Wanted – Humble Sales People

iTEJd_6QOne of the challenges when you're hiring salespeople (or coaching them) is the dichotomy between being confident and being humble. Part of being effective in sales is coming across as knowledgeable and confident, but if your sales people push that too far they'll be seen as arrogant and cocky.  What would happen if they came across as humble and curious as well as confident? You can explore this tension between confidence and humility as you're interviewing salespeople.  Ask tough questions and change topics quickly to see how can they handle pressure. Also, ask for examples of how they've grown and what they've learned - then listen carefully for stories of humility and curiosity.

From a practical sales perspective, the balance between confidence and humility really comes down to being a great listener. Nobody wants to talk to a know-it-all, and yet so many sales people spend all their time focusing on mastering the technical aspects of their product. You certainly need to know your product, but more importantly you need to know what questions to ask. It's not about having the right answer, it's about having a great set of questions – without being overbearing – that can uncover the compelling reasons for a prospect to buy and help them understand the full impact of their current situation.

An arrogant salesperson will ask a question then begin to answer it before the prospect has a chance to jump in to contribute to the conversation.  Or, they'll asks overly complex questions that make the conversation harder than it needs to be. Many salespeople falsely believe that showing off their intellect and demonstrating their technical knowledge makes them seem more confident.  Usually they are just masking their insecurity and are afraid to just have a conversation.

In our experience, the most effective questions are simple, direct, and straightforward. Most importantly, a good salesperson takes the time to pause after asking a question. There’s no need to rush in and start talking right away if the prospect is considering your question.

Humble sales managers can make a huge difference as well.  We’ve seen great sales people get promoted to become a sales manager, and suddenly it's like they walked through a magic portal with the title "sales manager" above it and forget to ask questions. The very thing that made them so effective and helped them rise to the top of their sales team was likely their ability to ask great questions and be a great listener. Yet, when they become a sales manager, they forget all about that and instead they start telling their team, "Well, here's what you need to do."

What ends up happening is rather than developing a team of diverse personalities, each with their individual strengths, they start building a team of clones. Sometimes that can work well in the near term, but ultimately they’re limiting the growth of each team member by just making them do the job their way. It's not about telling your team, "Do this, do that, here's what you need to do next in this situation," because you're doing the thinking for your sales people. Instead, think like you're back in a sales role. How can you get them to the right answer? How can you ask them questions that help them discover what they need to do next?

If your sales people come to the conclusion on their own, it's their idea and they'll start to apply it. They'll have more ownership. If you just tell them what to do and it doesn't work, they can blame you. For salespeople, be humble and ask questions. Ask questions that make the prospect think and give them a pause to answer the question. For sales managers, rather than telling your team, “do this, do that,” ask a question to help them get to the right answer. Being humble enough to ask questions rather than show off how much you know because you were once a top distribution salesperson can really make a big difference.

How to Retain High Performing Sales People

Top Performing Sales People, sales coaching, sales management, high performer, Intelligent Conversations, Mike CarrollOver the years you may have noticed a difficulty in keeping your highest performing sales people on your team. You may have asked yourself, "What do I need to do to make sure I can keep my top performers engaged?" The most important thing you can do as a sales manager is take the time to understand what's important to each person on your team. What are their personal goals? How can you help them see your company as the vehicle through which they can achieve their personal goals?

It is important to take the time to understand what's important to each sales person on a personal level, not just their business goals. Business goals will happen along the way but understanding what's important to them first is key. Do they want to spend more time with their family? Do they want to save for retirement? When you as a manager take time to understand each individual employee’s personal goals, you can then go the extra step of translating that to, "Here's what you need to do as a sales person to achieve that goal."

For example, years ago we had a high performing sales client who was a young, single mother and frustrated that she couldn't save enough money to buy a house. Even though she was making a lot of money as a high performing sales person, she couldn't organize a budget to purchase a home. Her sales manager sat down with her and said, "What neighborhoods are you interested in? Here is what you need for a down payment. Here's what the mortgage would look like." Once they had mapped it out, they found that she could have a down payment in six months if she increased her sales by 10 to 15 percent. Because of connecting that personal goal to business performance, her sales manager was able to hold her accountable and she ended up having the down payment ready in three months.

