Why Sales Managers Suck at Hiring Sales People

shutterstock_128236088.jpgAre your sales managers using sales recruiting as a growth strategy for your company? Are they consistently and proactively building a virtual bench of top sales talent? One of the main challenges we see in our consulting practice is sales managers who struggle when it comes to attracting and retaining the best sales talent available. Here are 5 reasons why many sales managers struggle to effectively hire top sales people.

  1. Too Busy- Many sales managers simply have too much on their plate. There are too many “urgent” tasks on their to-do list and the can never catch up. Because they have so much going on, hiring sales people always seems to fall to the bottom of their list.
  2. Overly Reactive- As a direct result of number 1 (too busy), they are not proactively managing their sales team. Rather than thinking ahead in terms of covering territories and continuing growth, they react to whatever crisis is right in front of them.
  3. Industry Bias- Sales managers tend to stay in their comfort zone by looking for people who come from a similar industry. That makes sense if those sales people can bring customers and strong relationships that help them ramp up quickly. However, we’ve seen many sales managers use that as an excuse to overlook bad habits and weak selling skills.
  4. Lousy Interviewers- This could be because sales managers are too busy and overly reactive, or simply because no one has ever trained them how to do it. Many sales manager interviews focus more on bonding and rapport-building to find out if they like the candidate. Is this the kind of person that I would want to work with? Are they like me? Too many managers fail to ask the hard-hitting questions that are going to uncover potential issues and challenges sales people are going to encounter in the field.
  5. Bad Onboarding- The single most important step to a successful new hire is an effective onboarding plan. Very few managers do this. This may be because no one has told them how to do this so they just let human resources dictate what needs to happen. It also doesn’t help that they are “too busy” to really pay attention. More often than not, it’s because they have waited too long to get a sales person in place. When this happens the new sales person is walking into a desperate situation. The overwhelmed sales manager just sort of throws them into the fire, instead of bringing them on the right way allowing them to: effectively learn the product, understand the market, learn about the competition, and build a quality pipeline.

If your sales managers fall into any of these categories – what can you do to change this?

  1. Slow Down and Do It Right- take the time to implement best practices like Topgrading or our Sales Talent Acquisition Routine (STAR hiring system). Your sales managers will have a much better success rate at hiring and onboarding successful sales people using these systems.
  2. Build a Virtual Bench- Successful sales managers should work tirelessly to build a network of top-performing sales people. Overtime they should build and maintain relationships with these sales people so they can contact them if and when you're ready to hire. That way they’ve already established rapport and you can reach out to them when the time is right.
  3. Attract the Best- Make sure that you've built the right kind of environment. Is your opportunity attractive? Is your compensation right? Is there a growth opportunity? Is there opportunity for learning and development? Are they excited about the opportunity to come work for your company?
  4. Contact Intelligent Conversations- We're here to help! Whether you need us to help you implement a system like our Topgrading or STAR hiring system, or if you want us to just do it for you, we can help you attract and retain the best possible sales people.

     

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.

What Can CEOs and Sales Leaders Learn from Barry Alvarez?

Many of you may not be following the recent developments on the University of Wisconsin football program as closely as I have been, so let me set this up with a brief overview before I dive into what I think are five key lessons CEOs and Sales Leaders can learn from Barry Alvarez.  In full disclosure, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1990 and am a huge badger fan!  When I attended UW Madison we had to endure Don Morton’s ill-conceived and poorly executed “veer offense” which was not only terribly boring to watch, but also easy to defend.  The results were horrible (Morton’s record at Wisconsin was 6-27) and when Barry Alvarez came to Wisconsin in 1990 we were all thrilled.  If you’re interested in his career stats you can go here.  I’ll just sum it up by saying he had a lot of success and really put UW Madison’s football program on a national stage.

In 2006 Alvarez named Brett Bielema head coach and Alvarez became the athletic director.  It seemed perfect, a smooth transition to a new head coach, continued success in major bowl games, continued recruiting success (one great running back after another)…… and then suddenly Bielema decided to bolt for an arguably less prestigious position at the University of Arkansas.  Alvarez returned to the sideline to coach the Badgers in a loss to Stanford in the Rose Bowl while the second search for a head coach in three years was underway.  They recruited Gary Anderson from Utah State and it seemed as though Alvarez had done it again.  The program rolled on with continued success (right up until the shellacking we took against Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship Game) when suddenly Anderson announced he was leaving Wisconsin to take a head coaching position at Oregon State (again, arguably a less prestigious program).  So now the search continues and badger fans are hoping the third time in 5 years will be the charm.  We’ll see.  

