ManageSmarter.com offers up an article I cannot resist – Find Your Next Sales Star. We’re going to start a 10 part series on this article. No, we’re not (though I would like to).
I’ve written about this topic in the past (emphasis mine):
Chet Bloom isn’t a big believer in tests and intellectual assessments. The president of HFBC Ltd., a staff and recruiting firm based in New York, goes with his instinct. “A test will never show a person’s eagerness and motivation,” he says. For him, it’s all about impression, such as how an interviewee dresses, if he shows up on time, and his confidence level. Education is meaningless to him, but background is crucial. Because a salesperson’s salary is determined by success in the field, Chet looks for someone who truly needs to succeed. “I want someone who is eager and focused,” he says. “Maybe they have a mortgage and kids … I look for someone who is hungry.”
Please don’t do that. I would not recommend hiring based on impression and attire. That subjective data should be factored into your decision, but you are in trouble if those items are the backbone of your decision.
And “tests” can show a salesperson’s motivations with a fine gradient.
Within the company, which has 13 sales divisions, there are different criteria for success. “What makes one sales rep good in one division won’t make them great in another one,” Rude says. Stryker looks at the Gallup assessment of top salespeople within each division to find the right match for every prospect. “It’s incorporated in our day-to-day processes,” Rude says. “It’s truly why we think Stryker is great at identifying talent.”
Ok, we are not fans of “cloning” your top salespeople. It is next to impossible to do since people are far more varied than that. Plus, a team comprised of extremely similar salespeople means the group as a whole has the same strengths and, more importantly, the same weaknesses. Over time, your team’s narrow focus may cost you if your target market moves in a direction opposite of their uniform strengths.
However, that italicized sentence from the excerpt is spot on. This truth affects hiring companies too. Just because a salesperson was successful at your competition does not mean their success will transfer to your company. You approach the market with a different value proposition, customer base, market share, name recognition, etc. Remember, each position requires a specific, unique set of skills, motivations and aptitudes.
My 2 Keys For Hiring Sales Stars
Hiring strong salespeople requires a concerted effort involving many parts of a process. If I had to reduce the process to 2 fundamental keys, I would offer up these:
Design as much objectivity into your process as possible
Have your hiring process mirror your typical sale
The first example in the referenced article is highly subjective and not repeatable. The approach sounds good if you are a recruiter attempting to secure business from a client – “My finely-tuned gut can sniff out the best salesperson.” Sorry to mix metaphors, but you get my point.
Use assessments. Phone screen them before meeting them. Devalue the resume. Have more than 1 person in the initial interview. All of these approaches help to limit the natural blind spots we all possess. The more objectivity in your process, the more repeatable it becomes. Throw out the approach that uses an HR person to sort resumes and one hiring manager who interviews candidates and decides solely on that criteria.
A salesperson’s job is to persuade others to make a decision in the salesperson’s favor. Ok, that is overly simplistic. The reason I say it is that a hiring process can closely match a sales process. Therefore you can see a salesperson in action if you use this similarity to your advantage.
If you have a short sales cycle, frequent-rejection sale, use your hiring process the same way. Be short on the phone screen, interrupt the candidate, feed them fuzzy phrases and try to get them off the phone. You will be amazed at what you can observe on this call.
Conversely, if you have a long sales cycle that requires rapport-building, observe how the candidate bonds with you on the phone, use email extensively and extend your hiring cycle (don’t overdo this last one).
When you are in the interview, mirror your typical prospect in your timing, approach, warmth, demeanor, etc. This disarming process will help to reveal the real salesperson leading to the one who is the strongest fit for the position’s needs.
My suggestion is to use your gut at the right time which is as close to the end of your hiring process as possible. By then you will have culled the candidates down using measurable, repeatable techniques. The fruits of your labor will be selecting a strong salesperson who becomes a cornerstone of your sales team.