By Michelle Graff
Michelle-blogThis young lady, the journalist who shadowed her for an afternoon tells us, seems inherently “wired” for sales, possessing a natural understanding that even many adults don’t have: When you are in sales, it’s about the person doing the selling, not what you are pedaling. (As a side note, the entire TAL episode is on salespeople, in one form or another. It’s called “It’s Not the Product, It’s the Person” and definitely worth a listen.)

After hearing this episode, I decided to see how Asia’s sales moves--you can see a video of one of her pitches on Facebook--stack up against those outlined by Leo Schachter & Co. executive Peter Smith in our recent interview on his book, Hiring Squirrels: 12 Essential Interview Questions to Uncover Great Retail Sales Talent.

When we interviewed Smith, he outlined his three “absolutely essential characteristics” the very best salespeople possess: drive, empathy and resilience. (Asia has her own list of the qualities that make a good salesperson. They should, she says, speak loudly--which I am not sure is always the right tactic in jewelry sales--be articulate, make eye contact, use hand gestures and “give energy.”)

Looking at No. 1, drive, I would say that yes, Asia has drive. In addition to being known as the youngest entrepreneur in Detroit, she has her own office, in a business incubator space in Detroit that is otherwise used exclusively by adults. She likes what she is doing and already has a track record of success even at her young age.

The second characteristic, empathy, refers to the ability to listen to what the customer is, or isn’t saying, and respond to that. Having listened to Asia’s sales pitch on This American Life and watched her on Facebook, I would say that Asia is not a great listener but she does have the ability to connect with the people to whom she’s selling. She also seems to be a natural at knowing whom to approach with her candles or Charms Blow Pops and how exactly to approach them in order to close the sale.

The third is resilience, which, as any resident of a big city knows, you have to have when pedaling goods on the street.

In my seven years in New York, I have been approached by countless young people selling candy bars, Skittles, etc. for team uniforms and other school purposes, and I certainly haven’t given money to all of them. If how people react to young salespeople in New York is a good barometer for what goes on in Detroit, it’s fair to say that Asia has dealt with a fair amount of rejection during her years (which tally at least six) in sales.

Whether you agree with Peter Smith, Asia or have your own list of traits you look for when hiring salespeople, there is one conclusion both Smith and the reporter who did the story for TAL come to and that is: The best salespeople are those who are inherently wired for sales.

Case in point: Asia tried to train her cousin in sales during an afternoon of candle peddling, with poor results. “It is,” the journalist who reported on Asia notes, “a hard thing to teach.”

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