It makes little sense to spend the time and money training and developing your sales team when the people in whom you are investing do not have the capability for sustainable improvement.
“Mishiring” is an epidemic. Depending on the industry, ESR estimates that somewhere between 20 and 33 percent of salespeople do not have the capabilities to be successful at their jobs. Investing in sales processes, training, attractive incentive plans, technology, marketing support and strong products and services to sell will not do much unless you have a team of qualified sales professionals with the right attributes.
The demands of today’s hypercompetitive buyers’ market have forced many sales leaders to rethink their approach to hiring. They have learned, all too painfully, that hiring methods of the past no longer apply. These lessons include:
- A salesperson with a past record of stellar performance will not automatically perform in the future. Different company, different competitors, different offering, different customers.T
- The accuracy of salespeople’s resumes and online profiles is declining, so rigorous and methodical reference checking is a must.
- The number of interviews you’ve done or your ability to “read people” can hurt rather than help hiring effectiveness.
- A bad hire — a salesperson that does not make it through the first year — will cost anywhere from $150,000 to $800,000 or more, including lost business opportunity.
More sales leaders are building high performance teams of winners by applying a formal process to what in the past they had done by the seat of their pants: hiring. A hiring process provides the sales leader with an objective assessment of each candidate, which is the most critical success factor in hiring.
Steps for smart hiring
Form a three-person hiring team.
Agree on how the position and company will be described in a consistent way to candidates.
Build a profile for each sales role.
The profile defines the critical skills and traits required for success. (A skill is a developed aptitude or ability, such as listening, presenting, cold-calling and negotiating. A trait is an inherited characteristic, such as tenacity, intelligence, drive for self-improvement, integrity, positivity, flexibility, curiosity and coachability.)
Write an accurate job description to provide to recruiters and posting sites.
Create a resume screening filter to eliminate candidates who don’t qualify at the outset.
Engineer sets of first-, second- and, if required, third-round interview questions. For sales candidates, devise questions that will evoke responses that will enable you to determine, based on their behaviors, whether the candidate possesses that skill or trait without telegraphing the answer you are seeking.
Build a rigorous reference checking procedure that validates candidates’ claims. Sales leaders with a wide network can often find “blind” references that might provide an honest appraisal of a candidate, knowing that the discussion is strictly confidential. It works for my clients.
Verify past performance claims using candidates’ W-2s or other documentation. We also strongly suggest performing background checks, done with the candidate’s cooperation.
Build sales call and sales presentation simulation exercises for final candidates. (This is the closest you’ll get to seeing them doing what they will be doing much of the time once they are hired.)
Build a relationship with a predictive testing provider. These tests are inexpensive, nearly impossible to trick, and are very accurate in determining a candidate’s likelihood of success.
Create individual ramp-up or on-boarding plans for each new hire. These assure that the gaps between the profile and the candidate’s skill set will
be closed within 90 days of employment. They will assure your new hire gets up to speed on the industry you are selling into, for example.
I know what you’re thinking. You don’t have time for this.
Let’s look at the numbers. If building this process were to take you as much as 10 hours and taking the first candidate through the process (rather than the typical “tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” interview) an additional five hours, that’s 15 hours. If you can raise your average from, say, two out of three hires working out to three out of four, and a wrong hire costs your company $500,000, that’s a heck of contribution to your company’s profitability.
The bottom line: What percentage of salespeople hired into your team in the past three years have been terminated or quit because of performance issues? If the answer is greater than 30 percent, you need to buy or build a structured hiring process, install it, and use it.