Sonya Meloff, Allison Grafton and Aneela Zaib (Photo: Arthur Mola) Sonya Meloff, Allison Grafton and Aneela Zaib (Photo: Arthur Mola)

Drive, nature and acumen—that’s the methodology Sonya Meloff uses to evaluate her salespeople. The co-founder and president of Sales Talent Agency Inc. was speaking about the secrets of successful selling alongside fellow W100 winners Allison Grafton, president of Rockwood Custom Homes Inc., and Aneela Zaib, vice-president of Emergitel Inc., at the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 Idea Exchange conference in Toronto on November 26th, 2014.

The three women, each of whom has plenty of experience both managing sales teams and operating on the front lines, had lots to share about what works—and what doesn’t—in closing deals. Here are five of their best suggestions

1. Hire people you trust

Sales can attract a lot of sharks: that is, people driven to win business at any cost. That’s not the kind of person Grafton wants to employ. When reviewing a potential hire, she looks at two things: authenticity and integrity. She’ll gauge a person’s authenticity by just looking at them: “If you know yourself and you know people, then you’ll nail that in three seconds,” she said. To determine somebody’s integrity, Grafton will ask them a situation-based question. For instance, if the candidate were told by a coworker not to say something about a bad situation, would they tell their boss, or would they deal with the situation on their own? Grafton makes sure the question sounds like she could go either way on the answer, but if the potential hire said they wouldn’t come to Grafton and would deal with the situation on their own—“they’re done.” Why such a focus on authenticity and integrity? They’re qualities clients look for in the people they buy from, Grafton said.

2. Look for drive, not ambition

The one personality trait a great salesperson should have: drive. And that’s a different trait than ambition, said Meloff. How to tell between the two? Ask the candidate about a goal they set for themselves, and what they did to overcome an obstacle blocking them from achieving it. “A really good salesperson will be self-motivated,” said Meloff. “They’ll set personal goals for themselves, and they’ll be able to explain and tell you about obstacles they overcame in order to reach those goals.”

3. Equip your sales team

Once you’ve hired your perfect sales team, how do you get them to go out there and actually sell? Zaib said the senior executive team needs to understand how to get the most out of their reps. That means understanding salespeople’s drivers, which can be anything from money to passion for the job—people have different motivators. Understanding these will help you give sales reps the tools they need, such as a playbook, which Zaib said is a great way to solidify “what they plan to do and when they plan to do it.”

Read: The PROFIT 500 on How to Sell More—Lots More

4. Focus on relationships

Grafton is a huge advocate of building relationships with clients and customers. Networking is about forging those connections—not just closing business. That’s because when you build a meaningful relationship, the value of your offering becomes much easier to impart. “I don’t want to ‘sell’ prospects anything,” she said. “I want to end up giving them the best product on the street, or the best value, the best quality, and just an experience that’s incredible.”

Zaib is also a fan of taking time to get to know clients. In fact, she encourages her salespeople meeting them without an agenda sometimes. “It’s okay to do that,” she said. “It’s good to just talk about their pain points, because ultimately those are the pain points that you’re going to align your solution or service with.”

5. It’s OK to turn away clients

Grafton believes there’s value in being selective in who your business takes on as clients. In fact, she said the exclusive approach has led to more business for Rockwood Custom Homes. “The more I say no to people, the more people want me,” she said. “I say no a lot, and then I’ve built my company on the structure that you’re very, very picky, and you’re lucky to be chosen.”

Read: How to Sell More, More, More

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