The single most important thing you can do to retain your employees is to take the extra time and understand what's important to them. Understand their personal goals, and then map their personal goals back to their business activities. When employees see your company as the means through which they can achieve their personal goals, they're not only going to be more motivated and loyal, it also becomes easier for your managers to hold them accountable. In terms of keeping your high performing sales people, that’s the number one thing you can do for them and your company.

Is Your Hiring Process Stuck in 2014?

shutterstock_104559317.jpgTwo years ago there were more candidates available than positions available. It was fun!  Hiring managers and HR recruiters were able to do all sorts of things to people applying for jobs.  You could make candidates go through multiple steps, take online assessments, and go through round after round of interviews. And the best part was, candidates HAD to put up with it.  They had no choice.  If they wanted a job they had to go through whatever you threw at them.

Guess what?  The market has shifted and is no longer employer-centric. Today there are more positions
available than candidates to fill them.  So if you still have an overly complicated hiring process you’re probably noticing a high attrition rate. Candidates simply are not willing to go through multiple steps to get to an interview or get the job. 

The challenge is, how can you streamline your hiring process without compromising its integrity?  If you use best practices such as Topgrading or our Sales Talent Acquisition Routine (STAR hiring system) you know how valuable it is to implement a rigorous selection process. Is your hiring process as efficient as it can be? 

We recommend taking a critical look at every step of your hiring process and looking for opportunities to streamline it. Review every single thing that you ask a candidate to do, from the candidate's point of view, and ask yourselves, "What value do I get from this step? Can I remove it without detracting from the rigor of our hiring process?" It's a balancing act. You don't want to take away from having a rigorous selection process, but you also want to restructure it to make it more candidate friendly.

In our practice, we help our clients hire sales people all the time. For years, we would have candidates fill out an application, and then ask them some basic questions. After they took the application, we'd have them take an online sales assessment. After that, if they were recommended, we would schedule a series of interviews. We found this process was no longer getting us the candidates we needed, so something needed to change. We decide to eliminate the initial application because with their resume and assessment we would get all the information we needed.  We didn’t compromise our rigor, we just made it more streamlined and candidate-centric.  What steps can you review, modify or simply eliminate from your selection process to do the same?

Once you’ve streamlined your selection process the next step is to make sure you have your hiring team fully engaged.  When you have a quality candidate who's interested and engaged in the process, have everyone on the hiring team on high alert and ready to go.  Nothing on their calendar is more important than engaging the candidate in an interview.  Do your best to accommodate the candidate, not the other way around. After speaking with candidates, come to a consensus quickly, and decide what you want to do. Quality candidates are not going to wait around. I've seen too many companies lose great candidates because they can't get their hiring team to engage in a timely fashion. 

Eliminating steps in your selection process and keeping everyone on your hiring team focused and engaged will help you win the war on talent. The companies who are able to maintain a rigorous, candidate-centric process, are going to attract better talent and hire better people. The faster you can get someone onboard, the faster they can get through the learning curve and begin producing results for your company.

Is Your Sales Organization Ready For Topgrading?

If your leadership team understands that the Company’s most valuable asset is its people then the answer is yes.

In a time where hiring and re-hiring top notch talent has become necessary in order to run a successful business and set yourselves apart from your competitors, it is critical that your organization implements a recruitment method that attracts, screens, and secures the best talent, both internal and external.

Hiring and retaining A Players is the most important responsibility assigned to leaders in your organization. When referring to leaders, we don’t refer exclusively to executives, managers, and supervisors, but rather all members of the organization with the drive and desire to excel. We refer to high performers longing to work with other high performers.

Amongst some of the most common challenges being faced today by organizations using traditional recruitment methods are vague job descriptions, screening from resumes, competency & behavioral based interviews, and ineffective reference checks.  By implementing the Topgrading methodology in your organization you will be able to resolve these issues and more.  You will be able to improve your organization’s hiring success, reduce the cost of turnover, increase profits and market value.

What is Topgrading?

Topgrading is a talent acquisition method that allows your organization to achieve teams consisting of 90% or more A Players, those in the top 10% of talent available for the pay. There are 12 steps to follow in the Topgrading Timeline; each step plays a significant role in the hiring success of your organization, from executive hiring to front line personnel.

