When a country’s economy is challenged, business becomes difficult for most industries – perhaps, most of all for the sales industry, which relies on the economic position of its clients. Thus, the economic climate is a crucial component in determining the sales strategy and approach used when trying to sell a product or service.

As the price of living and doing business continue to increase, South African companies are cutting back on expenses and decision makers are re-evaluating the necessity of major purchases within businesses and organisations. However, the sales quota for many companies has not reduced and is, at times, even increased. In support of this, the Havas Worldwide Prosumer report on the Sharing Economy (a new, emerging economic model), released in May last year, indicates that consumers are becoming more mindful of their purchases. The report notes that consumers are looking for guilt-free purchases in terms of durability and sustainability as well as products that contain a higher lifecycle.

Workforce solutions provider Manpower South Africa looks at what sales companies should be looking for in their candidates, as the world moves to a more mindful way of spending. MD Lyndy van den Barselaar explains that while it is important for sales representatives to hold certain qualifications, the right experience and skills are becoming more important.

“In South Africa’s trying economic times, sales representatives will need to be especially professional and skilled in their approach. Businesses are looking for sales employees that are able to hit the ground running with minimal training. It takes a certain kind of person to be successful in this tough field, and they are in demand now more than ever.”

She notes that characteristics of a successful salesperson often include: well developed interpersonal skills, empathy, focus, responsibility, optimism, resilience and the ability to stay motivated. “The modern sales person needs to have a broad understanding of the country’s economy, how this fits into the global economy and the way in which each economy is headed. They also need to have an understanding of the psychology of their market.”

“It goes without saying that sales representatives need to understand the business of their clients, so much so that they feel they are part of the team – and the client feels the same. In terms of their products, they need to act as brand ambassadors rather than just sales personnel. Further, it is important that they have keen problem solving skills, and are able to add value to the clients business,” says Van den Barselaar.

She notes the importance of effective communications skills for sales representatives, in terms of being confident, professional and knowledgeable in their approach. “The presentation or consulting process is crucial for displaying the strengths of the item on sale and the sales company as a whole. It is important to be able to effectively communicate with the client and display an understanding of their needs and why the item on sale fits into these needs and adds value.”

Sales representatives need to focus on becoming visible within the industry, as this will allow for their expertise to be top of mind when companies are in need of their products or services. “Attending related industry events in order to network with existing or potential clients and joining industry related associations are a good way of keeping abreast of the clients industry, and increasing your knowledge and understanding of this industry,” says van den Barselaar.

In conclusion, she notes the importance of having the correct candidates in order for the business to remain relevant and successful. “Partnering with a workforce solutions provider or recruitment agency can make the hiring process easier, less time consuming and more effective. The solutions provider will carry out reference and background checks to ensure that the candidates who are selected for the interview process are only those best suited to the position and the company.”