effective-sales-talent-hiringOne of the services we provide our clients is training to improve their sales talent hiring effectiveness.  The facts are stark.  Without a good process most companies have excessively high turnover rates, and the cost of that turnover is great.  National statistics indicate that it costs the employer between 3x and 5x the salesperson’s total annual compensation for each bad hire.  Fortunately there is a repeatable process that if the hiring managers will follow, will produce predictably great results. Here are the steps.

Determine whether you want to be proactive or passive in your approach.

What I mean is this.  Passive is the act of posting ads on job boards or elsewhere and then hoping candidates that are looking for jobs will find yours.  Proactive is the act of reaching out through social media channels like LinkedIn or others and finding people who fit your profile but may not be actually looking for a job.  This approach takes a lot of time and effort but will produce better results.  If you choose this approach, it is recommended that you seek aid from an expert who spends their whole day finding candidates.  You will likely not have the resources to do it on your own.  Most of my clients who follow a passive approach, other than in select, highly sought-after geographies, are disappointed by the results and have far fewer quality candidates to select from.

Create a well-written ad/description of the opportunity.

Regardless of whether you are passive or proactive in your recruiting approach you need a quality description of the position including what experience the perfect candidate would have to prepare them for the position (experience selling to CEOs in a competitive environment for instance); what activities they should love to do (must be comfortable generating your own leads); what is unique about your position and company (why would someone want to work for you?).  The ad is part disqualifier and part marketing document.   If you follow my complete advice then feel free to make the document as marketing oriented as you want, but be prepared to weed out a lot of candidates with the assessment process I recommend.

The hiring manager should be actively engaged in the process. 

Our clients who have the most success in attracting good quality candidates have engaged and active sales managers in the process.  The best sales managers are always recruiting and thinking about building a bench.  It is not just HR’s job to find the candidates.  If the compensation plan is structured appropriately then sales managers will be incented to field a full team and will be penalized if they are missing people from the team, and therefore sales don’t grow at the requisite rate.  Sales managers should constantly be using their contacts to reach out and find candidates.   Similar to the University of Kentucky basketball team philosophy, one has to assume that their best players will move on and will need replaced.

Use a sales-specific assessment to weed out the wrong candidates. 

First, I am partial to the best sales assessment on the market (voted 3 years in a row) Objective Management Group, but I am mostly partial to it because it is predictive and accurate.  It is not a personality test, rather it actually predicts with a high degree of validity (95% predictive validity) who will succeed in your position and who won’t.  Second, you have to use these assessments BEFORE you spend time looking at resumes, conducting interviews and forming opinions about the candidate.  They are huge time and money savers if used correctly, which is at the beginning of the interviewing process, before anyone has spent any time evaluating them.  Do this and you will have so much insight into the needs and skills of the newly hired salespeople that their on-boarding and ramp-up time will be reduced.  They will rise to the top of the pack in no time and it will literally transform your sales team.

Follow a consistent repeatable interviewing process. 

As much as I am a huge fan of using the right assessment, it does not stop there.  You must create a repeatable interviewing process that has four components:

  1. Is the candidate who they appeared to be on their resume.   Determine this by asking behavioral questions specifically challenging items on their resume.
  2. Have a batch of good behavioral questions designed to be asked of everyone (For example: Tell me about a time when you weren’t reaching your quota, what did you do?)
  3. Use the questions provided on the assessment to poke at the weaknesses that the assessment uncovered to see how much of an impact they will have in your situation.
  4. Have a list of specific subjective observations to make such as handshake, eye contact, communication skills etc.

As long as you have implemented the use of the assessment, which is completely objective, it is just fine to include some subjectivity.  Just be certain your subjectivity doesn’t trump the other facts.

Implement a structured on-boarding program. 

Even the best salespeople need a structured on-boarding program to understand the nuances of your product or services.  They need stories of customers so they can understand why customers buy from your company.  They need a huge list of good probing, hard-hitting questions to ask prospects, not just the basics.  An example would look like this:  Make sure Day 1 thru 5 are completely scripted – what do they need to learn, who will they learn it from and then set expectations about what they should get out of those interactions.  It is THEIR job to actually get what they need.  In Weeks 2 – 4 set specific weekly expectations.  If they are going on calls or joint calls, what are the expectations?  Then look at month 2 and 3 the same way.  Always be focused on helping them plan out the appropriate level of activity to achieve the expected goal for each time period.  Your plan should be specific to your situation with regard to product complexity etc, but keep in mind that the best salespeople want to get up and running as quickly as possible.  Do not lock them in training for weeks on end.

If you want to read a case study about how we helped transform a client’s sales hiring process read here.  Finding a Better Way to Hire 

If you want to see a sample candidate assessment as I discussed read here, Sample Candidate Assessment.