Hiring Sales Overachievers
Q: What is the [not so] secret to your company over achieving its sales goals?
A: Hire amazing salespeople [of course]. Here’s how…
Ever thought you’ve hired a great sales person only to see them underperform and exit the organization in 9 months? Aside from being frustrating, this is an expensive experience. Paying 9 months of salary [plus any commission guarantees, benefits etc.] for no net new revenue is painful.
At its best, hiring has its inherent risk that the party you’ve hired is not “the right person being put in the right seat on the bus”. To make a hiring decision even harder, any salesperson worth their salt will sell you on them, and next thing you know they are on the payroll. There are some specific things you can do to increase the likelihood you can hire a sales winner.
This might sound weird, but hiring based solely on sales track record is a mistake. What was sufficient to make a salesperson successful at another company, even if it’s in the same industry, may in fact be different than what’s required to be successful at your company [I’ve seen this numerous times]. Sales track record is of course important but by no means is the only criteria on which you should base your hiring decision.
Hiring for a salesperson’s Rolodex [contact list] is also something I’ve rarely seen work. I’ve watched companies overpay for seemingly well-connected salespeople only to find that after they come on board the new customers from old contacts don’t materialize.
Great salespeople, regardless of industry, typically share the personality traits of resilience, initiative, competition, achievement orientation, courage and high accountability.
A resilient salesperson will be able to handle rejection inherent in the job. One who has great initiative will make things happen when others cannot. One who is competitive and achievement oriented will be internally dialled up to beat sales goals. Those who possess courage will be willing to try new things and adapt towards being successful. Those with high accountability will not blame market conditions and the like for lack of sales success. My guess is you can easily see that the salesperson who does not possess these traits and characteristics has a lower probability of success.
How to determine if your candidate has sufficient levels of the traits and characteristics required for sales success? Google “behavioural interviewing” and you will find all you need to know. Asking questions that begin with “tell me about a time when…” is magic. Proceed to ask about when your candidate had to draw upon the success traits and characteristics. If they in fact possess them, they will readily come up with examples of when they’ve leveraged them. If they don’t possess them, their examples and stories will be weak.
Behavioural interviewing is just one part of the hiring equation. I generally recommend a 4 step hiring process comprised of an initial interview to screen for overall fit, a 2nd interview to assess personality traits and characteristics, a 3rd interview for some type of “sell back” interaction so you can experience what your buyers will experience and finally an interview in which the candidate presents their 30-60-90 day plan to tackle their territory.
The 1st interview is pretty standard and the 2nd is described above. The 3rd interview involves asking the candidate to sell you something. The purpose of this interaction is to determine if they understand how to conduct a sales call, ask great questions focused on uncovering buyer needs and close the interaction. The 4th and final interview allows you to understand your candidate’s business literacy and their ability to make a presentation with something at stake.
Of course this hiring process is modified and adjusted based upon the sales role being hired for. The approach would be different if hiring for an entry-level position versus hiring for a Senior Accounts role.
There is a meaningful amount of nuance to conducting this hiring process. If you would like further detail, please let me know. I’m always happy to help.
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