Today, we will discuss hiring for the sales force but not so much the "how" of it as much as the importance of doing it for the right reasons, at the right time and in the right manner.
We have more clients in the middle of a sales recruiting initiative than at any time in the 25 years I've been in the sales development business. In addition to the nearly 10,000 companies that use Objective Management Group's Sales Candidate Assessments, several of my personal clients are in the midst of hiring too.
One client is hiring a new salesperson but wants an A Player instead of the mediocre salespeople he inherited.
Another client is hiring two salespeople - hunters - as opposed to the product expert/account manager types they have typically employed.
Another client is hiring as many as 15 inside salespeople to replace the prior group that turned over as a result of ineffective sales management, and a complete lack of selling abilities.
Yet another client is hiring 40 salespeople - because of turnover - and we are still waiting for the results of their sales force evaluation to determine the underlying reasons for the turnover. We will use what we learn to help them hire the right people going forward.
There is another organization (not a client yet), with 50+ inside salespeople, suffering from inconsistency and under performance, looking to improve their ability to select the right people. We would follow the same strategy as in the previous example to better understand what is causing the inconsistency.
I can easily add ten more current examples but this is plenty for my conclusions and lessons. The 10 tips that follow are in no particular order:
- This is a perfect time to be hiring - the economy is quickly turning around - heading into an upswing - and you must have excellent salespeople to find opportunities and get them closed by outselling your competitors.
- Hiring is not an experiment. Trial and error will set you back the length of your sales cycle and learning curve plus the cost of your salaries and draws.
- You absolutely must know whether you have been hiring the right people or not, why, and what you must change to get it right. This is where the sales force evaluation comes in. Accurate answers to all of the possible "could it be...?" questions. It's not unusual to have 10-20 of them that must be answered in order to be certain about what must change.
- You must know what it will take for a salesperson to be successful in your business, calling on your market, against your competition, and with your pricing and product, and it goes WAY beyond industry knowledge and experience.
- Job descriptions are for employees - the people you hire - they aren't for posting your jobs. You provide the new salesperson with the job description when they report for their first day of work. The job posting is a description of the person you're seeking to hire.
- Jettison or redeploy your under performers. Everyone is a role model for your new salespeople so you must be certain that everyone is modeling the right kind of behaviors and competencies. It's similar to the hopes you have for your children when you hope they meet and become friendly with good kids from good families. The problem is that some of your salespeople aren't and won't ever be able to model what you want and you'll need to know whether they can be developed to do this or not. The Sales Force Evaluation provides the insight to make these decisions too.
- You must let go of old beliefs, guidelines, methods and processes. The organization that isn't yet a client (and might not become one) from the last example above made a broad statement that will absolutely kill any attempts to improve their ability to select successful salespeople. One of their leaders said, "your hiring recommendation (hirable, not hirable) will be a deal stopper for us". They want the option to hire the people who don't have a chance of being successful. This despite the fact that they haven't had consistency from the people they've previously selected. Why are they taking this stance? They had a problem with some other assessment - not a sales assessment - so they believe that if the mini-van of assessments wasn't predictive, then the Mercedes of assessments won't be either.
- You must have patience. I know you want those new people in place in two weeks but let's be realistic. Six months from now, would you rather be saying, "Sure glad we waited to hire the right candidates!" or, "I wish we waited to make the right hires - this isn't working out and we'll have to do it all again..."
- Success in sales has little correlation to college education, degrees, years in sales, or even industry experience. Stop putting so much weight on these criteria and instead, make sure the candidate can outsell your competition.
- Success in sales has much less to do with who your new salespeople know than is thought to be true. I've seen more examples of this myth than you can believe. If your company is the one everyone wants to do business with - the industry leader, price leader, or technology leader, then salespeople with a book of business will thrive because the customers will follow them to your door. On the other hand, if you are the new kid on the block, have new (different and not yet accepted as the standard) technology, higher pricing, are value challenged, or have decent but not great products/services, then the books of business your new salespeople bring along may not follow them to your door.