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How to Improve Your Sales Hiring Process Success Rate

By Ray Makela

On this episode, Mary Ann, MBA asks: In today's business landscape constantly changing e.g. new products, competition, changing workforce (boomers retiring, millennials moving up) and pressures to achieve sales targets/company goals, how do you make more informed, confident hiring decisions?

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Video Transcript

Well, that's a great question. The costs of a bad sales hire can be exponential on the impact on the organization.
 
Not only is that the cost of hiring, training, recruiting, and bringing that person up to speed. But you also have the time it takes them to hit their stride or become productive. And if they don't work out, that's time that the territory is going under serviced or under utilized.
 
So it is a costly and important decision. And one, that unfortunately, we don't pay enough attention. So how do we improve our success rate of our sales hiring process?
 
It starts with the first question of asking, "What does a successful rep look like in our organization?" The idea of a top performer analysis is important. We first look at identifying what the group of top performers are. Not just who's meeting their quota. But who's demonstrating those behaviors that we're looking for in the organization.
 
Who's got the best win rates? Who's got the best cycle times? Who's improving the opportunities to expand the accounts? We want to look at different factors to identify who those top performers are. Including their personal qualities, experience, and attributes that make them successful.
 
In this way we can build the profile of an ideal candidate. That's much different than just saying "Well, hire somebody who looks like that person, or hire somebody like the sales manager or the sales VP."
 
Without criteria and more rigor applied to the process, we tend to hire people that look like ourselves. And that isn't the best approach.
 
Once we've done that top performer analysis, we want to break that down into an ideal profile. This is more than a typical recruiting job description. It's going to look at the experience, the skills, and the knowledge. But it's also going to look at those personal behaviors and attributes that we want to see in the candidate.
 
Once we've built that profile, we can screen for it. Then using behavioral based interviewing questions to see if the person has demonstrated those qualities in the past.
 
We take a STAR interviewing technique: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Asking questions to get to underlying behaviors and see if they've demonstrated those in the past. For instance, we may decide that integrity is important. Well, let's ask a question that gets to a situation where they had to show their integrity. Perhaps it was a situation where their boss put them in an uncomfortable situation and they had to go against their ethics. What did they do? How did they respond to that?
 
Let's understand the situation, the actions that they took, how they responded, and what the end result was. I'm a fan of the idea of looking for passion and perseverance. It's one of the things that's referred as "grit" these days. Let's find out where did they show passion in the past.
 
That may be on a project, in their education, or on their job. But where did they show that? What was the situation? What were the tasks, actions, and results? Or where did they have to persevere and overcome adversity and how did they show that? By asking these types of behavioral based interviewing questions, we can get a better idea of the candidate. See if they've demonstrated those attributes in the past and they're more likely to show those in the future.
 
A key question we should be asking is "Is this person a fit for the team and the organization?" That's as much as an indicator— whether they're going to be successful—as some of the other attributes. To recap, we want to look for those top performers, see what they're doing. We want to build that ideal profile. Ultimately, we want to build behavioral-based interviewing questions to identify attributes demonstrated in the past.

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 Ray Makela

Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.

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