Being the provider of a software solution that helps sales people double (or more) the number of first appointments they get with the right people, we get asked a lot of questions. The questions range from, “What should I use in a subject line?” and, “When is the best time of day to call? — to queries about optimizing a compensation plan.
Whether we are working with a mid-size telecommunications company, a software company that is growing rapidly or doing a world-wide, multi-lingual rollout, the most prevalent question we get these days is, “What background/qualifications do you look for in a business development rep?” “Do you hire “experienced” reps or try to get them out of college?”
We look for people who are self-motivated and able to manage situations that are beyond their control. Business development is hard work. You cannot control the mood people are in when they answer the phone or understand anything else going on in their world at the time. While any specific background could prove to be valuable for a business development rep, there are three that we have found to be successful:
Hospitality – People in the hospitality business are great at dealing with the public. Whether they have worked as a desk clerk, concierge, event planner, host/hostess or country club staff member, they need to deal with a wide variety of people. The good ones know how to observe people and anticipate their needs. Sometimes, they need to turn around someone who is having a bad day. The same skill sets apply to business development.
Restaurant wait staff – When we see an applicant who has waited tables, it really gets our attention. If they waited tables to get themselves through college, that initiative makes it even better. A waiter needs to manage many variables, and most of them are completely out of their control. If they have 6 tables, each arrives at different times. They all have their own set of dynamics — the family with small children out for a quick bite, the out-of-town businessman sitting alone, the rowdy guys watching the basketball game, and the couple in the middle of a fight. The waiter has to assess each situation and make them all feel as if their table is the only one that matters. All this while having to rely on the kitchen staff and bartender to get the food and drinks right, and ready in a timely manner. In many respects, business development is a lot easier – and, with fewer variables.
Athletes and performers – We love athletes and performers, especially when that experience was at the college level and beyond. College athletes, dancers and actors have focus, dedication, and they know it takes a lot of practice. They are goal oriented and pay attention to details. The difference between a good high school soccer player and a college player frequently comes down to effort and technique. The college athlete practices, repeats and masters the little things. They know there are no shortcuts. Like athletes, dancers and actors, business development reps realize the more they pay attention to details and the harder they work, the luckier (and more successful) they are.
Experience is important when you are looking to staff your team, but experience manifests itself in many ways. When evaluating a candidate (especially one without a lot of “experience”) instead of looking at what they don’t have, look at what they do have. If that includes being goal oriented, the proven ability to interact with people and/or deal with variables beyond their control, you likely have yourself a great business development rep.