8 Reasons Why Hiring Elite Salespeople is Difficult:
- It's hard to find qualified candidates - only 7% of salespeople fall into the “elite” category (What elite sales people do differently)
- You have other responsibilities
- If things are “okay”, you don’t look for someone… until you have an opening and then you feel desperate to fill the seat
- Elite sales professionals – those with excellent sales skills – often are not actively looking for new jobs
- The resumes all look the same
- Personality and behavioral tests tell you how they like to be managed but don’t have any predictive validity for sales success
- Your HR (talent-acquisition partners) really don’t understand why hiring salespeople is different than hiring anyone else for a company
- It’s not your go-to skill set.
Step 1: Make sure you know and identify exactly what sales skills make your elite salespeople ELITE salespeople.
We just completed a Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis (SEIA) for the private banking segment of a regional bank. This is what we know separates the top performers from the bottom performers:
Distinguishing skills and sales traits of top performers
- Possess over 50% of required sales skills
- Strong at getting introductions
- Get past gate keepers
- Maintain a full pipeline (convert activity – prospecting – into opportunities)
- Reach decision makers
- Develop trust and confidence early in the relationship
- Present product proposal at the appropriate time
- Keep prospects from buying too early in the process
- Not reliant on ‘”educating” the prospect or presenting to get the business
- Love competing against others
We evaluate over 125 different data points when using a pre-hire sales skills inventory assessment and what we have found over the years is that there are usually between 20 and 30 variables that separate the best from the rest. THIS is the first step in making sure you are interviewing candidates with sales skills needed to succeed in your organization.
Step 2: Interview for fundamental skills
Once you’ve received an application or some notice of interest in your available career opportunity, you send the candidate a notice letting them know you’ve received their information and that, in order to move forward in the process, two steps will take place:
- They will be asked to complete the online sales skills inventory assessment.
- If the assessment findings indicate that their sales skills match what you are looking for, then a 10-minute phone interview will take place.
Why The Phone Interview
At Hire Better Sales People (White Paper), this is the beginning of Step #2. In the 23 years of our sales consulting practice, I cannot recall a single client where phone skills were NOT critical to the success of the salespeople being hired. With that in mind, it stands to reason that the first thing you should look/screen for are their phone skills. Most of the time, our clients outsource that to us. The reasons for that are:
- Lack of a bias towards any candidate
In the phone interview, you want to make sure that this person can conduct themselves on the phone like you would expect them to when talking to prospects. In order to do that, you must create a similar environment that the candidate will have to react to:
- No bonding and rapport done by the interviewer
- Create time pressure so that they have to react and attempt to take control of the phone call
- Challenge them on their answers to questions (certainly, prospects will ask them questions on the phone – wouldn’t you want to know how well they react as well as what they say?)
- Let them know that you will be making a decision about who will go on to the interview step and see if the candidate attempts to “close” for that opportunity. If they fail to close for the next step, they will probably fail to close a prospect for an appointment.
Step #3 – Use the data from the resume, the application and the pre-hire skills assessment.
Top salespeople hunt for opportunities, reach decision makers, quickly establish confidence and trust, love to compete against others, have strong desire and commitment to success in selling, take responsibility for outcomes, are highly motivated for success in sales and have a high figure-it-out factor. Here’s some ideas for assessing these traits in potential candidates:
- Make the candidate bring their calendar for the next 30 days and make them count the number of new business appointments they have scheduled
- Make them establish the bonding and rapport. Tell them to take a seat, tell them that you’ve scheduled 60 minutes, but it may only take 30, and see what they do next. If bonding, rapport, confidence and trust are important, see what your candidates do to make that happen.
- Ask about competitions they have won
- Tell them to describe in detail situations where they did everything possible to succeed at something especially when they had to change, overcome a difficult challenge and they overcame despite terrific odds.
- Ask them to tell you about a situation when they faced failure at accomplishing something personally or professionally. (Hint – they need to say “I failed…”)
- Give them a test of any kind and see how long it takes for them to figure it out or…
- Create a role-play scenario out of thin air, give them a couple of minutes to figure out how they want to go about the role -play and then role play.
There is certainly no guarantee for any new hire. You still have to consider cultural and team fit. Is there synergy between the new hire and the hiring manager? How about their technical and professional credentials? We’re just talking about sales skills here, but, to be clear, it’s rare that someone fails to succeed in selling because they lacked the required technical or professional expertise for the field they were in. Nope… people normally fail because they fail to generate sales!