Preventing the Mis-Hire

In a recent posting, fellow blogger Dave Stein commented on what he views as an epidemic:  the mis-hiring of sales executives. Dave notes that too many C-level executives don’t understand what sales leadership is all about and, as a result, continue to put non-qualified people into these positions.

“That’s why sales is last on line in many companies with respect to quality, discipline, process, measurement, attrition, and productivity.  The bad news is that ineffective sales managers and their ineffective VPs of sales aren’t going to fix the situation. It’s got to be fixed from above with far more effective recruiting for those sales leadership positions,” Dave wrote.

Mis-hiring is definitely a problem plaguing the sales industry. Too many hiring managers hire sales professionals based solely on whether or not they have experience in a particular industry or with a particular product. They fail to look closely enough at candidates’ sales skills and past track records. As a result, they risk hiring people who know the industry but can’t sell.

That is why I am such a strong advocate of this statement: “The best predictor of future performance is past performance.”

Yes, industry knowledge is important. But industry knowledge cannot override actual sales skills. That is why we practice a very specialized and “sales centric” recruitment process that starts with understanding the make-up of the organization:  revenues, employees, top leadership style, product/service focus, market differentiation, strengths/weaknesses, etc.

We also focus on revealing the sales culture/environment. Effective recruitment requires a deep understanding of the sales team, territories, product price, sales cycle, ramp up, top performer profiles, sales leadership and how the team is led, CRM/reporting requirements, candidate profile, etc.  There is a significant correlation between how a team is led and its overall performance. That is why understanding the culture is critical to determining if candidates will succeed.

Clues to whether or not a candidate is a good potential match can be found by looking at W2s, understanding past compensation programs, looking at industry, product/services, average sales cycle and deal price and evaluating whether or not there is a sales environment/culture match. Also important is asking questions around selling skills, sales knowledge, intellectual ability, personal, interpersonal, motivation, tenure and compensation.

If you take the time to evaluate candidates for more than just their industry knowledge, and to ensure that they are the right fit for your sales culture, you’ll go a long way toward preventing the mis-hires that can damage the effectiveness of even the most successful sales teams.

5 thoughts on “Preventing the Mis-Hire”

  1. Interesting that Kathleen has indentified the recruitment process and at the heart, the recruiter.

    I have experienced that exact myopic approach to candidate selection from recruiters.
    Lack of industry experience
    Lack of industry contacts
    Failure to see past accomplishments
    Failure to read the resume’
    Failure to prepare for the phone interview
    Failure to research
    Using Psychological Evaluations and others as a culling tool, rather than insight into the candidates personality and attitude.
    And, a down right poor performance.

    My experience with recruiters and hiring managers has provided great insight into how and why companies are failing in the current economy.

    The “Peter Priniciple” is in full effect. The pathetic have been elevated to manager positions. During good times their reportees did the work and all was fine. Now, the reportees have been laid off and the manager who could preform then is absolutely clueless as to how to perform now.

    Remember; “Nothing happens until a sale is made” and without sales others don’t have jobs.

  2. This is an ok article. It makes the point that what’s more important than industry or product knowledge, is the sales skills one brings to the table. I assume that the premise is that a good sales person can sell anything. Form my point of view product knowledge is easy to get. Sales skills are not easy. The one item missed in this article is the importance of formal sales training. Most sales people have on-the-job training and a few one-time seminars. Very few can show that they are involved in on-going formal sales training. this criteria must be added to Kathleen’s list in the article.

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