Selling Your Vision

with Melissa Bernstein

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Hiring Sales

The qualities of a good salesperson

Melissa Bernstein

Co-Founder of Melissa & Doug Toys, Sales Expert, Toy Inventor

Lessons Learned

Hire people who have the ability to connect to with others. This quality comes from all backgrounds.

Getting your sales team excited about a new product is as important as getting customers interested.

Look to create sales relationships that feel more like collaborations.


Lesson: Selling Your Vision with Melissa Bernstein

Step #5 Hiring Sales: The qualities of a good salesperson

We hire sales people on a completely different way than anybody else does and I'm so proud of the way we hire sales people because it is based on nothing academic and it is not based on pedigree, and we are so proud to say that. It is literally based on two things. One is help people engage and two is, their ability to think quickly and process a lot of information, since we have so many products and so many different categories but that ability to connect is something that is so elusive and so hard to judge. And we are so proud of the way that we have been able to form a group of sales people who are the most eclectic group in the nation and come from every single walk of life and every experience possible.

Their only similarity is that they are incredibly dynamic and connect with people in such a warm, sincere way that you want to be their friend and we're really proud of that group. I always say, we have PhDs, we have lawyers, we have actors, we have former athletes and we have people who never even finished high school or college and they're all equal at Melissa and Doug because they're all really qualified to do that job really well.

Selling is the hardest job to do at our company and I think, in general and we're fortunate that the people who do it are not sales people. In fact, we don't even hire people who sold in prior lives. It's very rare because generally, a salesperson from another company is canned and very robotic and not at all what we're looking for. We are actually looking for people to partner with our customers and help their businesses and it really is about that. It's about forming this amazing relationship that, because we are helping them. And we've had 100% return policy since day one, so that returnable policy that we talked about, that was on our very first product, continues today. We use that as putting our bar so high because if I know that every product that I come out with can be returned, again, it makes it so that I'm not going to come out with any product that isn't great.

So when we say to our customers, "We will take back anything that doesn't work," we are truly saying to them, "We care about you, we're only going to do things that are in your best interest, we want this partnership to work. We're going to really work hard to give you only the very best products to make you successful,” and we really do that. So we're not hiring your traditional sales person that's just going to push products in there that don't work and try to get their numbers as high as possible. In fact, our sales people aren't even commissioned. So that's one of the things we do, so that there's an equal playing field and they're really doing things in the best interest of the store.

Our training process, like everything at Melissa and Doug, I would say, is very nuanced and has really been honed over more than two decades and we're really very, very proud of it. It's become pretty robust, in the last few years. So a lot of it is based on actually mentoring because our sales group is like the biggest family in our company and because they're non-commissioned, I think it's a really big group of people who want to help each other and mentor each other.

So a lot of the training is done within the sales group itself to build really good relationships. And every new person has mentors within that group that they can turn to for questions, which is really great. But all the sales people and customer service people I meet with before they are hired, so I sort of have a familiarity with them. But right in their first couple of days, they meet with me for a few hours and we really talk about what makes Melissa and Doug tick and what makes us special. And I hopefully, gets them a little more enthused about our mission and what we're doing and what makes us so unique. So that's at the very beginning.

Then they go through a really great process to learn about our products, which, I think most people want to come here, which is good because again, we're not hiring traditional sales people because they are passionate about kids, passionate about learning and really passionate about the product. And that's why most of them say they are so excited because we come out with about 150 to 200 new products a year, so we have so many new things all the time, that they get as excited as the parents, and they are parents.

So if they are the customer and when I tell them about the new products, we have product meetings a few times a year, I am more excited to tell them than I probably would be to tell the actual customer because they're the steward of getting these products out there when you're talking to like, 100 sales people, it is so empowering. And when they get excited, it makes everything worthwhile. But the training process is really taking them through the entire product line. We have 2,000 products, so it's not a simple task to really have them understand all the categories and they can't in just a short amount of time but we take them through. They understand it.

We have an amazing computer system that's home-grown and we've really created to help us handle these stores and help us really have a window into what they've bought, what sells well, what doesn't and help us better help them carry the things that sell well for them or the categories. So we teach them how to use that to help them sell properly and then we really have them listen a lot to the current sales people, some of their mentors and really understand the whole process of having a successful call.

It's really mostly about building that amazing relationship because we really believe that when you establish that great relationship and make them understand that we really aren't like other companies, we're really here to help them grow and if we do things that aren't in the interest of that, we're just going to get products back and it's not going to help anyone. The tables are turned and it becomes much more of a collaborative partnership, which is really amazing, actually to see. And to be honest, that relationship lasts from the beginning to the end.

We've many stores that go out of business and we're the only company that they pay because we've been such a partner to them and they view the relationship as so beneficial that they literally feel that they need to repay it, so to speak.

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