How to best hire sales people

  • Post published:10/04/2013
  • Reading time:6 mins read

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you find it challenging to find, assess and recruit sales people, ask yourself if you are using the same recruitment techniques as you did ten years ago.

Hiring sales staff with the “right stuff” and matching their characteristics to work requirements are two of the most important decisions that organisations make.  Making the wrong decisions can cost thousands of dollars in lost customers who move their business to other suppliers, see your best people leave because of one rotten apple in the barrel, increased training costs, reduced productivity and a whole lot of missed business opportunities.

Identifying the selling behaviors, or work styles, of individuals is a key to effective employee selection and development.  Not only is the work styles of employees important, so is the cognitive ability. But, how do you determine whether the sales manager candidate is right for you?

Abraham Lincoln said: Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. And you may now this quote: By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin.

As you prepare the recruitment process, ask yourself these questions. If you are the HR Manager ask your hiring manager to be very specific on these points. If you are a third party recruiter, do not leave your client’s office before they have given you all this information. All candidates want to know and you must have answers ready. Even the candidates don’t ask you directly, you should present the profile of the job and your expectations by having answers to these points.

•    what does success look like?
•    what is the quota for my position?
•    what is the average selling price of the products?
•    what percent of the job is farming and what is prospecting?
•    who is the intended customer?
•    who will the new sales person need to influence and sell to?
•    what is the average sales cycle?
•    what activities and metrics here, lead to sales success?
•    what support does the organization offer a new sales person?
•    why would someone want this job?
•    why is doing this at your company better?
•    what are the major challenges in this position?
•    what must person do to be successful?

When you start interviewing applicants or meeting candidates, here are 12 great questions to ask:

•    Where did your leads come from?
•    Did you have to find your own leads?
•    How long was your typical sales cycle?
•    What type of interaction did you have with the client throughout the sales process?
•    What were the typical obstacles to a sale and how did you address them?
•    What did you do to understand your competition?
•    How much of your quota was from existing customers and how much was new?
•    What do you enjoy more, farming or hunting for new business? Why?
•    What did your support team look like?
•    What was your biggest frustration?
•    Did you sell primarily over the phone or face to face?
•    Is your approach transactional or solution selling?

No matter how many hours you use in interviewing, there will still be many unanswered questions about the person’s preferred selling style and personality. Don’t jump to conclusion but use a psychometric assessment that helps reveal selling styles inventory.

The best-in-class sales assessment tools will help you to identify those candidates who are more likely to be successful in sales roles. There are three basic selling and influencing styles and the report will indicate to you where a particular candidate is at home.

Dynamic selling is based on energy, drive and an emotional style; the person is ambitious, assertive, persuasive, and competes to win.
Strengths: dynamic and enthusiastic sales presentations, effective at asking for the order (closing).
Good fit: where cold calling is extensive and for first time customers who buy based on emotion or impulse.

Analytical selling is based on facts and analysis; is logical, analytical, and emotionally controlled.
Strengths: planning a sales strategy, anticipating follow-up to questions, well prepared to answer questions, can explain features and benefits.
Good fit: in businesses where customers buy complex or high-tech products, when customers want to understand the pros and cons.

Interpersonal selling is based on personally connecting with others; is warm, sincere, cordial, and diplomatic.
Strengths: excellent in building interpersonal goodwill and trust, great follow-up and loves customer service (farming).
Good fit: Customers buying a long-term relationship and not just a product, customers who must implicitly trust the seller.

In addition to pointing at the candidate’s preferred selling style, the report we use also describes the level of extraversion i.e. preference for sociability, energy, influence, and any desire to lead others. It shows what concern and consideration the person has for others, their politeness and tact.

You can also read how open the candidate is to a new experience characterised by a preference for change, continuous learning, innovation, analytical approaches, and making difficult decisions. The score on conscientiousness is divided into achievement, goal setting, initiative, results orientation, attention to detail, rule following, and responsibility.

Last but not least, a good psychometric assessment will also touch on emotional stability which is the level of thoughtful consideration (krengjai in Thai), how hot or cold the person’s temper is, and resilience to stress.

Now add up all of the above, and you are way above the rest. Combine a strong preparation, use the right interview questions and before your second round interviews, let the candidates take the selling inventory psychometric assessment. Good luck.

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.