Sales Coaching

So what does any of this have to do with CEOs and sales leaders interested in driving sales growth?  Here are five lessons for you to consider, three negative lessons (learning from what appear to be Alvarez’s mistakes) and two positive lessons (learning from what Alvarez appears to be doing well).  As you read these lessons, consider how they may apply to your situation, particularly when it comes to recruiting and hiring decisions as well as consistent management communication.

 

 

 

  1. Set Clear Expectations During the Interview Process – there were two primary reasons Anderson gave for leaving Wisconsin.  First is family, he said he really wanted to move back to the West Coast because of his family.  I can respect that, but wonder how thoroughly that was explored during the interview process.  The second reason Anderson gave was his frustration with not being able to get some of the Junior College athletes he wanted into the school (I’m glad UW Madison is at least applying some standards concerning academics – my sense is there’s probably still room for improvement but they seem to be better than many programs).  Lesson Learned: Use the interview process to explore all the reasons why your star candidate shouldn’t take the job.  Are they sure they can live two time zones away from their family?  Are they sure they can build a strong team AND maintain strong academic standards? Try to disqualify your strongest candidates with these types of questions and if you can’t, you’ve got a great candidate.  

  2. Let Go and Let them Lead – my friend and colleague Gretchen Gordon made this point (while she was calling to give me a hard time after the embarrassing loss to Ohio State).  She wondered if one of the reasons Wisconsin has high turnover is because Alvarez meddles in the football program too much (instead of focusing on leading the entire athletic department).  I have no idea if that’s the case, I’m not there and they’re not a coaching client of ours.  What I can tell you is I’ve seen this situation in companies we’ve worked with over the years.  CEOs who had tremendous success in sales and sales leadership throughout their career tend to hire weaker sales leaders or undermine strong sales leaders by meddling in their business.  Lesson Learned: Hire strong people, then let go and let them lead.


  3. It Shouldn’t Be a Surprise – if you have a healthy environment and healthy relationships with everyone on your leadership team – which means you have regular, consistent, open, frequent, authentic, and transparent communication with each of your team members – you really shouldn’t be caught off guard by someone deciding to suddenly leave.  Lesson Learned: Create an environment of trust and open communication throughout your company (and especially at the leadership team level).  Need help?  Start with Pat Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team and then read Keith Ferrazzi’s Who’s Got Your Back.


  4. Maintain a Strong “Virtual Bench” – Alvarez maintains a short list of potential coaches at all times.  He stays in touch with them and keeps track of their successes.  He thinks about who would be a good fit for the Wisconsin Football Program and has a list of strong candidates ready to go.  So when Anderson resigned his position, Alvarez was able to fire up the search process almost immediately.  How quickly would it take you to react if one of your key leaders or top producing sales people suddenly departed?  Lesson Learned: Build (and maintain) a virtual bench. Send notes and cards, have lunches or dinners with them, build a real relationship so if the opportunity presents itself you can quickly make an offer and fill a key gap on your team without missing a beat.


  5. Know Your Brand – as much as it pains me to say it, the University of Wisconsin Football program is not a premier top tier college football program.  It’s a very good college football program, but it’s not at the same level as an LSU, Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, or Florida State.  Alvarez understand this and has a realistic view of Wisconsin’s “brand” as a football program.  While I hope the next coach they hire to lead the Wisconsin football team is a perfect fit and will be there for years to come, the last two coaches have made it clear that being head coach for the Wisconsin football team is not a destination job.  Lesson Learned: Be realistic about how the market (and potential job candidates) really see your company.


How solid is your talent recruiting?  Should this be an area of focus for your company in 2015?  If so, ask us about how our Topgrading program or our STAR Complete sales hiring program could help impact your business and make recruiting a strength for your growing firm. Email us at info@intelligentconversations.com.