Following are a few reasons your organization should consider the implementation of Topgrading: 

Calculating the Cost of Mis-hires

When calculating the cost of a mis-hire, take a sales representative for example, consider the following factors: hiring costs, compensation, maintenance, severance, opportunity costs and disruptions costs and you will be surprised by the outcome. 

Blog Jenny%27s Chart

Vague Job Descriptions vs. Job Scorecards

Most companies use a job description to help them identify the responsibilities assigned to the employee; job descriptions tend to be broad and general.  In the long run, they lead to disappointment, due to the ambiguous delivery of expectations.  Topgrading uses the Job Scorecard to identify clear accountabilities and metrics assigned to a specific job.  It also identifies the key competencies necessary to achieve the results your organization is looking for.  Expectations are clearly defined prior to the person being hired or promoted so you can communicate those expectations from day one. Your performance document is created before a person is hired and you can clearly determine whether a new hire is an A Player or not.

Screening from Resumes vs. The Career History Form

Resumes tend to carry a lot of weight, an opportunity for job candidates to exaggerate their roles and accomplishments. By using the Topgrading Career History Form you will ask candidates to identify their strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, challenges, relationships with supervisors, and reasons for leaving the job; the good and the ugly.

Behavioral Based Interviews vs. The Topgrading Tandem Interview

Candidates come prepared to behavior-based competency interviews.  They expect questions revolving around integrity, communication, teamwork and initiative (going the “extra mile”) along with the organizational values you list on your website.  In today’s world there are books candidates can actually purchase that help them prepare for these types of interviews.  The Tandem Topgrading Interview is a chronological, in-depth, and structured interview focusing on education, work history, plans, goals, and self-appraisal.

Reference Checks

Are you guilty of hiring without checking references? You’re not alone. Reference checks are often not executed or done poorly.  Some of the challenges with reference checks are: allowing candidates to provide only positive references, “the cheerleading squad”, hiring managers trying, often in vain, to chase down references, and getting references to talk, typically sending you directly to their HR department.  By using what Topgrading refers to as “TORC”, threat of reference check, candidates are asked to arrange personal reference calls with references such as their bosses from the past 10 years, peers, direct reports, and customers. You decide and identify which references the candidate will be arranging.   

Topgrading Fixes Hiring Problems

Tograding at every level in your organization will have a positive impact on both your customers’ and employees’ health index. High performers will support your brand promise and in return you retain and grow your existing clientele by developing relationships built on trust, where clients feel comfortable referring new clients.  By supporting your talent promise of hiring high performers to work with high performers your employee engagement will increase as well as your employees’ commitment level, resulting in low turnover.  Bottom line, hire more high performers who fit your culture, avoid mis-hires that cost you a lot of time and money, get to know employees very well before they even become employees, grow faster, gain market share, increase profits, create fulfilling jobs.  Become a talent magnet!

Qualities Of An Over-Achieving Sales Team

With so many business issues and challenges beyond your control, Presidents, CEOs, and business owners who focus on what they can control will put their companies in a better position for growth.  Since building your sales team is one such issue, why settle for anything less than an over-achieving sales team?

In our work helping clients to do exactly that, we have identified some qualities that are important for the individuals who make up over-achieving sales teams. Here are three that stand out.

Passion For Sales

The first thing to focus on when building a team of over-achieving sales people is to find people with a true passion for sales.  In our consulting practice, one of the first steps in any engagement is to conduct an analysis so we can understand the strengths and hidden weaknesses of everyone on the sales team (along with an assessment of your sales systems and processes and a host of other issues). One of the key strengths we look for - and often find lacking - is the sales team's desire to be in sales.

pushy word cloudFor many sales professionals, sales is a career of default.  There is no passion - it's just a job.  Why?  Our beliefs drive our worldview and if I ask you to write down the first five things that come to mind when you think of a "sales person" your list will probably include words such as:

  • Slick
  • Insincere
  • Pushy
  • Aggressive
  • Untrustworthy


However, highly successful sales people tend to have a very different view of their profession.  Most really don't think of themselves as "sales people."  Rather they see themselves as "helpful problem solvers." 

