Whether you need to add people to grow your sales force, or you are building a sales force from scratch, one thing is for sure: you must hire people who can sell and will ramp up quickly. You cannot afford to hire people who look and sound like a salesperson but will not be able to find and close new business. If you have tried to hire salespeople based on old guidelines—industry experience, what they said they have done in the past, an account base, or relationships that you think you can leverage—and they haven’t delivered, then you know how easy it is to fall into those traps.
The Recruiting Process Must be Different
You cannot hire salespeople like you hire IT people, engineers, or accountants. Good salespeople are already working somewhere and selling for someone else. You must attract them to your company—not by talking about you but by talking about them. You must have the tools at your disposal to know their selling skills, strengths, and weaknesses so that you be confident in their ramp up into learning your business and getting you new business. It is possible with the tools today to know whether or not they can sell before they begin working for you.
1. You must assess each applicant with a screen specifically designed for salespeople
Notice I said applicant. You probably look at resumes first, don’t you? The biggest mistakes that companies make hiring salespeople usually happen when they hire based on industry experience or because they “seem like they can sell.” People who have had those issues hire industry retreads that don’t have the network or client list that they claimed to have and had one year of relevant experience over and over each year. Or they hire someone that they think is the Brad Pitt of selling, and then figure out that they got Rodney Dangerfield. You don’t want a salesman starting every meeting with “sweetie, you sure look nice today.” Start with the assessment and not the resume, and you now know the one thing that you were trying to figure out all along—can they sell? The simple fact is that people can either sell or they can’t. People either will prospect or they won’t. Your screening process must be accurate enough to nearly guarantee success. Behavioral, personality, intelligence, or interest assessments cannot tell you those things with any accuracy. Correlations must be based on validation of the assessment tool over both the short term (ramp up) and the long-term career of candidates.
2. You must make the interview the toughest one that they have ever been through
You are hiring a sales person, not an accountant. To be successful in sales, salespeople must be able to:
- Manage high pressure situations
- Handle conflict
- Manage their emotions
- Respond to difficult questions
- Maintain control of the meeting
- Respond to games that people will play
- Ask good questions
- Get decisions
The assessment told you that they can sell, so now you just need to experience how they do it. So you bring the heat. You put them under pressure. You show up late, you tell them you aren’t sure if they will work out, you give few details about the opportunity, etc. Isn’t that how your difficult prospects act? What better way to see what they will do to handle those situations than to make them show you? If you make the interview easy, if you tell them how great the opportunity is, if you try to sell the company to them, one thing is for sure. These great salespeople will manipulate their way to better cars, more pay for less, and will walk all over you. If they think that they went through a tough process and that they barely made it through, they will be thankful and hit the ground running to prove that you made a good hiring decision.
3. Your new hire on-boarding process is the key to success
Now that they are working for you, you need to give them:
Where the bathroom is
How to fill out paperwork
Sales milestones and expectations
How you sell
If you do not have a structured on-boarding process for salespeople, you are communicating to them that you do not take sales seriously and that you are not building a sales culture. You must give them a path to success and the knowledge to make them successful as soon as possible. Would you build a home, move in, and then leave everything in boxes? You cannot get the value for your investment if you do not immediately get return on your investment quickly.
People from many companies will read this and think, “we never needed that stuff, we’re fine.” But you didn’t build it from scratch. How much did those lessons, those bad hiring mistakes, those slow months as people learned your business, cost you? If you are building it from scratch, do you want to bet on a sure thing and create the conditions for success, or do you want to roll the dice?