Thursday, September 25, 2008

Take The Wish And Hope Out Of Hiring Great Salespeople

Writen by Andrew Rowe

If you're like most hiring managers, you may have made the mistake in the past of hiring a sales person because you had too few candidates, and as a result of that, you "wished" and "hoped: that the candidate that you did have would turn out to be a great sales performer. We all know that when we wish and hope that someone is going to turn out to be a superstar, this often comes back to bite us. I've experienced this in the past, and I know a lot of other sales managers and vice-president's of sales who have experienced this in the past as well.

One of the key things that we absolutely have to do when we have too few candidates is to be doubly rigorous about the process that we put our few candidates through, in order to make sure that they're fully vetted. This means adding more people to the interviewing team and pushing back on our own natural tendency to want to justify a hiring decision by scrutinizing and playing devils advocate with ourselves regarding the candidates skills, abilities, experience, domain knowledge, and their actual sales achievement history.

Oftentimes the best way to do this is when you only have one or two candidates for a position, step back from the process and let it rest for a while. Don't make an immediate or hasty decision. Why should you hesitate? What happens if you lose the one candidate that you have? The fact is that by stepping back from a decision for a little while, often times it will allow you to gain the clarity needed to make the right decision.

What's the alternative? Making a hasty decision and wishing and hoping that a candidate is going to work out will often lead to huge expense, many months of lost time, and tens of thousands of dollars in lost sales. The best way to avoid making a mis-hire is to make sure that you don't make a decision if you think there's a chance of a mis-hire. If a candidate goes through your interviewing process and your conclusion is "maybe," then you should conclude that the hiring decision needs to be "no."

If you are a hiring manager who's been wishing and hoping that that one candidate that you have for a sales position turns out to be the right person, make sure to eliminate wishful thinking by following these easy steps:

Observe Sales Candidates' Behavior

So often, as a hiring manager or in the process of interviewing salespeople, we get caught up in a sales candidate's natural ability to speak smoothly and to sell themselves in the interviewing process. The real question is, how do they behave through the interviewing process? One of the key things that I do is to step back from the eloquence and the good speaking skills that I hear in an interview and actually watch to see how a candidate performs when I assign them simple homework duties. If you're in the business of hiring sales people, always assign homework and follow-up tasks to sales candidates at the end of each interview. Then watch and measure closely whether or not a job seeker actually performs the assignments that you've given them. You'll be amazed to see how many sales people actually don't follow up and follow the instructions that you've given them, even once you've spelled out exactly what you want them to do.

Salespeople who don't follow up on homework assignments through the interviewing process should be immediately set aside or discarded as candidates for sales positions in your company. Why? Because how they behave and how they perform with assignments in your interviewing process is a direct reflection of how they will perform and how they will behave when following up with your clients if they come to work for you! That's why it's critical to be very objective on this subject and to measure and watch for the right sales behavior. Make sure to set clear standards of discipline for this as a part of your sales interviewing process.

Assigning Sales Interview Homework

Here are some of the tasks that you can easily assign to a salesperson to follow up on:

One task can be to assign them the task of developing a sales achievement history and sending it to you via email. A sales achievement history should list their annual sales quota and achievement against that quota for the preceding several years.

Another homework assignment is ask a salesperson to go away and think about the opportunity that you've discussed with them during the interview, and then come back to you with a specific email or letter which outlines why the opportunity is a good one for them, how it matches with their skills, and why the career growth that you're offering in your company would match with their needs.

Another easy homework assignment is to have them come back with a simple task such as completing a writing assignment or sending you samples of their previous correspondence with customers, sales presentations they've created, or something else that will demonstrate their communication skills. Another simple homework assignment is to have your sales candidate put together a sample sales presentation for you, and have them pitch it in order to show you how they would propose to go to work for your company.

All of these homework assignments are opportunities for you to assign work to a candidate prior to hiring them and watch how they fulfill their tasks. It's a great way to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to hiring top sales performers. If a candidate is unwilling or incapable of following up on those tasks in a professional manner, then they clearly should not be considered as a candidate to go to work for your company.

Making Great Sales Hiring Decisions

If you're putting sales candidates through an interviewing process, make sure that you include non-sales team members in the interviewing process each and every time. Include people from Finance, Operations, Human Resources, Engineering and/or Manufacturing. Why would you do this, you ask? Well the fact is that different members from other departments in your company have a completely different perspective and a different skill set when it comes to interviewing people. It's the non-sales interview team members that often times produce the best perspective or provide a different set of inputs on a particular sales candidate -- which is important to your overall hiring decision.

For example, a Finance or Engineering person often times can measure a sales candidate's analytical capabilities, such as their ability to perform simple tasks such as analyzing numbers, preparing forecasts, doing technical requirements evaluations, etc. By having other types of people from different departments in your company participate in the interviewing process, you can develop a much broader perspective about the capabilities of your sales candidates as it relates to the totality of their job. Then you won't only evaluate whether or not they can talk and communicate well. So think about this as you move forward. Always include non-salespeople in the interviewing process.

Cube Management helps companies accelerate their sales, by providing the Sales & Marketing talent they need to grow their business. Cube is a leading recruiting and consulting partner to mid-market and emerging growth companies in the technology, manufacturing, healthcare and business service sectors. We work across the spectrum of Sales, Marketing and Business Development, providing holistic solutions that drive revenue and profit success. Cube Management combines Strategy, Process and People, to produce great results. Download the Cube Management Recruiting Guide and the Cube Management Inside Sales Guide.

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