When you build an over-achieving sales team filled with helpful problem solvers who are truly passionate about the products and services you offer and the meaningful impact they can have on the customers you serve it is much easier to grow your business.

Outlook and Attitude

Take a moment to write down the last time you made a major purchase from someone you didn't like. It's difficult because we tend to buy from people we like and who make us feel good.  We buy on an emotional level and then rationalize our buying decisions. In other words, sales is about transferring emotion. 

So the sales people on your team who can effectively transfer emotion and get a potential buyer as enthusiastic about your product or service as they are will sell more.

But it is difficult to fake a positive outlook or a great attitude.  It has to be genuine.  If your sales people don't like their job don't truly believe in your product or that your solution is really the best option for the buyer, it won't work.  The people who buy your product or service will see right through fake enthusiasm and insincere excitement.  Bad attitudes and negative outlooks on your sales team will cost your company serious money.

If you want to build an over-achieving sales team, start by establishing a "No Excuses" culture.  Also make sure your sales hiring process can screen out the people with a negative outlook or a bad attitude, and capture those with a great outlook and a positive attitude.


How committed is your sales team? Are they willing to go the extra mile?  Will they do whatever it takes to help you grow your business? 

If you really want to build an over-achieving sales team, the single most important trait to look for in the people you put on your sales team is their commitment to doing "whatever it takes" to be successful.  Obviously when we say "whavever it takes" we do not mean your sales people should break the law, lie to customers and prospects, or engage in other unethical behaviors.  What we mean by commitment is having a sales team that will:

  • Push beyond their comfort zone
  • Improve themselves through training, professional development, and personal development
  • Make the extra call, send the extra letter, do the extra follow up, read the extra article, ask the extra question....
  • Consistently follow your sales process
  • Hold firm on price and preserve margin
  • Provide help and advice to their teammates so the entire sales team benefits from their experience and perspective
  • Do the "grunt work" that produces results (cold calls, prospecting, working tradeshows, networking, etc.)
  • Be responsive to sales coaching and management input, following through even if it makes them uncomfortable


When you build a team of sales people who are truly commited - to their success, to your success, to growing both personally and professionally, to growing your business, to doing "whatever it takes" to be successful, you will be on your way to building an over-achieving sales team. 

In our experience CEOs typically get the sales team they deserve.  If you choose to let someone else on your management team take responsibility for building your sales team don't be surprised if the results are less than you expect.  Commitment starts at the top - how committed are you to building an over-achieving sales team?

5 Steps to Hiring Your Best Salesperson

Sales People


Making the decision to hire a new sales person can be the hardest part of the process.  Once you get over the hump and make the decision – you have months of work ahead of you.  Even with the planning and preparation, many companies that hire sales people in the upcoming months will make costly mistakes and will ultimately fail to improve the strength of their sales organization.

What can you do to avoid their fate? Here are five simple steps to put you on the path to implementing a "Superstars Only" policy.

1) Identify what the "ideal candidate" must have in terms of experience and attributes.

Many hiring managers really do not think in terms of what a sales person must have done successfully in the past to be successful at their company. Think about why sales people have failed at your company. What was it they could not do effectively? Whatever it was, make sure you clearly identify what your new sales candidates need to be able to do to thrive and succeed in your sales environment.

2) Test every candidate.

Using the right assessment gives hiring managers a tremendous advantage because it allows them to take an objective, third-party look at every candidate before they become emotionally involved or make subjective judgments based on the interview. In addition to helping you comply with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines, the right assessment will help confirm or challenge your impression of a potential sales candidate. It will also help guide the interview process by highlighting potential weaknesses to explore and address.

3) Conduct smart interviews.

While many hiring managers think the interview is the most important step in the hiring process, its usefulness is somewhat limited. That said, it's still the best way for you to gauge a candidate's ability to think on their feet, overcome resistance and build rapport - important skills for a strong sales person. Keep your interviews short and use them as a test drive to help you imagine how the candidate would do with your most demanding prospect or customer. Do not waste valuable interview time asking questions that were answered on the resume or application.

4) Make good use of the resume.

Most sales managers will eliminate potentially strong candidates who do not have the right industry experience and educational background. However, it's a lot easier to hire a strong sales person and teach them your domain than to take a domain expert and try to teach them how to sell. In a few highly technical fields I might give domain expertise more weight, but in general it's easier to hire strong sales people.

