Hiring Sales Superstars
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.