The movies often represent salesmen in a negative light, making a career in sales seem like a shady undertaking. If you’ve seen films like Glengarry Glen Ross, Death of a Salesman, or Jerry Maquire, you may think that a career in sales is a ticket to deception, desperation, and despair. But in “Can They Sell – Learn to Recruit the Best Salespeople,” Steve Suggs says that the best salespeople are multidimensional, not the manipulative, scheming, depressed characters in movie scripts. He talks about the lack of focus and objective measurement by many sales recruiters that will result in hiring the wrong candidates who may look good on paper and sound great in interviews, but may not be a good fit for the company and position.
Use Sales Performance Recruiting Metrics
Roberta Matuson, Forbes contributor and author of “Talent Magnetism,” talks about the emphasis on skills in sales recruiting when what is actually needed for hiring success to hire the best salespeople is “fit.” She says sales recruiters and hiring managers need sales candidates with passion and a sense of purpose. Matuson cites world-class sales organizations like The Boston Beer Company focusing on candidates with the right fit and the resulting growth of their business. She calls it “hiring on purpose.”
Matuson’s advice to sales recruiters is similar to recruiting veteran Lou Adler’s when it comes to recruiting the right candidates. She says look at your top performers, figure out what their best traits are, and recruit sales people with those traits for the best hiring practices. Develop metrics for these traits and use them to narrow the candidate pool to those who match them, along with metrics for fit and performance. For example, if your top performing salespeople make the bulk of their sales by networking at industry events, use a metric to measure how many candidates are interviewed that have experience at networking and traveling to industry conferences and tradeshows. She also says that reviewing previous recruiting practices and analyzing mistakes and what didn’t work enables hiring managers and recruiters to improve recruiting focus on the best candidates to match company culture, performance standards, and business strategy.
One strong benefit of using metrics developed from performance of top salespeople who are currently employed is that you are not just hiring candidates who are good. You’re hiring candidates who raise the average and take your company to the next level instead of just maintaining a static workforce or even worse, losing ground with poor hires. Veteran recruiter Lou Adler talks about something similar when it comes to sales recruiters: raising the talent bar and quality of hire.
Hire for Fit not Skills
Adler believes in hiring for “fit” by defining quality of hire at the front end of the recruiting process. Experienced salespeople have the sales skills and know how to close, and love the challenges and rewards of selling. The real missing piece of the puzzle is fit. Does the candidate fit with your industry, your sales organization, your sales team? Is your team made up of independent sales stars who motivate and challenge each other? Or does your team work in a collaborative fashion, sharing new information and going the extra mile to help one another meet goals?
In either instance, are you talking to sales candidates who have worked this way before? Are you talking to candidates who understand your company’s strategic goals and have worked in an environment similar to your sales organization? Can the candidates you are interviewing demonstrate the same types of achievements that your top sales performers achieve on a regular basis? Fit is as important, if not more important, than skills. Hiring for fit can makes the difference between average or poor hires and hiring success resulting in the best new people for your sales team.
Avoid These Common Sales Hiring Mistakes
Adler’s 35 years of recruiting give him unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t. He’s seen success and failure in recruiting techniques and processes. He says most sales recruiters make the same common mistakes when hiring salespeople, and recommends eliminating them for the best results.
Many sales recruiters mistakenly believe their job is unique, but Adler believes that understanding the common sales process is required to assess sales candidates. They should eliminate the attitude that what they do is special and instead cultivate the knowledge that they can use the sales process to evaluate a candidate’s skills and fit for the position.
Sales recruiters mistakenly overvalue first impressions and believe they must trust their feeling or go with their gut. Adler says the best sales recruiters and sales managers avoid this, using solid recruiting metrics and assessing candidate past performance from track records of good sales results.
Unfortunately, Adler has seen that many sales recruiters don’t know the job or understand the sales process well enough to be able to assess sales candidates effectively. Sales recruiters who don’t understand the major areas of the sales process won’t be as successful at sourcing and hiring top sales candidates.
Adler describes the sales process in five parts:
1.Prospecting and lead generation
3.Selling the customer on products and services
4.Preparing sales proposals
5.Negotiating and closing sales
Performance Profiles versus Job Descriptions
Adler recommends sales recruiters and managers use performance profiles instead of job descriptions to closely match the candidates to the top performance objectives for the positions. Job descriptions list essential functions and requirements for qualifications while performance profiles outline specific success factors. The objectives in performance profiles must be defined by discussing the position and existing top performers with the hiring manager. The top objective will be what the hiring manager describes as most important for success in the job.
The profiles must include specific time-limited results and be prioritized by order of importance. The top three are critical factors that top candidates must be able to demonstrate with past performance and experience. Adler believes performance profiles work better to get all interviewers better focused, increase interviewing accuracy, and enable more accurate assessment of a candidate’s competency.
Sales recruiting experts like Roberta Matuson and Lou Adler agree that successful sales recruiters understand all areas of the common sales process, are aware of and eliminate sales hiring mistakes, hire for fit not just skills, and use sales hiring metrics. Narrow and improve your sales recruiting process for the best results in the least time, and you’ll also raise the average or raise the hiring bar.
Andrew Greenberg’s roots in recruiting date back to 1996. He has experience both on the agency-side and corporate-side of the staffing business, with a focus in the financial services space at companies like Bloomberg and UBS. He also has core experience with information technology staffing, and has worked for major software companies such as SAP Business Objects and IBM/Informix Software. To get in touch with Andrew, you can reach him by email or by phone at (800) 797-6160.