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A job profile is different than a job description. Job profiling is a proven process whereby the sales manager translates the understanding of the sales position and the understanding of the personal attributes required by the candidate to succeed in a specific sales function into a job profile (see Characteristics of Successful Salespeople). A job profile keeps you from lowering your hiring standards if you’ve had a series of so-so candidates or, agreeing to hire an expensive candidate who is ultimately overqualified.

Each sales position requires specific qualifications or criteria for employment.  These criteria are usually dependent upon the industry, the organization, the job tasks (and any specialized skill requirements), and the individual’s accumulated knowledge and experience.  You will need to develop a list of these criteria to assist you in your evaluation of candidates.   Some suggested criteria include:

 Industry experience and technical knowledge
 Educational background
 Customer-orientation (customer service skills)
 Customer contacts
 Communication skills
 Interpersonal skills
 Negotiation skills
 Proximity to the workplace or regional considerations
 Possession of a vehicle, ability to travel
 Professional demeanour

The above criterion are just the tip of the iceberg. Although all sales positions require the individual to possess the ability to persuade people, there are other factors that impact upon the sales function.  Sales positions range from transactional, short-term, commission-only positions to the opposite end of the spectrum where the salesperson’s persuasive talents are only called upon once or twice a year at the end of a very long sales cycle. Similarly some sales positions require the salesperson to be a technical wizard who understands the applications of particular product or service, while others require little or no technical background.  

Listed below are some of the key questions that must be asked to develop an understanding of the specific sales role and the characteristics required for an individual to fill that role successfully:

 Is the position primarily field or inside sales?
 What is the nature of the product or service being sold?
 Is the salesperson dealing with tangible or intangible sales?
 Is the product or service high value, high cost or a low cost commodity?
 What is the role of the salesperson and the type of sale—missionary, conversion, penetration, new concept or retention?
 Is the salesperson responsible for a full product line or a single product or service?
 Is the representative responsible for getting new accounts, maintaining existing accounts or a combination of both?
 Who is expected to develop the lead and how is it developed—cold calls (in person or via telephone), direct mail, email or walk-in traffic?
 What is the quality of the lead—pre-screened or cold?
 Who are the customers/decision-makers—individuals, committees, middle managers, senior executives or boards of directors?
 What level is the sale initially made and on what level is the final purchase approved?
 What is the technical background/level of expertise required by the salesperson to establish credibility with the buyer?
 What is the frequency of closing opportunities—2 per day, 1 per month or 3 for the year?
 Will the salesperson be working independently or be supported by a team of people?
 How will the salesperson be compensated—salary only, salary plus bonus, commission-only?  If there is a commission component, are commissions capped?
 What is the career path of the position? Does it lead to further sales opportunities, or is the next step management?
 Does the sales cycle have a definite pattern (e.g. seasonal) or is it consistent throughout the year?
 Is the sales position located in a metropolitan area, suburb, town or rural area?
 How large is the sales force?  Will the salesperson be the only salesperson or will he/she be one of several?
 Does the company have a well-established presence in the marketplace or does part of the sale involve selling the company name?

These are just some of the questions sales managers and hiring teams should ask themselves when developing the job profile.  Going through the exercise of putting together a job profile will substantially enhance your ability to make judgements concerning who can fill the sales vacancy. In addition, presenting a detailed job profile to applicants or employees in line for a promotion, will help them to decide whether they really want this particular sales opportunity.

About the Author:

The Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA) is a national organization of 30000 sales and marketing professionals. Members receive significant savings on travel, business costs and more. The CPSA also offers exclusive sales training and certification programs.


Click here to read part four, "Tips for Creating a Sales Job Description"

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