What it takes to make a great salesperson.
by Louis Feuer

Now that I have your attention I will give you the rest of the
story. I believe that is what Paul Harvey would have said. And if
you are looking for the next great salesperson, you do need the
whole story.

Home care companies are looking to expand their reach, locate
new customers and increase their network of business contacts. The
advertisement in the yellow pages and that new sign in front of the
retail store are not doing enough to generate business to
compensate for the reimbursement changes and the growing costs of
operating a business.

One solution is the hiring of a new and great sales
representative. But what should you look for when you hire? What
traits are most important? In other words, what makes a great

Because the best teachers are our colleagues in the industry who
are continually looking for the best and brightest stars, I posed
these questions to some who manage, administer or work a sales
territory on a daily basis.

One of the answers I got was from Willene Bandy of Sumner
Health Care in Gallatin, Tenn. With a background in operations,
Willene reminds us that “listening is a No. 1 priority. A
sales rep should never just ‘show up and throw up,’
which is what so many people do. Knowledge is very important and is
often overlooked for a pretty face.”

A solid start, but I also want to share with you just some of
the other responses I received:

Helen Kent, Progressive Medical, Carlsbad, Calif.,
provides a clear, concise and very interesting suggestion about
what type of person to seek out. She is an owner with a long-term
vision in mind. “I want someone who is hungry, young and
wants a career. I can teach them the industry and the

Robert Steedley, Barnes Healthcare Services, Valdosta,
Ga., is also interested in the long term, and he offers some great
advice about handling the employment interview. “When
evaluating a sales representative, I look for clues that suggest
they will be successful for the long term. These include an
attitude of service to internal and external customers, the
willingness to adapt to change and a desire to work as part of a
team. The absence of any one of these qualities would most likely
disqualify an applicant.

“You can learn about these qualities by asking questions
that allow the applicant to speak about their previous employment
where they demonstrated the behavior you are looking for. Just be
careful not to suggest what you are looking for, or the answers you
receive will be sure to be what you wanted to hear.”

There is more to learn about that employment interview from
Angie Wheeler, Bird and Bear Medical, Little Rock, Ark., who
comments, “The same qualities I look for in a successful home
care salesperson are the very same qualities a person must possess
to be successful in any business. The candidate should have the
ability to sell themselves as soon as you meet them. I look for
overall appearance and self-confidence as well as their
relationship skills. These characteristics are a must when making a
cold call.

“Determination is also a requirement for success. This is
a very competitive industry, and possessing the ability to handle
rejection and criticism will also help keep them focused on what
they need to do to be a successful salesperson.”

Susan Swirbul, Almost Family, Gainesville, Fla., once a
former recruiter, believes “asking questions pertaining to
how a candidate sets themselves apart from the competition is a
good place to start” in any interview. Swirbul, now selling
medical products, believes a great salesperson needs to present
“a compelling message addressing the needs of the referral
source.” She also addresses the need for a salesperson to be
creative, a characteristic that can be overlooked.

Like Brandy, Faisal Poonwala, Spring Branch Medical
Supply, Houston, also points to the importance of product
knowledge. “Above all else it is important to know what your
inventory is and who needs and uses our products. We cannot count
on just knowing what the manufacturer tells us the product is for,
but we need to know what it can do and what it can't. We must know
what it is we're offering and providing both inside and

Poonwala gives some interesting insight into the lives of our
customers. “We need to remember that each of our customers is
a loved one to someone else. We have a moral obligation to see to
it that every person gets the same respect and quality service that
we would expect for ourselves and out loved ones.”

Terri Webb, Suncrest Healthcare, Madison, Tenn., sees the
sales representative handling a comprehensive role. “Your
referral source needs someone that can be a resource for
everything. They may need questions to be answered and information
about what is going on in the world of health care. A great
salesperson must be passionate about their company and the services
they provide.”

As a fourth generation family member in the home care industry,
Bryan Collins, Collins Medical, Bridgeport, Conn., believes
it takes “a persistent effort in networking with local
doctors and health care professionals.” Referral sources need
to know about new products, and Collins finds success in
“printing out monthly specials and handing them out to our
key skilled nursing facilities and rehabilitation

Kunu Kaushal, Elk Valley Health Services, Nashville,
Tenn., has some comments about discipline, another topic that
doesn't get enough attention. “In my experience, a
salesperson needs to have two qualities that will get them through
the rigors of home care: [One is] the discipline to make a plan and
work that plan in its entirety. This includes discipline in working
a sales territory, documenting your work, following up and
effectively communicating.

