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Why Can’t I Hire The Right Sales People?
Guest articles > Why Can’t I Hire The Right Sales People?
by: Lee B. Salz
A disconnect exists between sales managers and recruiters that causes challenges for both. Together, they can resolve this issue by creating their company’s Sales Talent Screening Program.
Candidate screening is one of the most difficult tasks that recruiters and managers face. Most will tell you that screening sales talent is the toughest of all. Why? Sales people are trained in the art of persuasion. They know how to provide the desired responses to the questions. Even more daunting is when you are interviewing sales people that worked for a competitor. These sales people know the language and industry buzz words making it even more challenging to screen them. Fret not! It is possible to successfully screen sales talent, but there is work to be done before you even look at a résumé.
The most important step a company can take is to develop a sales talent screening program. This helps bring focus to the initiative. The mission of this program is to provide data that allows for the measurement of the candidate pedigree versus the desired profile. Think in terms of formulating a marriage, a sales marriage, that is.
This program should be fully documented showing step-by-step the components of the screening program. It is best to define who will be interviewing the candidates and their role in the interview process. It should define the tools that will be used as well as their purpose. Below are seven key components of an effective sales talent screening program.
This profile should be fully detailed. Some of the areas to address in the profile are the experience you expect that candidate to already have, the skills that the candidate should already possess, and the skills you are not willing to teach. Truth is, this is an extensive topic about which I have dedicated another article. (Send me an email and I’ll send you a link to that article.)
The lack of a fully-defined profile of the ideal sales person is the most common cause of bad sales marriages. It is also the major point of frustration between sales managers and recruiters. Recruiters often tell me that they feel they are throwing darts while blindfolded because they have so little detail about the desired profile.
Sales recruiting is a year-round exercise. The best sales forces are always on the look out for strong sales talent. Find a company that identifies a strong candidate that meets their profile who wouldn’t find a way to hire this individual. It is a rarity to say the least. Sales teams have turnover either driven by the company or the employee. It is best to have a candidate portfolio at the ready than to begin a process of surfacing candidates when a seat is open. Poor hiring decisions are made out of desperation to fill a seat. The open seat is a cost to the company every day it is unfilled. Yet, the cost is more painful if the seat is filled by someone who doesn’t fit.
The second purpose is to measure how the candidate prepares for a sales call. A debrief is conducted with the “reverse interviewer” to see what questions were asked. If the candidate took advantage of this opportunity, they brought prepared, insightful questions and wrote down answers. If they didn’t, what kind of preparation will the candidate do for a sales call? How interested are they really in this job? Every once in a while, a candidate will ask a question of the sales person like, “Can you take off at noon on Fridays?” Needless to say, the lapse in judgment raises a red flag of concern?
When formulating your list of standard questions, it is helpful to include some sales scenarios that are common in your environment. “Your client balks at the price of your proposal. What do you do?” It is also helpful to have questions that show what makes this person tick. Since few colleges have “sales” as a major, it is always interesting to find how someone arrived at a sales career. “Of all of the careers you could select, why did you pick sales?”
The hot topic in today’s recruiting world is behavioral interviewing which is a powerful tool. Behavioral interviewing, also called competency-based interviewing, focuses on past behavior. As a doctor friend of mine always says, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. The idea here is not to ask arbitrary questions, but rather to ask questions that help to expose areas that affect the sales marriage. If your company is always changing, you might want to determine how the candidate handles change. “Please share with me a time where you had to adapt to change.” Like with any good interview, additional probing is necessary to get to the root of the issue. “How did you deal with that? What did you learn from the experience?”
You can probably imagine just how hard it is to formulate questions that demonstrate if this marriage will work if you don’t have a profile against which to compare. If it will help you, send me an email and I’ll send you my favorite 28 standard questions when interviewing a sales person.
Those members of your company who participate in the exercise should be somewhat scripted. I say “somewhat” because you don’t want it to be so dry that it is unrealistic, but without any scripting it can be hard to stay in character.
The last piece you need to do this well is a score sheet. Know what you are looking to measure in the process and score accordingly. Can they conduct a thorough needs analysis? Did they identify the challenges faced by this prospect? Would you buy from them?
It is best if the scoring is done by a non-participant of the mock sales call. It is very distracting for the candidate if someone jots notes while they are speaking. What happens is that the candidate spends the rest of the exercise trying to read what was written.
Linda Moeller, Product Director of market leader Employee Continuum, has seen companies use this great tool incorrectly. “We have seen many organizations fail to take the context of an organization into account when deciding the most appropriate assessment to use. For example, many organizations assume that implementing a sales assessment will guarantee them improved sales performers. This is not necessarily the case. For example, the personality characteristics required for a sales person selling office supplies to purchasing agents are very different than those required for a salesperson selling everything needed for a dentist office. In order to be successful, an organization needs to consider the type of relationship they have with their clientele and the competencies that will make these relationships successful.”
An effective technique for screening sales talent is the use of the mini-business plan. When the candidate has satisfactorily completed all of the other steps of the pre-offer process, the request is made for a one-page business plan that shows how they would approach the job. I mention three times that I’m only looking for a one-page plan and ask when they can send it to me. It is important that the submission date be asked of the candidate, not the other way around as you will see in a moment.
Of all of the techniques that I have used over the years, this is the one where I have the most candidate fall out and I was always happy to learn that this sales marriage wouldn’t work, before it was formulated.
This technique allows you to evaluate a number of important areas:
Having a sales talent screening program has many benefits. The most obvious impact is a longer sales tenure of your sales team which means an increase in sales performance and a reduction in personnel turnover. This can do nothing short of helping the bottom line of any company.
Lee B. Salz is a sales management guru who helps companies hire the right sales people, on-board them, and focus their sales activity using his sales architecture® methodology. He is the President of Sales Architects, the C.E.O. of Business Expert Webinars and author of “Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager.” Lee is an online columnist for Sales and Marketing Management Magazine, a print columnist for SalesforceXP Magazine, and the host of the Internet radio show, “Secrets of Business Gurus.” Look for Lee's new book in February 2009 titled, "The Sales Marriage” where he shares the secrets to hiring the right sales people. He is a passionate, dynamic speaker and a business consultant. Lee can be reached at lsalz@SalesArchitecture.com or 763.416.4321.
Keywords: sales, sales management, sales consulting, sales training, recruiting, sales best practices, sales hiring
Contributor: Lee B. Salz
Published here on: 06-Jan-08