Sales and Marketing

How to Hire Salespeople Who Don’t Suck

If you’re a business owner or sales manager, the headline above probably got your attention, and you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Finding the Diamonds in Mountains of Dirt

If you’re a business owner or sales manager, the headline above probably got your attention, and you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Just think about the last three or four “bad” hires you’ve had in your sales department. You thought you did everything right — placed the ads, conducted the interviews, culled the pack, and found the one who was a real rock star, your “Tom Cruise,” and six weeks later, they turned out to be a “Rodney Dangerfield” instead.  But now, you have time and money invested (and you probably like them by now too). You work with them, try to get them to produce, and four to six months into it, you finally admit that it’s another mistake.

If business owners ever stopped to add up what this really costs them, they wouldn’t sleep well at night. The average bad hire in sales costs a company $150,000 to $350,000 when you add up the cost of hiring, salary, insurance, management time, and lost opportunity costs.

So, how do you make sure you don’t make the same mistakes over and over again? There is an easier way to hire people with about an 85 percent success rate. Here are a few simple steps you can follow:

1. Create a Hiring Template.

Before you even place the ad, you need to determine what a real winner looks like. What are the skills, experience, attitudes, results, cognitive skills and habits he or she needs to be the next winner? At Sandler Training, we call this our SEARCH Model. If you haven’t answered all those questions in detail before you begin, you’re already on the wrong track.

2. Test BEFORE you interview. 

If your time is valuable, then why waste it in a non-productive interview? A testing system that shows what their sales ability is (not their personality type) is a must-have in your hiring process. If I’m looking for a hunter, I need to make sure I’m not interviewing a farmer before the interview.

3. Stop interviewing to their resume. 

Typically, when you sit down to interview someone his or her resume is staring you in the face. I have never seen a resume that tells me what anyone is bad at. The resume will only lead the interviewer down the path that the candidate wants to take — Don’t get caught in the trap.

4. Ask really tough questions. 

Most of the time you’re asking the wrong questions (i.e. the ones they expect).  “Are you good at cold calls?” and the answer is always, “I’m great at them!” Hand them the phone right in the interview and ask them to make a call. If they grab the phone and say, “What am I selling – your product or the one I used to sell?” and then they start dialing, you’ve got your answer. If they hesitate, hem and haw, you also have your answer.

5. Have multiple people interview the candidate. 

Getting multiple views on a candidate is critical. When people actually work side-by-side with the interviewee, having your team’s input and impressions from other supervisors or managers will give you a better-rounded picture of the candidate. Remember, they need to fit both your corporate culture and fill the team matrix successfully (another topic we’ll cover in the future).

6. Hire SLOW, fire FAST! 

Don’t fall in love with anyone too quickly. Take your time in the hiring process. Many times, people are in a panic mode when they hire. Someone might have left without notice or you’re trying to fill a hole, and you could hire emotionally instead of intellectually. When you realize you’ve made a hiring mistake, get it over with quickly instead of drawing things out.

Hiring sales people is the toughest hire a manager or business owner faces. Remember, these people sell for a living, and they only have to be good enough to sell you when they sit down. If you have a hiring system in place that works with salespeople, you can get the right person on board next time … and save yourself a couple of hundred thousand dollars in the process, too.

EEric-Shlumanric Shulman is president of Sandler Training in Altamonte Springs. For more info, visit Eric.Sandler.com or call (407) 740-7355.

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