How to Lose Strong Sales Candidates


Strong ArmHiring salespeople is a daunting task in that they are good actors with the ability to project more skills than they actually possess.  Bad salespeople can masquerade long enough to get through the hiring process and onto your payroll.  Selecting strong salespeople requires certain disciplines.

Most sales managers were hired to grow profitable revenue at their company.  Hiring new salespeople is an ancillary task they complete as needed (which hopefully is not often).  This infrequency means that these sales managers are not well-schooled in the art of sales interviewing.  Consequently, mediocre or weak salespeople are hired  as a result of the sales manager’s bad hiring habits.  There are 3 common habits that cause company’s to lose strong sales candidates.

Divining
Resumes are a difficult topic to discuss in that they are needed in the sales hiring process, but often times they are grossly overvalued within that process.  A candidate’s resume reveals his or her previous positions and little more than that.

Resumes are embellished.  It is fair to say that most hiring managers have encountered this truth.  Therefore, any stated successes have to be taken with a grain of salt.  Sales successes should be recorded on the resume in data-driven statements (top 5% of the company, 125% of quota, etc.).  Yet those data-driven statements still need to be qualified for context to understand them fully.  This qualifying occurs only talking to the candidate.

The other issue is a less detailed resume.  The fact that a candidate has not created a 4 page work history is not grounds for disqualification.  Although a detailed resume often is more desirable than a minimalist resume, candidates should not be sorted on this criteria.

Hiring managers get caught in this trap and attempt to divine more information than is contained in the resume.  The resume does not tell the entire story.  In fact, it only tells a small part of the story.  Granted, some resumes will provide enough information to reject a completely misaligned candidate.  However, no resume provides enough information to finely filter a candidate’s abilities.

Dominating
Face-to-face interviews are the backbone of most hiring processes even though vast majorities of hiring managers have never been trained to run an effective sales interview.  Just imagine, the pivot point of their process relies upon an unrefined manager’s skill.  This reason explains why so many sales hires are based on a manager’s “gut” or intuition regarding the candidate. 

This inherent weakness is exacerbated by a hiring manager who covers his or her abilities by dominating the conversation.  The interview deteriorates into a data dump where the hiring manager talks for >75% of the interview.  This percentage does not allow the hiring manager to see the sales candidate in action.  Many times the candidate has done an excellent job in using questions to control the discussion and learn important information about the company.  This is also known as qualifying and many hiring managers miss it because they were too busy talking about tangential topics. 

One subtle facet of dominating is the assumption that this opportunity is the candidate’s best, or only, option.  A manager who has invested his or her time in talking through most of the interview often deems that time as influential.  Perhaps, but the larger risk is the lack of knowledge about the sales candidate’s abilities, fit to the position and interest in continuing the process.  Remember, hiring is a two-way street.  The candidate is interviewing the company simultaneously. 

Delaying
Hiring the right salesperson is a critical decision for any company so it is a decision not to be taken lightly.  Yet, delaying is the most detrimental error a hiring company can make.  An inordinate delay produces two unintentional negative effects.

First, the candidate often has an initial energy that occurs when he or she first discusses the position with the potential employer.  There is excitement in the opportunity and the candidate, if interested, wants to maintain that level.

The quickest way to suck the life out of the interaction is to delay your hiring process.  The candidate typically assumes that he or she is not the top candidate.  Once they reach that point, they tend to look for another employment opportunity.  If they find one, the excitement of that new possibility will displace the delayed opportunity.  The candidate now becomes far more difficult to hire.

Second, you present an image, accurate or not, of a company that struggles with decisions.  In sales this can be fatal.  Closing a complex or customized sale requires many decisions made at the appropriate time to keep the sales cycle moving.

Companies that take an inordinate amount of time to move through a hiring process (i.e. make decisions) cast a long shadow of doubt in the candidate’s eyes.  If the company appears tentative in the hiring process, the candidate extends that trait to the culture.  If the culture isn’t conducive to timely selling, the sales candidate will become cautious about the company.  It is at this point that the candidate will attempt to delay the process which is a red flag to the hiring company.

Divining, dominating and delaying are 3 of the most costly errors a company can commit in attempting to hire strong salespeople.  Each one derails an effective hiring process by removing objectivity, reducing information and creating doubt. Avoid these pitfalls and you will vastly improve your company’s ability to hire strong salespeople.

Every time.