The most important information on the resume is rarely used. For example, look at the average tenure at their previous jobs. Do they switch every two years? If you have a longer sales cycle and it will take some time to ramp up, be careful about hiring someone who may not stay with you long enough to get a return on your hiring investment. Also, the time of year they switch can help you understand when they struggle or when they may hit a slump - valuable information for a sales manager.

5) Understand the cost of your past hiring mistakes.

Nothing will help you focus on "doing it right" like going through an exercise to document the impact of your past mistakes. You can use our free calculator right here to get started. Every hiring mistake at your company is costly, but when you hire the wrong sales person the impact can be even greater since they're out in the market representing your company and brand.

Companies spend billions of dollars every year on training initiatives. How would your hiring process change if you viewed "development" as starting with each hiring decision? How much higher would the return on your training investment be if you considered whether or not a potential sales candidate is "trainable" and what their "growth potential" might be if they received appropriate training? How much faster could they ramp up if you had a sales development curriculum specifically designed to address the weaknesses uncovered in your hiring system? If you are not already asking these questions, you need to start.

5 Difficult Questions You Need to Ask About Your Sales Team

Examine Your Sales Team, Objective Management Group sales reports, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, Milwaukee consultants, Sales Force Evaluation, Expert Advice, Sales Questions, Sales GrowthIf you had the opportunity to really study your sales organization - to take a very diagnostic look at the people, systems and strategies that impact sales;
- What questions would you ask?
- What are the most frustrating, difficult, drive-you-absolutely-nuts questions about your sales team or business development group that you would want to know?
- What would you do with the answers?
- How would you leverage that information to turn things around and start growing massive revenue?

If you would like to learn more about how you can take an x-ray of your sales team so you know exactly where to focus your time, energy and team investments, let's schedule a call of a date for a cup of coffee.
Click here to contact Mike Carroll for a phone conversation
Click here to contact Mike Carroll for a cup of coffee.
5 important questions for you
Many of the CEOs, Presidents, and Business Owners we talk with have a very general sense and a surface-level understanding of what might be holding their sales team back. And they will readily express their frustration. But when asked to be a more precise, to pinpoint exactly where their concerns are with their sales team, most just shrug their shoulders and say

"I don't know exactly, that's why I called you!"

Without having a conversation and asking you a lot of questions about your current circumstances, it is impossible for me to guess which questions would be the most important for you to understand.  That said, I'll make a guess by sharing these five (5) questions we commonly see when talking with frustrated CEOs, Presidents, and Business Owners.
1. Do we have the right people on our sales team?
Teams tend to evolve over time. People are hired because they seem like a good fit and they were available at the time you were hiring. Or they worked at a competitor and they appear to know your industry. Or they were on the sales team of a company you acquired and it didn't make sense to let them go. Or they are a good friend's son or daughter who recently graduated from college, needed a job, and interviewed well.
There are are all sorts of reasons why we add people to the team - and usually what we see is a hodge podge of random hiring decisions made at different points in time for different reasons with different considerations and goals for making each hire. Rarely is there a consistent, systematic, disciplined hiring strategy with focus and clarity around the type of person you need, the experience they MUST have, the skills they need to succeed, and much more. Do you have such a system in place or have you assembled a hodge podge team?
2. Are our people doing the right things?
We know there are specific activities every sales person and sales manager should do every day, every week, and every month. And we know that team members did these activities with a consistent focus and discipline, massive results would follow. And you probably already know what these activities are for your company. And yet, your sales team still does not do them. Or at least they don't do them consistently. How much time are they spending in sales conversations every week? Are they talking to the right people or did they settle for the person they could reach? Are they asking the right questions or are they asking the safe questions where feel most comfortable?
3. Are our sales managers doing everything they can to drive business growth?
Sales managers have tremendous power and influence. Effective sales managers hold people accountable, ask great questions, coach consistently and effectively, grow the team and hire sales people who are stronger than they are. Yet they still feel comfortable coaching stronger sales people, raising expectations and helping them succeed. Great sales managers can be worth their weight in gold. And yet, great sales managers are extraordinarily rare and difficult to find.

