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How to Hire the Right Salespeople

Sales Management | Recruitment & Selection

On this episode, Anne Sommi Edmondson, Executive Vice President of Marketing asks: In one of my past jobs, we churned through salespeople. There was always a reason they didn't work. I believe they just weren't hiring the right people. My question is, do you hire salespeople or do you hire skill sets?

 

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Video Transcript

This is a good question and I will acknowledge that knowing how to hire the right person isn't easy. When you have a job opening, let's say someone left their position or you're growing, there's a tendency to move too quickly.
 
Someone comes in, they interview went well, they seem like they have a good personality, they're likable, they're articulate, and you hire them. And then what happens? Six months later they're not meeting their sales goals, you're starting to get frustrated, they have some other behaviors, coming to work late, or other things that are not boding well. Then either that person quits because they're not successful or—even more painful—you have to let them go because they're not getting the job done. And there's a lot of hidden costs there.
 
It's not only frustrating but there's your recruiting costs (the time you spent to go out and find this person), a salary that you paid them, a lost opportunity because they weren't as productive as they needed to be, training costs involved
 
There's also a lot of customer risk. It's frustrating to a customer that is assigned a new salesperson only to find out now they're going to get yet another new sales person. And that opens up opportunities for your competition.Hiring is never going to be an exact science, but what we've found is creating a great job profile helps you do a much better job of figuring out who you want to hire.
 
I know that a lot of people work off job descriptions, but a job description is different than a job profile. A job description describes what it is you're looking for that person to do. So, you're describing the job and their sales function. Whereas the job profile gets to who you're looking to hire. What level of experience are you looking for? What kind of educational background? What kind of accomplishments?
 
And to your question, what kind of skills? Are you looking for someone's who's good at prospecting, someone who's good at asking questions to identify needs, someone who can negotiate, someone who has good closing skills. So, skills are important, but there's something that's missing. And what we encourage people to look for, what are the key competencies?
 
What are those personal qualities that your top performers have? Is it their motivation? Is it their integrity? Is it planning? Is it work ethic? Those are things that are difficult to understand without doing a deeper interview.
 
So think about, as part of your job profile—besides the experience, education, skills; what are those key attributes you're looking for? And then go and start using something we call star questions—and a lot of people use star questionings. Star questions is an acronym. What's the situation, what's the task, what are the actions, and what are the result?
 
If someone says they're motivated, you haven't learned a lot. Hopefully they are motivated, but you might say, "Well, Norman, why don't you describe a situation where you had to show motivation? Oh great, what were the tasks? What actions did you take? What was the result? How did that work out for you?"
 
And what that has a tendency to do is: to focus on those top attributes that you're looking for, slow down the interviewing, and see if someone really meets those criteria. Then against your total job profile, you can now start to compare your top three candidates. We always recommend at least three in-person interviews.
 
Now you have a much more objective way to look at the experience, the education, the accomplishments, the skill set, those personal qualities that they bring to the jobThat will result in a much better hire. Never perfect, but certainly much better hiring than just kind of going out there and winging it, and hiring someone based on personality.

SRG Insights is a Q&A video series where we answer your questions on the topics of sales, sales management, sales coaching, and sales training. Featuring sales experts with over 25 years of sales and sales management experience.  

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About Norman Behar

Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.