Five Steps To Making Better Sales Hires
Building a team of high performing sales reps goes beyond good sales enablement and training, and extends to developing a methodical approach to hiring the right individuals. An approach that is data driven and looks at the right personal traits will increase the likelihood of making successful hires. Following are five steps that can be implemented to improve the sales hiring process and significantly increase the likelihood of making successful hires.
1. CREATE A DATA DRIVEN FRAMEWORK
Create a data driven hiring framework that examines the traits of your most successful sales reps and attempts to measure or assess those traits in potential candidates.
Often seemingly obvious variables such as industry specific experience, are not the biggest contributing factors to success. But the only way to decipher what those variables are is through rigorous measurement. Leave no stone unturned and look for correlations in elements such as education level or academic performance, tenure in prior roles, quantitative or qualitative abilities, etc. Measure what can be measured to create very clear answers, or use a scoring system to rate slightly more subjective traits.
2. TEST AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Use personality profile tests to develop a more complete understanding of a candidate’s makeup beyond what can usually be deduced during the interview process. Understanding a candidate’s core traits such as EQ, cognitive ability, as well as his personality profile (i.e. Myers-Briggs), can be invaluable.
Additionally, sales aptitude tests which measure and test on personality elements such as competitiveness, extroversion, and persistence, can also be very helpful in developing a full view of a candidate’s DNA.
3. LOOK FOR GRIT
Research done at The University of Pennsylvania sheds light on the fact that grit is the single biggest indicator of long-term success. Merriam-Webster defines grit as:
“firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger”
I cannot think of a profession that requires more grit than sales. The ability to overcome obstacles, deal with rejection and defeat, and remain persistent is required nearly every day in sales and lies at the very core of great sales people. So how can you measure or asses someone’s grit? Looking at past performance is the first way to measure and evaluate based on grit. Asses elements such as:
How well did the candidate perform in their previous role?
What was the candidate’s GPA in college?
Were they involved in sports at any point? If so, how long did they stick with a specific sport and to what degree did they excel in that sport?
What is a significant obstacle(s) did they face in the past that they successfully overcame?
Look for signs of diligence, perseverance, ability to deal with setbacks, and most importantly - dogged hard work. Research indicates that many times the most successful individuals in any given sport, academic discipline, or profession aren’t the most talented; they are the ones who exhibit the most grit.
4. GIVE YOUR CANDIDATES HOMEWORK
Make the interviewing process as hands on as possible. The more you can see how your candidates respond to tasks you throw at them the more data points you will have on positive and/or negative indicators of future success.
In previous roles, I held three interviews with candidates before moving forward with an offer, and after each interview, I gave them some homework. Following an initial phone interview, I asked them to spend some more time on our website trying to gain a deeper understanding of the business benefits our solution provided.
During our second interview, I asked them to explain to me what they viewed as the three most important, or core, business benefits. This helped me understand two things. One, did they demonstrate the necessary cognitive ability to understand the core business benefits, and were they able to explain those benefits in a succinct and articulate manner? Two, how much effort did they seem to have put into the exercise?
For the third and final interview, I asked candidates to put together a ten-minute power point presentation outlining why they should be hired, to explain what they will do to ensure success in the role, and to summarize their 90-day plan. While it gave me similar insight to that of the second exercise, it did so in greater detail. And I was able to flush out the level of thought and effort they had put into the presentation, evaluate the confidence and poise they exhibited, and examine all of this on an even deeper level.
Will there be candidates who pour a ton of effort into to the interview process only to burn out after several months as an employee? Of course there will be. But by creating a more hands on interview process you will have far more data and insight than you would without.
5. BE ABLE TO SELL THE ROLE
The best candidates with the best track records aren’t always easy to land. They have the cachet and the resume to get the best sales jobs. In order to be able to attract and land candidates of this caliber, the ability to sell them on the role, the company as a whole, and most importantly the upside, is very important. This especially holds true for smaller companies and startups with less of an established track record.
Just like strong messaging is important when attracting and acquiring customers, the same can be said for attracting top notch sales candidates. By building impactful messaging and a strong narrative around why the role would be “a great fit”, the long-term upside, and points of differentiation, your pitch to candidates will be far more effective.
But here’s the rub. If you overdo it you’ll come across as somewhat desperate, and candidates will be turned off. It’s important to strike the right balance between selling someone on the role and demonstrating a certain level of careful observation and selection.
It’s no secret that the B2B sales landscape is changing and will continue to change. And more importantly, buyer expectations are changing as well. Modern sales reps must posses a stronger skill set and have the ability (and desire) to become subject matter experts. By building a more formalized hiring process that is rooted in objectivity, data, and a rigorous approach to evaluating candidates, sales leaders will be far better equipped to build teams that are able to meet the demands of the modern buyer, and create a competitive advantage in doing so.