Hire The Best, Weed Out The Rest: Recruiting Top Sales Producers

Hiring top sales people is the key to accelerating your company’s sales. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Yet even if you agree with this, we all know from experience that finding and attracting high performance sales talent is anything but easy. Getting this right is a combination of both art and science, and requires a real commitment to excellence.

A recent survey showed that 53% of all sales recruiting efforts lead to mis-hires. That means if your company does an average job in sales recruiting, you have a 50/50 chance of making a mistake. And nowhere is it more costly than in sales. Given the learning curve and sales cycle for a new recruit, it can easily take 6-12 months before you realize the person you hired is incapable or unwilling to sell for your company. The costs can be staggering: tens of thousands in expense, hundreds of thousands (or millions) in lost sales and margin, and as much as 1-2 years of lost momentum and market share to your competition. With so much at stake for your company, are you willing to accept these outcomes?

Fear not. It is possible to avoid these costs, as long as you recognize the potential pitfalls and work proactively to eliminate them. Here’s a set of rules that will help you in your quest for making top hires:

    • Know Your Requirements. Start by developing a clear job description that fully identifies the key skills and experience you’re looking for, the selling environment, the ideal candidate profile (hunter vs. farmer), sales objectives and key performance metrics for the position. This sounds easy, but if you skip this step, chances are you’ll end up with nothing to match candidates against – and that’s the start of a recipe for disaster.
    • Understand The Skills & Traits of Top Performers. Many managers hire sales reps that epitomize the stereotype of a top sales rep. They mistakenly believe that if a person can sell himself or herself through the interviewing process, that person must be good at sales. Dead wrong. Look for these key skills and traits:
Traits Skills
Motivation To Succeed Prospecting
Ego-Drive Probing
Empathy Listening
Service-Orientation Persuasion
Conscientiousness Negotiation
Ego-Resilience Technical
Detail-Orientation Organization
    • Know Where To Look. Let’s face it. In this economy, placing an ad in the local paper or on job boards is not going to attract top sales talent. Why? Because the best sales people are already working, and probably not looking! If you want to find the best, you need to develop a highly targeted strategy. Start by finding out the names of top reps who are working for your competitors, and make a direct approach. Continue by contacting everyone you know in your industry network (including your customers), to get referrals, since most great hires come through people you already know. If these efforts don’t yield results, target top reps in companies that are selling complementary products to your customer base. Need help? A good headhunter knows exactly how to find the best people.
    • Sell the Job. If you want to attract the best, make sure to spend time developing and promoting your own company’s story. What’s your vision for the company? What’s your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? What’s your strategy to win in your market? What sort of growth and advancement opportunities do you offer to top performers? What makes your company a great place to work? Are you offering a job, or a real opportunity?
  • Develop a Rigorous Process, Then Stick To It. This is where companies often fall down: by going too fast and skipping critical steps. Hiring great sales people requires lots of time, commitment and energy. To do the job right, make sure your hiring process includes the following elements:
  • Build the right interview team, train the team on interviewing skills, assign different topics to team members, and make sure to debrief on each candidate.
  • Use behavioral interviewing techniques, rather than asking closed-ended questions.
  • Collect detailed sales achievement history from all candidates, by asking for a breakdown of their annual quota and actual results for the previous 3-5 years. Top producers have this information – under performers don’t.
  • Assign homework at each stage of the process, and watch closely to see how well candidates follow-up — and follow instructions.
  • Validate your candidates sales skills, using an online sales profiling tool (we like the Express Screens at http://www.objectivemanagement.com)
  • Discard personal references, and insist on speaking to each candidate’s past 3-4 immediate sales supervisors. If they’re not listed, insist on talking to them anyway.

Hiring the right sales people is not easy, but no task is more important if you’re committed to achieving your company’s growth objectives. Unsure of how to get started, or too busy to do it yourself? We can help. Contact us for more information.

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