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Your business is expanding and you're ready to hire a sales team. But before you start interviewing candidates, be sure to document the requisite skills and the personality traits that will ensure successful performers. Far too many owners skip this crucial step and pay for it in the long-run.

Here are five steps to prepare for the interviews and increase your chances for finding the right salesperson.

1. Map the job requirements. First, do you want sellers who are quick closers? Or those who can think strategically through month- or year-long cycles? Next, look at the most successful sellers on your team. Determine how many calls they make on a daily basis. Or how often they're able to sell to existing clients. Do you need strong cold callers because leads aren't being nurtured through a marketing campaign? Or do you want sellers who excel at building relationships with existing clients?

In addition, consider what you're selling. Do you need sales reps with strong technical skills to demo software? People with strong science skills to sell to hospitals?

2. Don't forget to look at your clients. Are they small business owners? Low-level managers? The highest level executives in the largest corporations in the country? There's no right or wrong but you must align the behaviours with the sales cycles of your business.

3. Seek enthusiasm. You can't train a positive attitude. Sure, an excellent sales rep can learn the product or bump up their technical skills. But if they're not excited and driven to succeed, then it will negatively affect their performance as well as drain the rest of your team.

4. Determine personal responsibility. There is no question that all sellers experience failure in the sales process. The only question therefore is does your candidate own up to that failure or play the blame game?

During your interviews ask questions such as: Tell me about a time when you lost a piece of business? When a customer was upset with you in the past, what did you do?

Your candidate's answers will be telling. Be honest, sellers must take full ownership of the conversion process from prospect to client. If he blames shipping, accounting, a team member, or their manager for any failed sale or disgruntled customer, this should be an immediate red flag. Don't hire candidates who won't take responsibility.

5. Test for a strong memory. I can't stand it when sellers forget who they spoke to last week or which clients are in the pipeline. A strong memory is vital. It doesn't have to be photographic, but sales reps should remember the names of their prospects and clients -- the people who are going to generate revenue for them. I always end my interviews by asking the candidate to recap the interview for me. This does two things.: It tests his memory. It shows whether or not he's paid attention. If the candidate can't even focus on the interview and remember what you talked about, imagine how bad that would look in front of a client? A client recently fired a seller who had been employed for only four weeks. During the interview process he appeared scattered and absent but was hired reluctantly because the manager was impressed with his 'Rolodex' in the market. After the second time, the seller left his laptop at home on a business trip the president said to me, "If he can't remember simple business tools how will he remember our complex products and services?"

So the next time your company is ready to expand, be sure to review these five steps to help identify the best skills and behaviours for the job. Once a full outline's in place, you'll be on your way to better hires, and a stronger sales team.

Sales expert Colleen Francis is founder and president of Engage Selling Solutions and the author of the recently released Nonstop Sales Boom (AMACOM) Ms. Francis ensures clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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