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Just as your salespeople need to be out and about to create sales, management needs to always be on the lookout for sales talent. You never should be caught flat-footed in the new salesperson adventure.
The wonderful thing about an always recruit mindset is that it’s not hard. In our everyday business lives there are tons of opportunities to recruit. Here is a list of daily activities where you can find and see salespeople as they really are.
This is by far the easiest place to check on your local talent. All you need to do is commit to taking a few incoming sales calls every day. This is a wonderful way to hear how a potential new hire sells. As payroll is a business to business profession, we get the opportunity to interact with recruits as we watch them try and sell to us. This allows us to make a decision whether these recruits have the skills we want.
Look to your vendors and ask them if they know of any good salespeople. If a vendor is getting worked over by a competitor’s salesperson, a good strategy for them might be to direct you to the salesperson they compete with the most. In this, you might also be able to do some baseline checking on your vendor’s performance.
Another way to handle this is to contact your vendor’s competition and bring them in to see how the salesperson tries to win your business. If you like what you see, move into recruiting mode.
Chamber of Commerce & Associations:
The real world of local Chamber of Commerce is that 90% of the people who attend events are salespeople! Once again, by getting out in the crowd we can look for people that fit our ideal profile.
The same scenario exists at Association Trade Shows. As an owner, you attend shows for information, but you should also be on the lookout for outstanding talent. Every booth is full of salespeople looking to earn your business. By walking up to a booth, you are getting firsthand knowledge of how a person sells.
When we regularly attend these groups we are allowed to see the many layers of a salesperson in action. Businesses to business sales require a “get after it” mentality. Look for the people that show a solid commitment to their position.
As a business grows, the group of people we gain access to also grow. We should constantly reach out to our peers for support and advice. Ask your business peers about the people from whom they have recently purchased. If you hear about an outstanding salesperson, see if your associate can get you connected with them.
Of all the social networks today, LinkedIn is the best at connecting people in business. By using groups, you gain the ability to see an unlimited number of salespeople whom you can monitor as a group member and learn more about their selling skills or you can reach out to them for a simple phone interview.
Why traditional hiring practices lead to poor hires:
Does this sound familiar? Your business is doing well; you want to accelerate the growth. So you make the decision to add another salesperson.
To get started you place an ad in monster.com, on your website, and in your local paper. Then you wait for the resumes to come flying in the door. Sometimes the resumes fly in the door, while other times nothing happens.
If you are lucky, you end up with a nice group of people to put through your interview process. At the end of the process, you make a hire and see what happens. Unfortunately, oftentimes what happens is that the new person falls short of everyone’s expectations. Sometimes this is the salespersons fault, sometimes it is a training issue, yet most of the time it is a hiring issue. Primarily, in our desire to grow our sales team, we hire based on short-term need and don’t spend the proper amount of time evaluating talent.
The opportunity for sales success increases when the new salesperson is recruited out of a sales position with average to above-average performance. Even in a down economy, a producing salesperson won’t be out on the street. Look at your team. If times are tough, would you get rid of one your producers to save cost?
The best method to improve your hiring is to always recruit! It should be management’s goal to conduct at least one new sales interview in your office every week. You will become a much better evaluator of sales talent, improve your hiring process, and be in a position to spend more time interacting with potential hires. Anyone can look good in a 40 minute interview. The cracks start to appear in the second and third interaction.
The reason I recommend conducting interviews in your office is you gain a slight team incentive. Salespeople know who is on the team and where they stand; sometimes all a person needs to get motivated is to see someone being interviewed. I’m not advocating managing by fear, which is the worst way to run a sales team. What I am promoting is an environment in which production is the norm and the rules of employment are clear and fair. Some salespeople have an internal fire while others need external influence to get moving.
The Owner and Sales Manager have a responsibility to maintain a healthy and productive team. Always recruit is just one step to maintain and improve overall sales team health.
Do you have a sales hiring process?
Once you have a group of candidates, what is your hiring process? Since most people still hire on gut instinct, a set process can help ensure your gut makes a good decision.
When looking to hire a new salesperson, be clear in what your expectations are before you begin the process. This will place you in a strong position when it comes to landing your ideal candidate. Most salespeople prefer to work in environments where expectations are clear and simple to understand.
The best method to ensure a good hire is to spend time with the candidate. It’s often impossible to spend days with potential hires, but you can maximize time with candidates by seeking multiple opinions within the office. Here is a process I have used in the past and one that might help you on your next sales hire.
First interview should always be on the phone:
Sales is a communication position. Salespeople spend a lot of time on the phone. Because of this, you should incorporate this communication medium into at least one part of the interview process. I prefer to conduct a phone interview first for the following reason: if they can’t talk on the phone, they can’t sell on my team; I want to discover this before inviting them into my office. A second benefit is that on the phone, you are more likely to not allow physical appearance to cloud your judgment. The prettiest salesperson is rarely the best.
You need to use a standard list of questions so that you can fairly compare one candidate to another. Free-flowing conversations are important, but at some point you will need to make a decision; using a baseline list of questions will help with that decision.
Repeat questions with hiring team:
When involving other people in the interview process, they should ask some of the same questions so that you can compare notes. If you have a critical characteristic that you always want within your sales team, create questions that help you evaluate this trait and ask it more than once. All of us can get fooled once.
Personality or Sales Profiles:
These are a must. You can get a high quality profile for a few hundred dollars. I use profiles to help me confirm my gut feelings and plan additional questions for the third or fourth interviews. Today I use the Caliper Profile and find that it gives me more than enough information to help guide the selection process. The expense of putting 3 – 5 candidates through a profile is minimal when compared to what a poor sales hire costs your business in hard dollars and missed opportunity.
Profiles are not a magic bullet. They offer additional insight that you can use to make better hiring decisions. Many people can be good in sales, but are employed in the wrong type of sales. A profile can help you see which type of people can be successful in a rigid sales environment and which salespeople will be successful in a flexible environment. Profiles will also give you great insight in how to properly manage and coach the successful candidate.
To give yourself a proper reading of a sales profile, have your existing team, including yourself, take the profile you chose to use. This will only help you better understand the numbers and give you a better idea of the sales personalities identified by the profile.
When I look at and talk with salespeople about their work history, I find it best to start at their first jobs and work toward today. In doing this, you will go outside the candidates’ prepared response zones. In doing this, I find it easier to spot personality problems while also discovering the people that have the “IT” factor to be successful in sales. Always explore why they took each job and their reasons for moving on.
Only hire the right candidate:
My worst hiring decisions have one thing in common –my gut said no, my arrogance said yes.
Only hire when your gut says YES!!! If someone can’t get you to that point, do you really think they can make potential customers leave their current provider? Seriously look at that last sentence because that is what you are hiring. We only want YES; anything less will be a time-consuming-slow-money-sucking-time-wasting lesson in business. As I said, many people can sell; they just need to be in the right position to leverage their talents.
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