Hiring Salespeople: this is the last Sales Tactics post of 2018. That means we're about to head into the FIFTH YEAR of this blog—how many people do you know who have stuck with a thing as long as that?
I asked for topics and "how to screen for good salespeople" came up. This is a good one because it illuminates several key issues ongoing in many businesses—and business owners!
Let's be clear: there are an infinite number of things you could screen for to help you make your decision when hiring salespeople. Over the last two decades plus, though, from my own experience being the sales candidate with my own agenda of getting the job, the hiring authority sometimes pressured to make a decision NOW, and the sales coach charged with cleaning up the mess...here are the most impactful ones.
Check #1 When Hiring Salespeople
First, will they fit into your culture?
This is, in my opinion at least, more important than anything else.
Even if they can be an effective salesperson and do the second thing I recommend you screen for, their time at your organization will be a mismatched misery should they not fit into the culture.
You'll note all three points I raise here about hiring salespeople fit together. Consequences roll from one into the others.
At the last startup I co-founded, we were crystal clear about our culture. We wrote it down. This manifesto was posted on our website, and we sent it to sales candidates who were initially eager to work with us.
This had the desired effect. The "hardcore closer" types? Pulled a fast fade when they realized their style wouldn't match ours. Nobody's time got wasted. We were left with what we wanted: the consultative, fully honest types we wanted representing our clientele.
You must have clarity before starting the hiring process. What kind of organization do you want? Attitude, standards and expectations start at the top and flow down...what you allow is what they will allow. When I find a company with a nasty receptionist, I know that attitude is permitted and even encouraged from "on high"...and it's a sign for me to go elsewhere.
Hiring Salespeople: Check #2
Second, are they a high performer—and will they sell here?
I've said it before and I'll say it again: talk is cheap. Statistically speaking, the hiring person would have better odds in picking a successful candidate by pulling a name out of a hat compared to the job they do in the interview.
Culture Fit is very important here, because when a person feels they fit in and enjoy going to work they tend to perform better. That should be obvious but it isn't, out there in the hiring world.
Resumes are all well and good, but they are a marketing piece which has the purpose of getting the candidate the interview. That's it: not the job itself. You need to remember that as much as the candidate does.
Past experience similar to your role may seem good, but it's not an Insta-Win.
So ask questions to draw out stories. They've got numbers on their resume? Great...what's the story behind them? How did they make that big sale? Does what they tell you sound like a process that would fit in with your expectations (be ready for some wild surprises here)?
I've talked with too many executives who told me some version, sometimes in these very words, of, "I'm a great study of human nature. I can tell when someone's got the qualities or not." Wrong. Not true. Sorry about the ding to your ego, but you don't. And neither do I. Certainly not from a resume and interview in which the interviewee controls the narrative. I'd say three-quarters of the time or more as an interviewee I controlled the discussion by the way I answered the questions. Especially when the interviewer(s) had the hiring authority and didn't have oversight of an HR administrator. Got the offers, too.
Here's a question you can ask that will draw out any dissatisfaction and potential culture misfit:
"Tell me about a situation in which things didn't turn out quite the way you'd have liked...and what you'd have done differently if you could do it all over again."
This question is worded to do several things. It subtly insists on an answer: few candidates are going to be alert enough to realize they have the choice of NOT giving an example. It lets them vent, which humans like to do. And it shows you an answer to the "What is your greatest weakness" question without having to say that dumb combination of words out loud.
Easy to follow up to their answer with more questions to determine fit.
Watch for salespeople from bad experiences and environments, too. Their poor performance may have been the result of bad leadership and surroundings.
Check #3 When Hiring Salespeople
Third, are you too enthusiastic?
I am a good interviewee. I am comfortable with multiple interviewers and have been since my mid-20s. Therefore I stand out well and as in other selling situations have been able to make the sale and get hired into jobs I really should not have gotten into. I made the sale because I could.
Why did I do this?
Because I was unemployed and needed a job, silly.
Short Term Thinking.
And this is an affliction that will catch you by surprise, too, if you're not careful. A candidate will come in with a stellar resume. Their numbers and stories will be good, from a production perspective. You get the idea they will take the opportunity and run with it. But...
...will they really fit in here?
...will they really sell here?
...are you simply too excited and about to make a bad, in-the-moment, emotionally-based hiring decision?
Are you being a victim of Short Term Thinking to get out of the interview process and have the decision made?
Give it a day to cool off.
Don't hire because you are excited about this person. "White Knight Syndrome" in particular, in which an external party is going to ride in and save your day, is a terrible reason to hire and a terrible pressure to put on that salesperson.
>> Jason Kanigan is a sales force developer and business owner. To discuss your hiring process and how to improve it, book a time to talk with Jason. <<