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Sales Strategy

How to Hire Sales People

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Having been in the field of sales and sales training for so many years, I know the recruiting process can be complicated, lengthy and full of pitfalls. Do you go with your gut feeling? Do you trust all the references? Do you hire somebody who is charismatic, or somebody who knows the industry? What can and should you measure objectively to help ensure that you’re making the right choice?

First Impressions

Many companies feel that sales people should be aggressive and gregarious. In a consultative sales environment that can actually be an obstacle rather than an asset. Hiring a good sales person is as difficult if not harder than hiring a good account manager. The challenge is to make sure that no matter what, your sales people will conduct themselves in a professional way. After all, they are usually the first introduction to your brand or company.

I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered unprofessional behavior from sales people who were calling on me as a business owner. Bad first impressions can ruin your  perception of a brand and the likelihood of you choosing that brand and working with that company will be lower. It’s a fine line between persuasion and intrusion. Good sales people need to find that balance every single day, every single time they pick up the phone and every time they interact with a prospect.

Sometimes, the desire to sell is so high that courtesy goes out the window. Often, sales people want to impress with product knowledge rather than understanding the prospect’s needs. Very often this is caused by pressure to meet numbers rather than building long-term relationships

Finding a Fit

So, how do you choose a sales person who will fit in with your organization’s culture? Let’s say you think you’ve found the right candidate. You’ve interviewed that person, so have others in your organization. You’ve done reference checking, and everybody is more or less in agreement that you have a good match. Now, what can you and what should you do to objectively establish how good a fit they really are. The good news is there are a number of widely tested tools that can provide you with the kind of support you can readily use, without taking large chunks out of your day and your budget!

You can utilize tests such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, but also have a look into the Kolbe A Index, which you can administer to your entire team and then your candidate(s) to determine how well they fit and can work together with the other members of your team. You’ll find the results can be real eye-openers!

What Strengths Are Most Important?

Once you’ve found the right personality and work-type match, let’s make sure everyone’s working in the same direction. In our B2B environment today, standing out and becoming your clients’ provider of choice demands a comprehensive, solution-oriented or consultative sales approach, built around your own client-centric philosophy.

You’ll want to examine your own sales process. Will your sales person need to do their own prospecting? Will they have to work with other team members to push a sale through the funnel? Being a door opener and/or a team player at the same time could present a challenge. Sales people always have at least one area of weakness and depending on your organizational DNA that will determine your hiring criteria. For example, if you have an inside sales team available, you can hire outside sales people who are strong relationship builders and closers.

As far as one area of sales competency is concerned, you need to make sure that your candidate is a good listener. That is something you can easily assess during the interviewing process. Pay attention to how many questions your candidates ask vs. the candidates tooting their own horn. You should also make sure that your candidate is a good writer because written communication is key to making connections today in the evolving use of social media and email communication. Here’s another important step in the interviewing process. Before hiring sales people engage the candidates in phone conversations. In today’s B2B environment almost all prospecting is done over the phone.  Sometimes people come across strong in-person, but their phone presence is weak.

Assessing Sales Skills & Knowledge

We’re getting closer now. Your candidate has good oral and written skills, has a good phone presence. But what about all the other areas of sales skills and knowledge that are essential to being a top sales person? We have worked with our research partners for many years to establish eight areas of sales competencies that have proven to be the foundation for the success of top sales professionals in a wide range of industries. So, how do you find out if your candidate possesses these competencies, and in which areas is there a need for improvement? Within our Consultative Sales Certification Training Program we have an integral element which is our initial Sales Skills & Knowledge Assessment. We have all participants to work through this assessment before we conduct any training. This comprehensive assessment gives you a very detailed and measurable view of a sales person’s skills and knowledge in the arena of solution-oriented or consultative selling. It also helps you understand if their strengths or opportunities to grow are in prospecting, overcoming objections, closing the sale, etc.

This assessment helps our clients hire the right people and after a successful completion of our sales training efforts we can test their consultative selling skills and knowledge again to gauge their improvement. We have found that even the best sales people have areas of improvement and the only way to measure is working off a set of well-established benchmarks.

Bottom line is that you can’t hire the right person if you don’t know what you are looking for and you can’t measure success if you don’t have a benchmark.

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