If you’re looking to hire a salesperson, there are many candidates out there. But if your goal is to impact your company’s bottom line through smart and strategic hires, you’ll need to find and hire only top performers—a much harder task.
To create a recruiting process that weeds out average performers and gets you to the best candidates quickly, follow this advice from veteran sales insiders.
1. Look for candidates in the right places.
While finding applicants for a sales role may not be difficult, finding highly qualified and motivated candidates can be a challenge.
Always look at adjacent business units before posting job descriptions on your company’s website (your competitors’ salespeople are often looking there). In addition, if you’re using the Internet, post positions on multiple sites including LinkedIn, Facebook, and job boards such as Indeed.
2. Don’t use “Your Gut.”
Even in 2015, a “gut feeling” about a candidate is the most common differentiator used to evaluate sales candidates, says Joe Morone, principal at Worldleaders sales training and recruitment. Unfortunately, your instincts are not typically the best judge of talent.
“It’s easy to be impressed by enthusiasm and passion,” echoes Jake Dunlap, CEO of Skaled, which helps fast growth ventures develop their sales processes and systems. But don’t give it too much credit, Dunlap cautions, since sales pros are experts at exuding charm and excitement.
Instead, recommends Morone, rely on a regimented hiring process that relies on evaluation tools to help zero in on the cream of the crop.
3. Write up performance-based job descriptions, even if you aren’t hiring.
Many small businesses operate without having detailed job descriptions for each sales position on staff. This practice can make hiring replacements much harder and more time-consuming, should someone leave.
Take the time to define what each sales job entails, and set performance metrics for your current and future team members. Doing so now will help set expectations among your applicants, and allow you to gauge which interviewees are best equipped to meet the job requirements and performance expectations.
4. Use third-party evaluation tools.
Online assessment tools, like Objective Management Group’s, have a 96% success rate in predicting how well candidates will perform, says Morone, which makes them useful tools in the hiring process. Such assessments require sales applicants to answer around 100 questions about how they approach selling. The results of those evaluations then become a set factor in the hiring process.
5. Pose effective questions.
Rather than asking straight “yes” or “no” questions, offer scenarios that require candidates to focus more on problem-solving, such as by asking how they handled a particular tough situation with a client.
Dunlap’s first question is typically, “What areas do you need to improve on?” Everyone can talk about strengths but most salespeople are poor at self-assessment, he explains.
Looking for historical evidence, including proof of past sales success, is also useful, so ask direct questions about what percent of the time they meet or exceed quota, he suggests.
Other effective questions include:
· Describe for me what your daily prospecting activities include.
· How do you assess a customer’s business and product needs?
· What is your approach to proposing and closing?
6. Establish clear selection criteria before you start interviewing.
Morone recommends setting out criteria before interviewing a single person, then measuring each candidate against the same criteria. Examples of these could include:
· Is the candidate qualified?
· Does he or she have the right professional skills for this job?
· Are they adaptable to the customer’s culture?
· Are they a fit with our corporate culture?
· Do they have the motivation and interest to succeed?
If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” the applicant is automatically eliminated from consideration.
Finding and hiring top salespeople is much easier when you take time up front to clearly describe what a top performer looks like. You’ll have no trouble recognizing them with the results from your four tools in-hand.