Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Variability in Performance – Let’s Talk Recruiting

Tags: recruiting sales people, getting consistent sales results, variability in sales performance

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Earlier, I stated that eliminating the variability of performance all starts with people, right?  And then, I proceeded to tell you that I thought that eliminating variability starts with systems and process.  Now, it’s time to talk about people and that means talking about recruiting.  Here are the big ideas about recruiting:

  • You don’t have to like it; you just have to do it.
  • You must be excellent at it.
  • You must know exactly what you are looking for – What is your *Zebra?
  • You must stick to your plan of hiring nothing but Zebras!
  • You must have an excellent onboarding system and process.

Companies hiring salespeople do not hire talent intending for that talent to be average.  Companies creating business plans do not put plans together with an end game of “Let’s be average.”  No one starts a company, starts a career or initiates a marketing campaign with the excitement of “I think this is really an average idea that will bring us average results and make us average in the marketplace!”

So, why should we use average, above average, okay, trending, making progress and “in line with out peer group” when describing our results?  It’s the wrong way to measure success or progress.  If you don’t intend on having average results, then don’t intentionally hire average people and don’t accept it when evaluating effort, execution or performance!

How do we know that this actually happens?

  • Companies use stack ranking and the sales managers/executives reviewing the sales reports brag about outperforming their counterparts in similar markets. If the counterparts are successful, then that’s a good analysis.  If the counterparts suck, then one team just doesn’t suck as bad as the other teams.
  • Companies use year over year performance. I get it.  I understand it because companies are trying to demonstrate that they are improving. That makes sense, kind of.  But, let’s suppose you are a sports team that plays 10 games.  Last year, you won 2. This year, you won 4 – a 100% improvement; however, you still lost 60% of your games!
  • The 80/20 rule doubled. If you look at most sales teams that have at least 10 salespeople, normally you find that about 36% of the salespeople are responsible for 90% of the results.  What the heck is the other 64% of the team doing?

How does this happen?  Recruiting, on-boarding, training and development, sales coaching and performance management. 

It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult – to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult.)   - Aristotle

How do you minimize the opportunity for failure in recruiting thus minimizing the variability in performance?  Answer: Have a system.  Have a system managed by quality people that are more interested in hiring quality people that will actually sell.  Have partners internally and externally whose objectives are aligned with the ultimate goal – creating a sales team built for growth.  Manage the process like you would manage any other process in your organization.

With all of that said, here are a couple of key things to consider:

  • Have a pipeline process. Imagine for a minute that you were talking to your salespeople about their prospect pipeline and they informed you that they didn't have one. What would your reaction be?  Why then is your company allowed to NOT have a candidate pipeline or a process to build a pipeline when necessary?
  • Have huddles to discuss internal activities designed to generate candidate leads. Internal ownership in the recruiting process is critical. Hiring an outside firm and them blaming them or using them as the excuse for poor hiring is not an option.
  • Profile the results needed to be successful rather than write and publish a job description. Look into what is being done by your most successful salespeople (*Note- These may not be the same people with the biggest revenue contribution). What are they doing? What kind of activity do they have, who do they call on, what is their average size case, close ratio and sales cycle?  How are they being managed and at what level do they succeed? Attract those that aspire to work and succeed at that level.
  • Assess for job fit, sales skills inventory and WILL to succeed in selling. The resumes are going to look good. References are pointless these days and almost all of them will have a decent profile on LinkedIn.  So, use a pre-hire assessment tool so that you have the same set of sales skills inventory questions being asked the same way all the time.
  • Screen for the skills you need. Just as an example: If phone skills are important and the salesperson will often face prospects that are not terribly over-excited about getting a call from a salesperson, then you must first screen for that skill, that talent.  If closing for an appointment is important for sales people to do, then make sure that this candidate closes you for the next step.

These are the big ideas in recruiting. This is the start of the transformation of your sales team.  Stop hiring those people that end up on the wrong end of the 80/20 curve.  Be a leader and break the trend of accepting mediocrity from people you hired to succeed.

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