All businesses need good sales people, but it turns out that very few actually have them. A recent study from Cranfield Management School found that 90 percent of sales staff struggle to make an effective pitch. So what is the key to hiring a great sales rep?1
The truth is that too many businesses put the emphasis on filling a position quickly, rather than filling it with the best candidate. Positions open up, territories are left exposed, and there is a mad dash to close the gap. Hiring decisions are often made by sales managers who lack the interview expertise and experience required to make them. Frequently, gut instinct is given precedence over a structured and methodical hiring process, resulting in the wrong person getting the job.
In order to get the right person in the job, the old woodworking mantra should be adopted: “Measure twice and cut once.” Additional diligence at the hiring stage will result in finding the right person for the job, which in turn will reduce turnover, improve ramp up times, and hopefully result in more sales.
1. Evaluate personality and culture fit
Underperformance is often the result of a mismatching between the traits of the job and natural traits of an employee. Of course, it is possible for employees to compensate for this natural mismatch but the ideal scenario is to find a candidate whose natural personality matches the qualities needed for the job.
Evaluation and personality assessment tools can give employers a good indication of the candidate’s fit, reducing the risk of an interviewer being duped by the hologram that people project in an interview situation. While it is not an exact science, it has been proven time and again that it can help to weed out mis-hires. In fact, Accenture recently found that 65% of Chief Sales Officers believe competency testing can improve hiring success rates, although only 52% are putting that insight into action.2
2. Beef up the interview process
A comprehensive and rigorous interview process is key for making the right sales hire. To enable that within your organization, develop an interview guide so that questions and format are consistent, regardless of who is conducting the interview. Make sure you include a number of behavior-based questions, such as:
- What accomplishment over the course of your career has given you the greatest sense of achievement at work? Why?
- All jobs have frustration, especially sales. What are some examples of challenges in your job that frustrate you, and how do you deal with them?
- No one is successful 100% of the time. Can you provide me with two examples of work situations in which you did not succeed, and why?
- Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty in closing a sale. What did you do?
Consider investing in formal training in interview techniques, to improve your hiring managers’ and other interviewers’ success in this area.
3. Don’t forget about onboarding
Once a business has found the right candidate, and they’ve signed their hiring agreement, too often that’s the end of the hiring process. But without effective new employee onboarding, the chances of failure are high. In addition to general onboarding to align them with the corporate culture, a comprehensive sales onboarding process should be developed, to include detailed training on the company’s product, value proposition, and selling processes, and an overview of the tools and resources available to them to effectively put that training into action on the job.
What is your philosophy when it comes to hiring the right sales person? Leave a comment below and let us know. If you have a passion for hiring top sales candidates, check out our career opportunities here.
1. Recruiting the right sales people. http://www.marketingdonut.co.uk/marketing/sales/sales-management/recruiting-the-right-salespeople. Accessed January 27, 2015.
2. Accenture’s 2012 CSO Insights. http://www.accenture.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/PDF/Accenture-Connecting-Dots-Sales-Performance.pdf. Accessed May 21, 2014.