It can be hard to hire sales people correctly. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things to do well in business. Let’s set the challenge with a few questions:
How do you hire sales people with the right set of skills? How do you establish the right set of motivators (mission, aligned values, etc.) to capture their minds, energy and hearts – and hygiene factors (salary, benefits, etc.)? And how do you attract and engage in a way to keep people working at a high level over the long term?
Know what you need to succeed
Start by identifying the critical attributes (such as Professionalism, Self-Monitoring, Authenticity, etc.) and competencies (such as Ability to Network, Achievement Orientation, Emotional Stability, etc.) early in the hiring process.
Next, it’s important to clearly understand the desired outcome you want to achieve (such as a high-level hunter selling high-cost enterprise solutions to Fortune 500 or a great relationship builder successfully selling mid-to-low cost professional services or a cold-caller who can break through and sell inexpensive impulse product purchases by phone, etc.) and use your insights to build up the right candidate profile.
Having the right ideal candidate profile in place gives you a “guiding north star” to aim for.
Do you want to hire sales people who can hire and manage other successful sales people? Maybe you are looking to hire sales people who can sell the company, the CEO, and the viability of the company to others. In this case, you might want to look for someone who can draw others in and create an environment of energy, hope and success.
Or maybe you need someone to follow the sales process and details (entering data, making calls) day-in-day-out? In this case, you might find success by looking for people with a military background or for someone from a company with a similar management style as yours.
How you execute your search is largely dependent on the type of person you are searching for.
You say you want it all? Okay, fine. In this case, you might need to search for sales people who are able to effectively draw others in and create energy and provide hope, work the process and use activity/forecast data and pipelines to measure success, show good decision-making ability across their career, provide lots of good examples of proven experience selling to others, and show that they have the discipline to do the hard work day-in-day-out.
Oh, and it shouldn’t matter if you’re searching for a sales executive or a sales person for another vertical or industry – any successful sales person should be able to reach out, network and create opportunities with prospective clients – and be able to turn those prospects into quality, long-term relationships that work.
10 tips on how to hire sales people:
- Make sure your ideal candidate has the necessary attributes and competencies to achieve the desired outcomes you wish to achieve. (it’s amazing how few get this right)
- Consider searching and hiring people with a “jagged resume” (The Rare Find by George Anders). Base your decisions less on time working in the industry, and more for pure grit, ambition, attribute, and the ability to successfully achieve required outcomes and goals.
- Provide a clearly outlined sales process that can be easily understood by every person in sales.
- Make sure you have a robust, easy-to-use CRM system. Make sure it has easy-to-read reporting on everything from monthly call data to forecasting and reporting to opportunity pipeline data and more. (If Salesforce is too much, try Insightly, Pipedrive, or any number of other CRMs)
- Help your sales candidates understand possible career paths once they take the position inside your firm.
- Provide a pay structure that compensates based on performing at a high level, reaching team and company goals, and making incremental improvements over time.
- Focus more of your sales team’s time and effort on actual selling (building relationships, converting meetings to opportunities, closing new business), and less time on marketing and administrative or sales support. Sales people should be focused on being out selling. (There are times it makes sense to consider pushing “cold-calling” to an outside service or inside team member.)
- Consider using a behavioral interview format during your interview. (“Tell me about a time…”)
- Bring people back in more than once and have them meet others in the company, not just you. This will provide you with more of the right information necessary to make the right hiring choice. (In his book “Work Rules”, Google’s senior vice president of People Operations, Laszlo Bock mentions that his research shows meeting with candidates 5x produces the best outcomes.)
- And lastly, give people a solid reason to join your firm. Sell the company and share why the work they do matters. Successful hiring is a two-way street. Don’t only sell the job. For successful salespeople, jobs are everywhere. Tell them why they should work with you at your firm.
CHRISTOPHER MENGEL brings over 20 years of insights to business owners and talent leaders inside emerging technology and professional services firms to implement new initiatives, develop new strategies for growth, carry out organizational and cultural change, manage complex projects, and fill business-critical roles. Have a challenge you want to solve? Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter and subscribe to his posts or contact him.