10 Attributes of a Sales Rockstar
Updated: Oct 12
Recall a time you walked into a store, whether you were just window shopping, or on the hunt for something specific, only to be ignored by every sales associate that you see; they notice you, and then pretend to be very busy folding that sweater to avoid talking to you at all costs.
After a decade of working in retail stores, I am always dumbfounded when I encounter sales associates who go to great lengths to avoid helping customers. Personally, I have always had that natural desire to connect with people around me, so I never let a customer enter the store without at least a greeting, if not a more elaborate attempt to connect with them as a fellow human.
There are countless candidates out there who are simply in it for a paycheck; they have no passion for retail, your products, or your customer’s experience. How do we, as retail leaders, make the right hiring decisions to avoid another “warm body” on our sales floor?
According to YCharts, in the United States last year, consumers spent nearly $5.3 trillion dollars shopping in retail stores. Every business wants their slice of that pie to be bigger, at the very least, bigger than it was the year before.
There are many ways to improve your customer experience in your stores: ambient lighting, creative displays, cool lounge areas, Instagram-worthy moments. However, the biggest improvement you can make is hiring the right sales team.
Finding those needles in the haystack, those diamonds in the rough, is a challenge, but with a few thoughtful adjustments to your recruiting process and training methods, you can hire a team that will enable your business to achieve great things, beyond just solid sales numbers.
So, what makes a good salesperson?
Many recruiters/hiring managers look for people with previous experience doing the same type of work, and while that can be helpful, it doesn’t always mean you’re looking at the best candidates for the job.
Sales is different than other professions in that the best salespeople have a natural ability and desire to connect with others; it’s more about personality than experience.
Product knowledge can be taught to anyone...but the ability to break down barriers, connect with people, and make thoughtful product suggestions is something that cannot really be taught, only refined.
10 Personal Attributes of a Sales Rockstar:
Listening Skills - The key to being a good salesperson is to collect information - get the potential buyer to open up, share their needs, their problems. Only when fully informed can a salesperson try to solve their problem with your products.
Strong Communication Skills - Being well-spoken is a MUST when selling anything; consumers will not trust advice from someone who can’t articulate themselves properly.
Competitive-nature - Hiring people with the internal drive to “win” and be successful brings healthy competition that lifts up your entire team.
Charm - It is no secret that those with charming personalities meet more people, make more friends, and most importantly, make more sales. A salesperson will quickly earn the trust of prospective buyers when they are friendly, smart, and easy to talk to.
Confidence - A strong salesperson will be knowledgeable about the products they’re selling, but also confident in engaging with customers, without being cocky. This is critical to being a top-performer.
Problem-solving - A team member that has the ability to identify problems and autonomously determine solutions, is much more likely to A) satisfy needs of the customer, and B) make your store run more efficiently.
Passion - You don’t need to be passionate about sweaters to be successful in retail; what you DO need is the passion to be successful. Look for candidates that are hungry for success – they will do whatever it takes to be paid well, recognized, awarded, and promoted.
Understanding VALUE vs. PRICE - A really good salesperson is able to understand the VALUE behind whatever they are selling. Ex: an associate who sells mattresses should be able to listen to the customer, understand issues with their current bed, and make recommendations to solve those specific needs; if done properly, price won’t be much of a deciding factor, so long as the customer's needs are all satisfied.
Determination - Persistence, without being “pushy” in a selling situation is a huge part of what makes a salesperson successful. The ability to read a situation, and overcome an objection from a potential buyer can be the difference between a mediocre sales rep and a top-performer.
Patience - Some customers are easily swayed, while others require some nurturing – additional product knowledge, product comparisons, price comparisons, etc. A well-tuned sales representative will be able to read the situation and understand if a customer requires additional time to make a decision.
Finding Good Candidates
This part can be a challenge if you don’t have a large network of retail professionals to tap into, however, after several years successfully managing retail stores, here are a few tips that worked well for me.
Don’t limit yourself to people with retail experience; some of the best employees I’ve found are folks I’ve stumbled upon at Whole Foods, my local bakery, or serving drinks at my local watering hole. The key is to look for people with a certain personality, rather than a certain background.
Post job openings on your local university bulletin boards; if they have an FCS (Family Consumer Sciences) or Business school on campus, even better.