How are your sales managers doing?

Are they effective coaches or do they just muddle through? Do they recruit the right people to build the team or are they selecting people who are weaker than they are so they don't feel threatened? Are they raising expectations and then giving the support their team needs to crush their goals or are they just going with the flow?
4. Are we tracking the right stuff?
Too often CEOs, Presidents and Business Owners focus like a laser beam on one statistic and one statistic only - sales growth. If sales are growing, the team is fine. If sales are stalled or declining, look out! Looking at sales results and monitoring revenue growth is obviously important, particularly when communicating with outside parties (your bank, your investors, potential business partners, etc.).

For an internal focus we recommend tracking activities rather than results. Pick a handful of activities that, when done with consistent focus and discipline, will drive the results you want. Measure them. Track them frequently. Use them to hold people accountable. Do not let up. If having every sales person make a minimum of 10 prospecting calls every day will drive the results you need, track it. If having every sales person generate two quality referrals every week will drive the results you need, track it. Whatever your key activites might be, find them, track them and hold your people accountable to hitting them consistently.
5. How much revenue have we lost by not addressing these issues with our sales team?
Ignoring a problem isn't going to make it go away. Getting the right people, focused on the right things, with the right sales coaching and leadership, and tracking the right activities can make a massive difference on your sales growth. Even nailing down three out of the five can have a big impact. What are you doing this quarter to address the issues in your sales organization? Where will you focus first? What will have the greatest impact and biggest return for your effort? What will it cost you this quarter in terms of lost sales if you wait? And if you are on plan or ahead of plan, what would focusing on these issues do in terms of generating even more revenue?
These are just a handful of the questions we help our clients understand. If you would like to learn more about how you can take an x-ray of your sales team so you know exactly where to focus your time, energy and team investments, let's schedule a brief phone conversation or meet for a cup of coffee to figure it out.

Mike Carroll

Click here to contact Mike Carroll for a cup of coffee.


What is the Most Important Step in the Sales Hiring Process?

Sales Hiring, 90 day plan, ramp up, new hire onboarding, on-boarding, sales management hiring mistakes, Top Grading, STAR hiring system, Dave Kurlan, Objective Management Group, OMG, Mike Carroll, Milwaukee, Intelligent Conversations, Sales Hiring SuccessThe most important step in the sales hiring process is not writing the perfect ad so you attract the best possible pool of candidates....and it's not going through a rigorous qualification and screening process that saves you valuable time....and it's not improving the selection process by asking targeted interview questions that go right to the heart of a candidate's potential short-comings....and it's not doing all of these things in a predictable, repeatable, scalable, systematic manner that allows you to develop a deep virtual bench of sales talent.

No, while all of these things are absolutely crucial to
successfully hiring A-players for your sales and business development teams, these are NOT the most important step in the sales hiring process.


What is the most important step in the sales hiring process?
In my opinion, based on the hundreds of sales hiring decisions we have helped facilitate with our clients, the final and most important step in a killer sales hiring process is executing a well-planned 90-day ramp up for every new sales person. And yet we see so many (otherwise smart) sales managers either skip this step entirely or just go through the motions and do it "half-fast" (so to speak).

Why do some sales managers miss this critical step?  Here are a couple of theories:

Rigourous Process Breeds Complacency - We help our clients implement a powerful sales hiring system - the "Sales Talent Acquisition Routine" (or STAR Hiring System) designed and developed by Dave Kurlan, Founder and CEO of Objective Management Group.  It is rigourous and highly predictive.  So when a strong candidate for a sales position successfully navigates through this system, many sales managers make the mistake of assuming they can skip this final step because they've just hired such a strong sales person.  Wrong!  The 90-day on-boarding phase is absolutely crucial to successfully running the STAR Hiring System.  

Lack of Time, Focus, and Discipline - Time is scarce for busy, productive sales managers. Whether it is an unrelenting travel schedule, the pressing urgency of helping sales team members win important deals, or the crushing demands of internal meetings with senior management and other departments, many sales managers struggle with staying focused and prioritizing what needs to get done. So while intellectually they may understand the importance of planning and executing a strong 90-day ramp up plan for new sales hires, if they do not put it on their calendars and budget the time to invest it simply does not happen.

