I recently met with the MD of a small but growing Fire & Security business to discuss how we can help them to improve their hiring, onboarding, retention, and ultimately the results that they are producing. During our conversation the topic of what is more important to look for in a sales hire came up; do you look for attitude and habits or product knowledge?
Whilst we discussed the topic at length, agreeing that the main qualities salespeople need to have included the right habits, behaviours, and attitude to get out there every day and win the business, the discussion around product knowledge continued.
Does having product knowledge give a salesperson the edge during the hiring process and is it needed to be successful in Fire & Security?
To answer the question it’s best to look at the psychology of sales, and buying habits. In reality, people don’t actually buy the product that you sell, they buy the results that it gives them; security, peace of mind, increased productivity, increased efficiency, and so on.
In order to sell these results to the customer you first need to know the outcomes they are looking for. Is the main priority to increase efficiency? Is it to reduce costs? Is it purely to feel like the systems are upgraded and thus have renewed peace of mind?
The only way to discover these outcomes is to ask the right questions. Through doing this, the customer will do the majority of the selling for you. Once this has been done, product knowledge can be correlated with those needs and the correct products suggested.
It’s likely the deal will already be sealed.
Having extensive product knowledge is by no means the downfall of a salesperson, it is in fact much more of an added benefit when used correctly. The issue lies when the product knowledge is thrown at the customer too soon; for example, talking about technical specs before assessing the needs and wants. This can be deadly and result in a reduced sale or no sale at all.
So, does a salesperson need product knowledge to succeed in Fire& Security?
Does not having that product knowledge make having that sales professional any less of a hire for your Fire & Security Business?
Whilst there’s no hard and fast answer, ultimately not having this product knowledge does not make them any less of a great hire. Success within a sale usually lies behind the right habits, behaviours, and attitudes, all of which are very hard to teach. When it comes to product knowledge, however, so long as the salesperson has the cognitive ability to learn, this can be much easier to pick up.
How do you measure this?
Use the interview process to test for things such as the cognitive ability to learn, to assess attitudes and behaviours, and get a better scope. If you already know what you are looking for in your salesperson this will be much easier to judge.
To assess cognitive abilities try asking for repeat examples of where they have had to learn a new technology or skill before; most people will have a stock answer but you need to dig further to find out whether it is a habit.
To assess the attitudes and behaviours, which again are much harder to teach, I’d suggest using something such as a psychometric test which in conjunction with a properly designed job brief and requirements will easily highlight the best individuals for your role.
In summary, if choosing between these behaviours or product knowledge, I would look for someone who has the former, however, if you can find a combination of being excellent in both aspects, then you will certainly be hiring within the top 10% of the market!
If you need help defining which of the above attributes are essential for your role, how to assess them as part of your interview process or any other questions regarding the best hiring strategy for your fire and security business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
I have similar conversations with Directors and Hiring Managers at leading Fire & Security firms around the country and would be more than happy to bring my expertise to your aid too.