The Natural-Born Marine Salesman

How many times have you heard … “he (or she) is a natural-born salesperson?” I am willing to bet that it has been a bunch. Is it true? Well, I am also willing to wager that the answer is … perhaps, depending upon your point of view.
We have all met so-called experts who were little more than very clever. On the other hand, how many times have you noticed salespeople who amazed you with their genuinely helpful expertise … those that always seem to be a natural at meeting or exceeding customer expectations? In my book, they are exceptional. Natural born? Not sure about that.
The Exceptional Salesperson
In my many years working with retail, I have dealt with a lot of salespeople. This always makes me stop and truly analyze the exceptional salesperson and ask myself what makes them that way. Are they a people person? Usually yes. Are they knowledgeable? You bet. They know the marine industry, the products, and they know how to work with customers to help make sure that they match with the right products and services.
In short, most of the exceptional salespeople I have encountered are not only good at talking; they are also very, very good at listening. In addition, from the standpoint of working in the marine industry, I truly believe that listening is a huge key to success. In fact, a colleague of mine frequently says, “You don’t talk people into buying, you listen them into the sale.”
I have also found that exceptional marine salespeople are, in fact, into the total boating and marine lifestyle. They do not just show up at the showroom and put on their marine hat. They, without fail, have solid experience with their products and the entire boating mindset. Almost without exception, they walk the walk and talk the talk. That, to me, is the exceptional marine salesperson.
So Where Are All of These People?
Let us think about this in the perspective of your task of finding and hiring salespeople. Are you always going to be able to find people who are experts? Probably not. So what do you do when you need to add to your sales staff? Hire someone that is just okay, and hope that things get better? Not a good idea.
In my experience, there are a couple of key things to keep in mind when looking for first-rate candidates: Base the interview on the performance that is required for the position; and make sure your interview questions tie in to the competencies, motivations, skills and/or experience related to the position.
As an example, here are a few questions that you might ask during an interview: Are you a boater/marine enthusiast? What do you do for personal/professional development? What are your favorite marine books or magazines? As a sales professional, what do you see as your primary and secondary roles within a sales staff? Describe one or two of the most difficult challenges and/or rejections you have faced in the past and how you responded. Tell me about past sales success. What do you think it takes to be successful in the marine sales business?
All of these questions can give you a unique overview of the person, their ability and their drive.
Do Not Interview in a Vacuum
I have also found that it is really a good idea to conduct an interview both privately and out in the retail setting. Take a walk inside or outside of your business. While you do, talk about the products you sell and listen to the candidate’s reaction. It can give you a lot of insight into their experience plus their enthusiasm for your products and for the marine industry in general.
This open-air approach can also provide you with some essential feedback to think about when you make a firm hiring decision. It can help you answer such questions as: How well does the applicant think on their feet? How does the candidate react to the surroundings and the staff? Does the applicant project poise and a positive attitude while walking and talking? Does the candidate reflect energy, enthusiasm and self-control? How is the applicant’s body language? (You should watch for a relaxed, balanced posture and good eye contact.) Do they hold their body upright, walk freely with their arms swinging and take determined strides?
After that, the decision is yours. The hiring decision is never easy. However, at the same time, I imagine that as a manager or owner that you will get a reasonably good idea of whether the candidate is the kind of person you are looking for.
The Bottom Line
Personally, I do not believe that there are natural-born salespeople. There are salespeople who have natural-born skills, but that does not make them great salespeople. It takes training, dedication, experience and a love of the boating lifestyle to be a great marine salesperson. The great salespeople have put in a lot of hard work. Of course, these are probably the salespeople the uninformed call a natural-born salesperson. If they only knew what went into making a ‘natural’.

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