Dangerous Delegation and Responsibiltiy Shift - Because many sales managers are so busy the logical step is to delegate the ramp up and on-boarding of a new sales person to someone on their team.  While getting other people from the company engaged in the on-boarding process is a great idea, it is still the sales manager's responsibility to make sure the new sales person is getting the help and support they need to get off to a strong start.  
I have seen sales managers ask a (not-so-busy) sales person on their team to "take the lead" on getting the new sales hire up to speed.  What kind of lessons will that (not-so-busy) sales person pass along to the new hire?  This kind of "Tribal Training" can be dangerous and demotivating to the new hire because it can drive home the wrong lessons and send a bad message.  

I know of a company where the first thing the "veteran" sales person taught to the eager new sales hire was how to make more money by fudging expense reports. I'm NOT kidding - there was a genuine fear that if the new sales person ever turned in an honest expense report it would stand out and raise alarms.  Now there's a great message to pass along to a new employee!

Pure Laziness - I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I think there are some sales managers who are just plain lazy and choose to skip this important step in the sales hiring process because to do it right requires a lot of hard work, consistent follow up, detailed coaching and feedback conversations, a signficant investment of time and effort, and strong focus and discipline to make it happen. Not every sales manager is willing to put in the effort required to do a great job with new hire on-boarding (even when their job might depend on it).

As CEO, President or Business Owner what can you do to make sure your sales managers are focusing on this final and (in my opinion) most important step in the sales hiring process? What is the single most important element of a successful 90-day on-boarding program? All of our clients who use a candidate screening tool from Objective Management Group will tell you they view this report as "the Bible" for bringing on new sales people. The information and insights available are remarkable and help sales leaders focus on the most important issues to address with a new sales hire. Simply put, using this tool the right way will shorten the timeframe from hire date to revenue production.  It's like magic.

Learn more in this free webinar
Want to learn more? You don't have to listen to me talk about it - you can hear all about it from the very person who designed it. On Tuesday, March 12th at 9:00 am central time Dave Kurlan will be our guest in our webinar series.  

It's free and you can sign up here.  
Why not register today?


CTA sales hiring process webinar


The 10 Keys to an Effective Sales Hiring Process

Our friend and mentor Dave Kurlan - a top-rated speaker, best-selling author, sales thought leader and highly regarded sales development expert - posted this article on his blog yesterday.  Many of you may remember Dave from a presentation he did in Milwaukee in late March at the Milwaukee Athletic Club.  Nearly every CEO, President, Business Owner, and VP of Sales we talk with has expressed some level of frustration with their sales hiring process.  Read Dave's article below and be sure to consider how you might benefit from signing up for the Free Trial he's offering for the first time ever.

Here's Dave's Article:

Key to Sales Hiring Success, Intelligent Conversations, Sales, Sales Hiring, Dave Kurlan Blog, STAR hiring system, Milwaukee, Sales Expert, Recruiting, Top Sales Talent, A-Players, VP of Sales, Sales Manager, Sales Management, CEO, CEO Blog, CEO Sales Blog, President, Business Owner, Growth, TeamThere are many keys to making the the sales hiring process work effectively yet most companies fail to get these keys right.  Some of them are obvious, while some are more subtle.  And most of all, the integrity, or in this case, the outcome of the process is only as strong as the weakest link.  Ignore or fail to complete any one step the way it is designed and the entire outcome will be in jeopardy, as in, another salesperson that fails to launch, doesn't meet expectations, or succeeds at being utterly mediocre.

Here are some keys and comments:

