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Why sales hiring is so hard to get right

Hiring quickly might help to fill short-term vacancies on the sales floor but GRETCHEN GORDON believes hasty decisions can dramatically increase resourcing costs.

Hiring salespeople can be much more difficult than hiring for other positions. Why? Sales candidates can be better at asking questions than the interviewers themselves.

It is all too frequent that the interviewee then becomes the interviewer and then all a candidate needs to do is ask a couple questions to get the interviewer to quickly offer all kinds of information. This is usually because interviewers would rather boast about their companies than ask tough questions that might make interviewees feel challenged.

Furthermore, because the interviewers end up doing most of the talking, they will inevitably preference these candidates ahead of others.

"When the market is tight, be proactive about going after the types of candidates that have experience selling in the same methods the business uses."
Gretchen Gordon, Braveheart Sales Performance Owner

Managers who don’t normally conduct interviews are also most susceptible to hiring on gut feel. Rather than approaching the interview with a plan in place, they simply try to determine whether the interviewee will fit in the organisation.

In other words, they look for someone similar enough to themselves whom they will enjoy managing. Gut calls are less likely to be successful and yet are still a popular determinant of hiring decisions.

Another mistake small businesses make when hiring sales staff is not providing an adequate workplace introduction to enable the new staff member to excel quickly.

Too often the burden of ‘on-boarding’ a new salesperson is placed on the manager’s shoulders even when he or she already has a full plate.

The manager has every good intention but ends up getting pulled in other directions and the salesperson is left floundering.

Some managers even view it as a test to see if the salesperson can make it. This is short-sighted and costs businesses money and time in lost productivity.

Five ways to solve the problem

Instead of settling for the way it’s always been done, managers should commit to a process and have a vision of an upgraded sales team.

Here’s a five-step, plan of attack that uses effective and efficient sales hiring to upgrade any sales team.

1. Attract the right candidates – bust out of boring sales ads and really describe the ideal person the business is seeking. This will at least get the right candidates thinking about the position. When the market is tight, be proactive about going after the types of candidates that have experience selling in the same methods the business uses.

2. Complete an objective assessment tool before wasting time reviewing resumes – before falling in love with any candidates, implement the use of a predictive, completely-objective assessment like the Objective Management Group battery of tools, the only ones designed specifically for sales roles.

3. Screen candidates first – briefly screen all recommended candidates via phone or video. Create a repeatable template of interview questions to use in the screening then implement a scorecard system to rate candidates based on necessary requirements to be effective in the position.

4. Interview with intent – conduct a thorough interview of the highest-scoring candidates after the screening process. To do this, ask everyone a set of the same questions, ones that help to understand how the candidates will fit in with your available position.

Focus on their resumes and ask behavioural questions based on their stated performance. A great, easy-to-read book that provides good guidance on conducting this portion of the interview is Who: A Method for Hiring by Geoffrey Smart.

Use the questions from the assessment report to dig into those areas lurking beneath the surface of the candidate and find out if the gaps in their skills will be too significant to overcome. Once you follow this process and have the objective information from the assessment, feel free to become subjective. For example: do they have the right swagger, the right handshake and the appropriate confidence?

5. Follow a repeatable and predictive on-boarding program for the successful candidate – the key components of successful on-boarding include shifting the responsibility to the new person for getting what is necessary to be successful out of the program. Start by determining what the individual needs to gain or master from each step of the on-boarding program.

In summary, it’s much easier to demystify the hiring and on-boarding of new salespeople by following this repeatable five-step process. Just remember to use analysis to avoid falling in love with any candidates.

Gretchen Gordon

Contributor • Braveheart Sales Performance

Gretchen Gordon owns Braveheart Sales Performance, a company helping clients to improve sales. Learn more:

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