Talk to other managers in your mall or shopping center. They often know people from previous jobs that can help you find great sales reps.
Interviewing your Picks
Before interviewing candidates for your business, it is important to spend some time evaluating the role itself.
What are the responsibilities of this role? What is the max that I’m able to pay for a highly qualified salesperson?
What are the best and worst parts about this job? What type of availability does a candidate need to have?
What prior skills or training should someone come into this role with?
What skills or training can be provided upon hire?
Once you have a solid understanding of the role you’re looking to fill, you can more thoughtfully weed through candidates and schedule interviews. Most companies do not train their hiring managers on interview techniques, so a lot of interviews leave both interviewer and interviewee feeling unsure and uninspired.
AVOID questions that produce answers that are often canned and not genuine.
“Why do you want this job?”
“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
“What is your greatest strength/weakness?”
“Why did you leave your previous role/company?”
Instead, try asking more thought-provoking, situational questions like:
“Tell me about a time you lost a sale.”
“Walk me through a tough sale that you closed?”
“Tell me what you know about our company.”
“What are some ways you overcome customer objections?”
“What is something you’ve taught yourself lately?”
“How do you know when to stop pursuing a customer?”
“What are you most proud of in your career?”
“What are three ways you build rapport with a customer?”
Also, consider coming in with a few role playing scenarios that they might commonly encounter in this role. “Sell me this pen,” “Pretend I’ve never heard of our brand, tell me why I should shop here.” You could role play you as a customer, and ask detailed questions you know they won’t have the answers to – see how they handle the unknown.
*PRO TIP: If you want to give candidates a real life chance to overcome an objection – near the end of the interview, consider asking them why they are "the right fit” and see how they handle it. Let them win you over.
The key in an interview is to engage in a meaningful conversation, role playing, and discussion of real on-the-job experiences. Get to know them; uncover their personality; what makes them tick; what motivates them.
Now that you’ve hired a future-rockstar, it’s time to show them the ropes. It is your responsibility as their trainer/manager to give them all the tools they need to be successful:
understanding of business processes
customer service standards
how to convert a return into an exchange
how to overcome customer objections
how to convert someone who is “just looking”
Once you've provided the tools, it is up to the team member, with your support and encouragement, to put them into practice; engage with customers; genuinely seek understanding of their needs; try; fail; learn; grow. It's your job to help them understand the value of your products/services so they can communicate that with confidence to prospective customers.
Also, worth noting, training should not just be the first week on the job; it should be happening every day, with every shift. If you see your team member losing control of a sale, find a way to pull them aside and offer some in-the-moment training, then have a conversation afterwards about what they could do differently next time.
It is also critical that we lead by example; we should live and breathe everything that we are preaching to our sales teams. Too many sales leaders act as a boss, barking orders and constantly giving negative feedback when a mistake is made.
Be the leader that you would want to work for.
Give positive feedback whenever you can; give constructive feedback rather than negative feedback; get out on the floor and show them how it's done; constantly adhere to the standards that you hold your team to.
Also, don't forget to so some self-assessment from time to time. If you need to brush up on your sales or leadership skills, consider speaking to a retail consultant to learn new sales techniques, or consider taking a leadership course to always be the best leader you can be!
It is often said that people don’t leave bad jobs – they leave bad bosses. Even with the best salespeople on your team, it is always a leader’s job to continue to inspire them to be great every single day.
Happy hiring! 🤘🎸⚡
With +20 years of retail-industry experience, FOMO agency™ is your trusted source for eCommerce automation, merchandise planning, and inventory management.
About the Author:
Taylor J. Daniel is a 13-year retail veteran, and a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising, with additional focuses in Consumer Behavior and Business Management. Her career has largely been spent in corporate merchandising departments: analyzing data, managing inventory, devising investment strategies, and making product and marketing decisions.
After successfully managing over $50M worth of goods in a variety of categories for enterprise retailers such as Levi's, Old Navy, and Johnston&Murphy, Taylor now uses her expertise in retail planning to help SMB Retailers create thoughtful and calculated eCommerce and Merchandising strategies that deliver results.
"Retail has changed; what worked for you yesterday won't get the results you want tomorrow! I aim to provide the insights and strategies needed to be successful in today's ever-evolving retail landscape."
Taylor J. Daniel
Vice President | FOMO agency ™