  1. You must identify what experiences the new salespeople must have in order to succeed at your company, in this position, calling into your market.
  2. You have to nail the posting - get it wrong and the wrong people will apply for the position.  When the wrong people apply, you have a pool that's green and unsuitable for diving in.
  3. You must use a customized, sales specific, predictive assessment to identify the candidates who will succeed in your positions and roles.  If the assessment isn't predictive and you can't rely on it, you'll end up wasting your time with the wrong candidates.
  4. You must be able to determine, in less than 5 minutes by phone, which of the recommended candidates have the desired experience, sound great, and should be interviewed.
  5. You must be able to firmly but nicely cross-examine your candidates in a face-to-face interview to determine whether they are the person described on their resume or an imposter, meaning the resume was a work of fiction.
  6. You must have realistic expectations on your timeline.  30-60 days to fill an ordinary territory sales position, 90 days or more to fill a niche sales position, and even longer for the proverbial needle in the haystack.
  7. You must be patient enough to do it all over again if you don't find the candidate(s) that make you happy.  Once you have reached the interview stage, candidates will come in 12 flavors: 
  • Strong sales skills, perfect background and you like them;
  • Strong sales skills, a background that is close and you like them;
  • Strong sales skills, wrong background and you like them;
  • Strong sales skills, perfect background and you don't like them;
  • Strong sales skills, a background that is close and you don't like them;
  • Strong sales skills, wrong background and you don't like them;
If you compromised on the assessment profile and didn't insist on it recommending only the strongest salespeople, you'll have 6 more flavors like those above, only showing Weak Sales Skills.
You need to select from Strong, perfect or close, and you like them.  Period.  You let the assessment tell you whether they are strong.  You let the interview, not the resume, determine whether they have the right background.  And only then do you decide whether you like them.
If you don't get what you want, you must answer this question:  12 months from now, will you be happy that you took three more months to find the right salesperson, or pissed off that you compromised, wasted a year, and have to begin the process all over again?
8.  After identifying a candidate(s) you wish to hire, you must be able to effectively sell the opportunity to them.
9.  Finally, you must be able to effectively on board the new salesperson(s) so that they go roaring out of the gate
10. You must be willing to coach at least twice per day, while holding the new salesperson accountable to all of the agreed upon startup metrics.

Hiring salespeople is not for the faint of heart, should not be performed without the right tools, and cannot be conducted without the right process.  Most importantly, gut instinct is not a part of this process!

Building An Over-Achieving Sales Team - Relentless Prospecting

build an over-achieving sales team, consistent, relentless, prospecting, sales, sales consulting, sales force development, Mike Carroll, sales expert, Intelligent Conversations, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, WI, Kurlan event, MMAC, CEOAs a general rule I tell our sales force development clients that a new sales person should spend at least four (4) hours per day engaged in prospecting activities.  And an established sales person who has already built up their book of business should spend at least two and a half (2.5) hours per day engaged in prospecting activities.  In nearly every company we work with the level of prospecting activities is nowhere near that benchmark.  What level of prospecting and business development effort takes place at your company right now?

If you want to build an over-achieving sales team you need to stock it with sales people who are constantly developing new opportunities and looking for new business.  And you need sales leadership (sales managers and/or a VP of sales) who establishes a prospecting culture, creates higher levels of accountability, and knows how to coach and motivate everyone on the sales team to keep them focused and on track.

What does a sales organization with a strong prospecting culture look like?  Here are some of the traits to look for if you want this type of culture at your company:

  • Sales people with strong hunting skills are actively recruited and those skills are verified during the interview and selection process
  • Sales people will consistently prospect on their own without being closely monitored and managed
  • When prospecting, sales people get to decision makers
  • Sales people receive plenty of introduction and have established a referral system
  • Sales people actively cultivate relationships with referral sources, including current customers, centers of influence, suppliers, and other sales professionals in their market space
  • Sales management holds frequent and regular meetings to monitor and measure prospecting activity levels (at least weekly, sometimes daily with a short 10-minute huddle)
  • Critical ratios have been mapped and are actively monitored throughout the sales process (i.e. each sales person understands how many calls they need to make to get an appointment, how many appointments they need to hold to generate a proposal or quote, and how many proposals or quotes they need to generate to earn a new client)
  • Sales people have a focused list of opportunities they work until completed (no Easter Egg hunting)
  • Executive management regularly reviews the number of new clients coming on board and supports the sales department with strong operations and customer support

Very few sales organziations achieve this level of systematic and consistent prospecting.  Instead what we see is occational spurts of prospecting activites followed by long periods of complecency and hope.  If you want to build an over-achieving sales team build a team of hunters and establish the prospecting culture that is right for your company, your business environment and your goals.  If you don't have this culture right now and would like some insights into why that may be the case, come see Dave Kurlan at the Milwaukee Athletic Club on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 from 7:30-10:00 am.