One of the best ways to improve your peripheral sales is to hire service providers who already have a knack for selling. Although it may sound too good to be true, those people are out there, and they want to work for you. The challenge to all of us as club managers is to recognize them when we see them, and then to select the right ones for our club. It all starts with your interviewing process.

First comes a warning: Directors of personal training, spa services and group programming often tend to interview for education and experience first and foremost. Relational skills are a close second. Clearly, service providers who cannot relate to their prospective clients cannot sell to them. Education, experience and relational skills are important to service providers’ success, and they should still be a part of the interview. However, having a skill in sales, or at least having the core components of being successful in sales, is every bit as important as education, experience and relational skills to the success of your department.

First-hand experience in sales is great, but you should also identify those characteristics that make a good salesperson in your organization. I look for people who are entrepreneurial—self-starters who are not afraid of some risk in the pursuit of success. I also look for people who are in charge of their own destiny. If something is not working, they can identify it, tweak it as necessary and keep going. They are resourceful and persistent.

Finally, I want people who can create value for the client. Value is tricky because it is a moving target, so these service providers will need to be creative, observant of their clients’ wants and needs and are able to deliver. Once you determine the traits you want, work with your club’s sales director to re-create your interview process. He or she may help you craft questions and/or act as a second interviewer for your candidates.

Here are some sample interview questions to get to the three qualities I mentioned above:

Tell me about a time when you saw an opportunity and took the initiative to seize it. This question will help identify entrepreneurship, which is an all-important part of sales, but a trait that many service-oriented candidates will not even recognize that they have. Candidates must seek and identify opportunities to make a sale, and then act on that opportunity. If they have no track record of doing that—even back to childhood—you do not want them.

How have you increased your income over the last several years? In this question, you are looking for the candidate’s track record of taking charge of their future—being directly responsible for increasing their income. “I got bumped up every year due to performance” is not as exciting as “I constantly grasped opportunities to improve or expand our services and was promoted.” Even better would be: “I introduced small group training” or “I started bundling spa services so I could earn more money in the same amount of time.”

Why would a client choose to work with you over another personal trainer here who has a similar amount of education and experience and who also truly cares about clients? This is a question of value. You are not looking for any out of- the-box tricks. You want to know how this individual will create more value for your members, thereby both acquiring and retaining clients over time. You want to hear about follow-up emails, thank you notes and birthday cards. What will this service provider do to stand out? Generalized answers about specialties, intelligence and creative programming are completely missing the point.

Interviewing and hiring new team members always is a gamble. How can you really know after just a few hours with someone whether he or she will be successful? Collaborating with your club’s sales director in the interview process can take out a lot of the mystery. Education, experience and relational skills are still important in your hiring process, but sales skills are equally so. An early emphasis on sales can save you much headache and heartache in coaching your team to sales success.

Amanda Harris is vice president of fitness and wellness at ACAC Fitness Centers in Charlottesville, VA. She also is a management development specialist with more than 15 years of industry experience, including 13 years as a personal trainer and can be reached at Amandah@acac.com.