The labor market is tight today as you assuredly know if you have been attempting to fill open sales positions.  The issue in sales runs deeper than that as you are typically attempting to find strong sales candidates.  “Attempting” is the key – many hiring managers are unsure of selecting the strongest salesperson.  How do you know they will be successful?  Are they the right candidate?  Can they sell?  Will they sell?

The issue gets compounded by the fact that most sales leaders do not spend their days hiring salespeople.  In fact, most of them complete those activities on an infrequent schedule in the margins of their day as needed (hopefully not often otherwise that is a different problem).  Hiring is the least practiced skill of most sales leaders.

So what to do? The first step is a paradigm shift for most hiring managers.  If you are not consistently hiring salespeople, you probably default to the age-old approach of hiring salespeople from your industry.  This approach is perceived to be safe.  The thought is that someone from our industry understands it and will ramp far quicker.

Fair enough except for one important point.  Will they sell?  That’s not a flippant question, the real issue is whether you are hiring an external candidate who will successfully sell for your company.

Sales hiring is the one area I see where companies worry more about the experience than the skill.  A talented salesperson has sales skills.  Those sales skills hopefully are combined with experience from you industry.  If you have to choose, always choose skill/talent over experience.

The reason is simple – it is far easier, and faster, to teach someone about your “stuff” than it is to teach them how to sell.

In this tight market, strong sales candidates are at a premium.  Adjusting your approach will open up other less traditional candidates to your candidate pool.  This adjustment is critical in this present market.

The key is to find transferable skills.  I once ran a search for a large company in which we found a candidate from a tire store…not kidding.  Upon phone screening him and learning about his role, he was using the same skill set required by my customer’s sale.  The skills were transferable.  Of course, we assessed the candidate, too.  He had the right skills and a strong assessment.  My customer pushed back a bit, but eventually they decided to hire him.  That gentleman has skyrocketed up the corporate ladder and is next in line to take over an entire division.

There are techniques for finding strong sales candidates with transferable skills.  We have a process designed to find them and confirm their abilities and determine their fit to your sales role’s requirements.  This approach opens up your candidate pool which is most valuable in this tight market.

Contact Us To Learn More

We run a systematic hiring process for sales positions.  We have refined the process over the past 14 years and have it optimized (even though when we started we were writing newspaper employment ads!).  As part of any hiring process, you have to receive resumes of respondents to the ad.  This is where things are changing.

A new trend I am seeing is resumes with copy and paste information from job descriptions, websites, etc.  What I mean is candidates do not take the time to write about their skills and experience in their current or previous roles.  They simply use web/marketing copy that they paste into their resume.  I have also seen many resumes with the job description information pasted into their experience.

For example:

“You will call on mid-market companies to sell our cloud-based service.”

That is someone’s experience for their current job.  Amazing.  What is worse is that this position is selling marketing services.

I like to remind hiring managers that this is the best the candidate has to offer.  The interview process should reveal the best of what they have to offer, from writing to phone discussions to follow-up.  If their best in this phase isn’t good enough for the role, do not expect improvement if you add them to your sales team.

I am spending an inordinate amount of time reviewing resumes and one particular word keeps appearing throughout many of the resumes.  The word is…

proven

Perhaps the most insipid phrase is this – “proven track record.”

Every time I see this phrase I immediately want the candidate to prove it.  In most instances, the quoted achievement would be difficult to prove to an outsider.  That fact makes this throw-away phrase easy to included.  My personal take is to have the candidates simply state their record in numbers.

I am stuck in an ongoing cycle of sourcing.  Just when I am about to be worn down, I come across a resume that lists the candidate’s technical skills.  The first thing listed:

-MS Windows 98

Seriously…Win98?  My guess (hope) is that the candidate simply has overlooked that part of his resume for years.  That is about the only explanation because I certainly hope he isn’t touting his technical proficiency with an operating system from 13-14 years ago.

I am filtering through many resumes right now and having a wonderful time examining some of the unique stylings of candidates.  Some flavor:

-One candidate listed his core competencies…TWENTY FOUR of them

-Another stated this, “Subject Matter Expert in dilemma analysis.”

-Another misspelled his name – his name

Never ceases to amaze me when sourcing.

My vote for the most overused word in resumes:

Dynamic

It has become cliché in my eyes.

The opening line of a candidate’s experience as he listed on his resume:

Hired by company to penetrate virgin markets…

Honestly, this is a candidate for a high-level sales position.  He doesn’t have enough sense to change that sentence?

Honestly read this under the "Education” section of a resume:

Completed Kindergarten on through 12th grade

I think that is rather funny.  I guess the old axiom that the longest journey starts with the first step is true.  Education starts with successfully completing kindergarten.

I have been swamped with sourcing activities over the past couple weeks as we work on multiple projects.  I am definitely seeing an upclick in hiring activities which is normally preceded by increases in our assessment work.  We have seen a tremendous increase in assessments so I take that as a good sign.

So a quick sourcing story for you – I’m on the phone with a gentleman and we are deep into the phone interview.  He interrupts me to say he needs to step away as his 5 year-old son has gone to the bathroom and the candidate needs to go “wipe his butt.”  He proceeds to set the phone on the counter and I hear the entire conversation regarding the success of the young boy’s bowel movement.

The candidate returns to the phone and proceeds to describe to me the enormity of his son’s…bowel movement.  Unbelievable.  It was all I had not to laugh on the phone.