In a small business, hiring a salesperson is easy...provided that you have...
- Great candidates to choose from
- An incredibly compelling compensation package
- Stellar references
- And preferably some prior experience with the candidate you’re hiring (so you know for sure they’ll produce...)
Oh. You’re not sure you have that all lined up for your next hire?
(Hope you're catching the sarcasm here...)
Working with many business owners and professional sales managers over the years, this is the consistent lament I hear:
When it comes to sales hires, you just can’t know whether Larry, Joe, or Mary is actually going to be as great as they seem during the interview.
So what to do?
If you’re a large company, and you’re hiring for a team, and therefore you may be looking to fill two headcounts to round out your hundred-person squad, you can be wrong about 20% of your team and still have, assuming the bell curve holds up another 20% that is stellar, and about 40-50% who are at least adequate, giving you coverage over territory and accounts.
And knowing that you’re going to have to “top-grade” your team periodically to make sure you have the people you need doing the job you need to have done.
But what if you’re a mid-market business owner, like many of my clients, who are looking at one or two TOTAL headcount? That one hire is going to be number one out of one. You have to be one hundred percent right or else it’s one hundred percent fail. That’s a bit scary, and it’s hard to do.
Some Lessons Learned
Here are some of the things I recommend to clients I’ve helped with this- a few things to help them see candidates with greater clarity:
- Does the person do an actual good job of selling themselves to you? In other words, if they were the product, were you really buying it? Or were you just trying to hope they’d work out?
- Test for sales acumen. Yes. But, the reality is that no assessment is going to tell you what they’re going to do in the real world.
- Multi-interview. So you do have to get a sense from as many people on your team as possible where this person will fit in culturally, whether they can actually do the job, do they sound like they can do the job?
- How do they communicate, overall? And when you’re hiring only one or two people, I always lean heavily on strong interpersonal communication skills. Do they speak well?
- Do they write well? Ask for E-mail samples, give them some scenarios, and see how they respond. Overall get a sense of their basic skill set.
- Technical knowledge may be a requirement – BUT – do not, and I repeat do not, put too much weight on industry or product knowledge. I see owners do this all the time, and it’s mistake number one. They take somebody who can talk good engineering, in a highly technical sale, for example, and they think that person will be able to sell. They forget that sales acumen is its own thing, as much a discipline as engineering or another technical discipline. (OK – not nuclear medicine, but you get the point.)
The reality is understanding how to manage a sales cycle, how to be persuasive, how to be diligent, and how to counter objections takes years to refine and develop the ability to do well.
So, other than that, it’s easy.
Drop me a line and let me know your tips for success in hiring sales talent.