“The second quality is desire. With the ever-changing
dynamics in our industry, one must have the desire to learn, grow,
compete, excel and be their own cheerleader. This is often the
‘hunger’ many other great salespeople talk about. If
you find someone hungry for growth and disciplined enough to
achieve it, you've found your next salesperson and likely your next
start player.”

Donald Jones, Southern Medical Equipment, Cullman, Ala.,
believes “it is imperative that salespeople understand the
true service concept of our business. Quality service separates one
company from another. The willingness of a salesperson to go that
extra mile in tracking down a special piece of equipment can make
all the difference. And, I want someone who is candid and truthful,
saving time and effort for everyone involved in the overall
process. We have even referred business to a competitor to save
time for our referral source.

“It is all about persistency, consistency. But the biggest
failure for any salesperson is simply not asking, “Is there
any way I could help you with your patient today with my

Barbara Morris, Smokey Mountain Home Care, Knoxville,
Tenn., looks for a salesperson to make that first impression during
the employment interview because he or she will probably make that
same impression during the sales call. Salespeople must understand
the value of the “elevator speech” that elevates you
and your company above all the rest, she says.

Debbie Roach, Romar MedEquip, Danville, Va., wants a
salesperson who understands “the value of being responsive to
a referral source in a timely manner while being positive and
consistently building your relationships with your

Linda Esposito, Call Your Other Daughter (that should get
some attention), Morristown, N.J., believes it is all about
long-term relationships and a positive attitude. “Our
salespeople are considerate, trustworthy and do what we say and
clearly say what we do.”

Paula Vineyard, Elana Health care, Dunbar, Va., describes
a salesperson in her company as someone who “brings value to
her customers with product knowledge and assistance in discharge
planning.” A successful salesperson, she says, “must be
someone who helps us solve company problems or complaints and has
the ability to gain the respect from her coworkers. I want to know
that each day I have someone in the community representing my
company who is honest, hardworking and dependable.”

Rebecca Olson, OxygenOne, Waukesha, Wis., sees that great
salesperson as one who is “warm and inviting” and can
stay focused on the purpose of a sales call. Sales reps need to be
“passionate about what they sell and be able to convey that
passion without appearing smug or condescending. They need to be
able to think quickly when challenged by a customer and not appear
frustrated or frazzled, and know how to respond respectfully and

John Durkee, medSage Technologies, Melbourne, Fla.,
answered my question about what makes a great salesperson
mentioning several requirements. In addition to “an in-depth
understanding of their product,” he focuses on the following

“They listen to their prospects and only when their
product solves their customer's problems do they present it,
explaining why/how it help solves the problem. They have very good
communication skills, including offering a prompt response to phone
calls, voice mail, email, etc. They are a quick learner, about
their product, their industry and their customer's issues. They are
self-directed, [see] opportunities and have a passion for their
work and a willingness to share and to learn.”

Durkee gives us much to think about. He notes that great
salespeople have the ability to encourage others to change their
habits and are great teachers. They love their students and have a
passion for what they do. They have the ability to sell a concept
or idea and let people know they care about them.

Durkee reminds us all that “we must assume that not every
hire will work the way you want. Sometimes it is something you
missed in the interview, sometimes (often) it's a failure of
leadership/management and sometimes it's just not the role for the

So many suggestions to think about. So many thoughts to consider
during that employment interview. So do you have a great
salesperson working for you? If not, I hope this information will
help in your challenge to find the No. 1 salesperson for your

Read more from Louis Feuer in his Sales Notebook columns.

Louis Feuer is president of Dynamic Seminars
& Consulting Inc.
, Pembroke Pines, Fla., and the founder
and director of the DSC Teleconference Series, a teleconference training
program. You can reach him at www.DynamicSeminars.com or by
phone at 954/435-8182.

Louis' Suggestions

Never hurry to fill a sales position.

Take the time to make sure you have the right person for the
right job.

Look for a person who understands the challenges of
working alone in the field yet working together with a teamin the

Track and monitor for enthusiasm. When a salesperson
likes his or her work, the profits usually follow right behind!