the right questions to find out about their character?

For the sake of argument, let’s put the desire or drive portion of the must look for in a salesperson or interview candidate for another time or discussion. The focus for now is the empathetic side of the salesperson.

Who wouldn’t want to be around someone that really cares about others? We all loved it when we were growing up and our mothers or fathers were there for us unconditionally. You might remember a time you were a kid and you were playing softball and your parents were in the stands cheering you on. Did you have a brother or sister that looked out for you, always had your back and was there for you when you needed guidance or support?

Putting others first is one of the best qualities we can all wish for. So why should you seek that valuable asset in your next salesperson? Which would you rather have representing your company, someone that cares more about their commission or sale, or that the customer is thrilled and wants to do business with you again in the future?

In the meantime, take stock of your existing sales team and contemplate if they have the following characteristics. If you are the salesperson reading this, do you truly believe that you have these as well?

If your answers are yes, chances are that success will follow.

• The salesperson must have empathy and put the customer before the sale

• To understand what the customer wants, the salesperson needs to ask questions

• It’s all about the customer and not what the salesperson wants to sell

• Is the salesperson doing things “for the customer or to the customer?”

• What is more important to the salesperson, the sale or the customer’s well-being?

• Does the customer really trust and believe that the salesperson has their best interests?

Find the right people who do the right things, give them the tools to succeed and you will find that more salespeople achieve a higher performance standard.

Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at


Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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