Most companies struggle with attracting, identifying, hiring – and keeping – top sales people. And for good reason. It’s actually one of the hardest things in business to do well.
Here are some pointers on how to improve your chances of making a successful sales hire:
Create a Hiring Profile; It Improves Every Search
How can you search if you don’t know what you are looking for? And if you don’t know what you are looking for, how will you know it when you see it?
Take the time to list out the most critical attributes (Professionalism, Self-Monitoring, Authenticity, etc.) and competencies (Ability to Network, Achievement Orientation, Emotional Stability, etc.) early in the hiring process. I recommend doing this before you write the job description.
Having a hiring profile to guild you puts everyone involved in the search on the same page, and helps you see the right talent where they are. I’ve found some of the best sales people rate high for “discipline” and “conscientiousness” and might even hold a military background.
Don’t simply target sales people who can reach out, network and create opportunities with prospective clients – and turn those prospects into quality, long-term relationships that work. It sounds good on paper, but searching for that is like searching for “a reliable car”. When you use generic criteria everyone looks to be a great fit.
Be specific. If you need 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 – then add it to your profile. If you want to hire people who show good decision-making ability across their career, can 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 – then add it to your profile. Drill down into exactly what you want. Then define must-haves and nice-to-haves and focus your search on what you care about most.
Analyze your top sales people to understand why they are who and what they are. Use this data and insights to help you build a clear profile.
Draft a short list of the most desirable outcomes that your prospective sales person will work to achieve. Clearly define what you want to achieve by hiring the sales person. You search will be much easier if you understand exactly what outcome you need to achieve.
Begin every sales search by knowing exactly what you need most. You’ll be better for it.
You Need to Step in to Step Up
How do you hire the right-fit sales person you need? It starts by creating a hiring profile and clearly defining success, and understanding your must-haves vs. nice-to-haves. But it can’t end there. You need to step in to step up.
Employers should consider the following as they strive to hire and retain high performing sales people:
- Make sure the sales candidate has the necessary attributes and competencies to achieve your most desired outcomes. Share your hiring profile with employees and engage them in your search.
- Consider searching for sales people with a “jagged resume” (The Rare Find, George Anders), and base 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. Good sales people respect this.
- Make sure you have a robust, but easy-to-use, CRM system that provides reporting on everything from monthly call data to forecasting and reporting to opportunity pipeline data and more. It’s very hard to hire quality sales people without some easy-to-use system in place.
- Help your sales candidates understand potential career paths once they take the position inside your firm. Let them know you see them over the long term and that you care about their career.
- Provide a pay structure that compensates based on performing at a high level, reaching team/company goals, and making incremental improvements over time.
- Focus more of your sales team’s time and effort on actual selling (cold-calling, 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. Save time and invest in high quality leads from companies such as RainKing and DiscoverOrg. Top sales people want to work in organizations that invest in success.
- Use situational and behavioral interview questions during your interview. Bring people back in more than once and have them meet others in the company, not just you. Do a real reference check. Doing all of this will provide you with even more information necessary to improve your quality of hire in sales.
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