Sales candidates are exceedingly hard to find. Even the best salespeople are finding a needle in a hay stack, aren’t they? No but it seems we believe so. I
am currently working with a well-established organization and the following questions arose – as they do fairly regularly:
- How can I avoid making expensive hiring mistakes?
- How can I hire salespeople who will actually sell on value and not price?
- How do I find the top sales people and recognize that they are successful?
It seems to be an ongoing organizational issue for many companies.
Many resumes, which are what we typically look at when we are deciding who to hire, look good. Most people can make themselves look presentable for an interview. However, most organizations spend too much money hiring the wrong sales managers and salespeople.
In most cases, it takes a year for you to replace those ineffective individuals. That process costs you thousands of dollars in lost time, wasted wages and – most importantly – lost business revenue.
Traditional hiring approaches are typically reactive, ineffective and flawed. Take the following scenario: The decision-maker becomes dissatisfied with sagging sales numbers and says, “Get some new blood in here.” This promotes a recruiting blitz involving advertising, search firms and even asking employees for referrals to identify attractive talent. Then we search, sort through resumes, do a bunch of interviews, make offers, and hope and pray.
This time-worn process often leads to failure. Here are five steps to break out of that mold and succeed in hiring a sales superstar:
Step 1: Benchmarking
- Identify the right candidate. The question CEOs need to ask themselves to determine the ideal sales candidate is: What are our primary target markets?
- Whom should they be calling on, and at what level in the organization? Ultimately, whom should they be talking to, and are they doing that now?
- What is the financial commitment required of a prospect? Is the price of your particular product or service under $5,000, up to $50,000 or over $50,000? This will show the comfort level of the individual selling if they always sold at that level.
- What is our prospecting approach? Are we very proactive? Do we make cold calls from a list? What’s the level of product knowledge in our representatives and in the community?
Step 2: Search
Companies that practice continual sales hiring – as opposed to as-needed hiring – do things differently. A salesperson is an asset, not a liability, to your organization. So why are you not always looking for someone better than your best salesperson? If your approach is to recruit top salespeople, they are not always available when you need them. Top-level salespeople are always working. They move from one job to another. The best ones are not out looking for a job for long, if at all.
Continuous recruiting starts with developing a staffing plan that helps you manage both the additional and potential reductions in your staff. Developing a plan months in advance for your anticipated needs will help you avoid crisis hiring. Make recruitment an important aspect of your corporate culture.
Remember: If you found someone better than your best salesperson today, even if you didn’t specifically have a need for them, you would find a place for them. Recruiting has to be something that is done consistently, not just when you just have a need.
Step 3: Qualify
Whether you outsource your recruiting or do it internally, make sure you know what you are looking for. If the Super Hero of sales was on the phone or walked through your door, what would you do? More importantly: Would you even know it if you found them? It’s very important to understand what qualities you’re looking for and know where to look, so make sure that it’s a consistent plan throughout your organization.
Pre-qualifying on the phone is important for a few reasons. Your salespeople will likely be on the phone at least some of the time, so you need to know how they handle themselves on the phone. You can find that out by asking some questions and seeing how they react, getting a feel for tonality and articulation. This will also help you avoid wasting time on an unnecessary meeting that will typically take an hour or more.
Step 4: Assess the Candidate
Use an objective performance test to disqualify or validate your candidate. Use a test that will separate those who can sell from those who will sell. Testing is a very important part of recruiting because we tend to make decisions in our gut. Though our gut feeling is very strong, it’s also based on our own personal history and experiences. There’s really no rhyme or reason for this, it’s just a gut feeling. That is a good thing, but it needs to be used in addition to something that’s more intellectual and factual. Having a test to be able to look at the candidate objectively is very important.
Step 5: The interview
The interview is the most critical step. An effective interviewer sets the stage to get the candidate to act and respond in the same manner he or she would in front of a prospect.
To separate the high achievers from the ineffective salespeople, you need to stay away from the “so tell me about yourself approach.” Get the candidate through a tough selling situation right away and see how they handle themselves.
For example, it’s important to push the candidate back some. Put them in a situation they’ll be when they try to sell to a prospect. They are not going to have an easy situation every time.
I know this may be a little uncomfortable for most of us, but it is important to get a feel for how they react with a little pressure because that’s what sales is about. They will be getting pressure out in the field, so let’s give them a little pressure in the interview and see if they can stand up to the challenge.
In conclusion, here are a few key things when it comes to hiring sales superstars:
- Don’t worry about resumes. They’re mostly brochures written by the pros, anyway.
- Don’t hire based on references. Make sure the candidate can sell you.
- Make sure you use the right testing tools so you can get an independent evaluation of the person that you’re looking to hire.
- Don’t hire based on your gut or liking the candidate. Make sure that you push back, and you see some strong selling skills.
- Put a little pressure on candidates during the interview to see how they react.
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