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11 Common Mistakes When Interviewing Sales Talent

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Mar 11, 2021

In previous articles, I have talked about the things you should do during the hiring process to improve your success when sourcing sales talent. Today, I will specifically address things you should refrain from doing during the interviewing process.

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The interview is probably the 3rd most critical part of the hiring process. Two other areas set the stage for a successful hire that I will cover later:

  • Making an offer
  • Onboarding your new hire

 

But for now, let’s stick with the interview process. Interviewing, in most cases, involves more than just one meeting, and it should be considered a process rather than a singular event. In other words, the process should include but is not be limited to:

  • Pre-planning for your interview
  • Using data from the OMG pre-hire assessment, interview guides, and resumes to frame your meeting
  • The pre-interview conversation you had with the candidate to make sure they know what to bring or expect
  • Objective checklist for post-interview review and sharing
  • Ending the process with a candidate or preparing them for the next step

 

Within this process, there are several “deadly sins” committed that I will highlight here.

 

11 Deadly Interviewing Sins

  1. Not preparing the candidate. There are two things your candidate should bring or be able to validate in the interview:
    • Proven sales success (the best way to do this is for them to validate their income)
    • Sharing or being able to describe to you their calendar of appointments over the last 30 days and the next 30 day

  2. Selling the position, opportunity, or the company. Now is not the time for you or your interviewing staff to be selling

  3. Failing to understand that the candidate has one objective in mind: convince you that they are perfect for the job. This candidate will not look, sound, or act any better than they do when they show up

  4. Taking away the most important thing a salesperson must do: quickly establishing bonding, rapport, confidence, and trust. The meeting, after a cordial hello, should start with, “have a seat and let’s get started”

  5. Failing to have an objective list of questions you should answer when you review the interview with others:
    • Do I trust this person? (Would you trust them with your money, company, or family)
    • Would I meet with them again if I were a prospect?
    • Would I want to compete against this person in the market (your answer should be no)?
    • Would I buy from them?


  6. Eliminating the candidate immediately when you know they are not a fit. Just because you schedule an hour for the interview does not mean it needs to last that long. I assure you that you know when you know, and you should end the interview at that time.

  7. Make sure that you tell the candidate to book 90 minutes to 2 hours in-case it goes well. While you have them in the office, take them straight into the 2nd interview if they passed the first interview.

  8. Have a series of must-pass criteria:
    • Did they establish rapport?
    • Did they get rattled when I asked them difficult questions?
    • Did they ask questions?
    • How well did they tell stories, use analogies or metaphors?
    • Did they close me for the next step?
    • Did they prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, their sales and hunting success?

  9. Asking behavior-based questions and believing the answers. Again, they are there to convince you of how good they are. Salespeople are skillful at selling themselves, so you have to investigate further to uncover the truth

  10. Forgetting that this is an audition. Make the candidate roleplay:
    • Their opening phone call
    • The start of a discovery meeting
    • Dealing with objections, questions, and stalls
    • Asking for the business

  11. Forgetting that salespeople are different than the rest of the positions you hire. Your interviewer MUST be great at specifically interviewing salespeople.

Effective interviewing is an art and a science, and often we rely on our own biases, tendencies, likes, and dislikes when conducting interviews. Make sure you have some objective systems and processes established to take the emotion out of the decision. Make sure that these systems and processes allow you to compare candidates based on scorecards and checklists. Finally, make sure you are not desperate. Vince Lombardi stated that “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” The same is true with interviewing. Not having a pipeline of potential candidates will make cowards of us all.

 

Click Here for Additional Hiring Tools!

Topics: sales talent acquisition, Interviewing, hiring salespeople, hire better salespeople

Recruiting and Hiring Salespeople: The 5 Minute Interview

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Mar 04, 2021

How important is it that your new salespeople be great on the phone? Assuming the answer is "very important" then your candidate screening process must begin with the 5-minute interview.

In the 6th blog in our series No Assembly Required Hiring, we discuss the importance of an effective phone screen to help identify great sales talent to help eliminate time spent with unqualified candidates. 

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As they say in Sales 101, always ask questions that you know the answers to. In today's world of lead generation, social networking, and email blitz, sales organizations overlook the necessity for great phone skills. Regardless of the origin of the lead, eventually, most B2B salespeople, lenders, advisors, and solutions consultants will have to:

  • Pick up the phone and dial a number
  • Be able to capture a prospect's attention in an instant
  • Engage in a meaningful conversation
  • Demonstrates a high level of trust and confidence
  • Close for a qualified appointment 

If that sounds like something your salespeople ought to be able to do, then make sure you interview for those capabilities. The STAR (Sales Talent Acquisition Routine) Program we implement with our clients has the following initial steps:

  1. Create a profile that will attract the right candidates and discourage the wrong ones
  2. Post the job attraction post(description), and distribute the job attraction post to those engaged in working with you to find qualified candidates
  3. Upon interest from a candidate, review the resume, and if it meets your basic requirements to be employed, test them with the sales specific Objective Management Group Pre-hire assessment
  4. If the assessment comes back as Recommended for hire or Worthy of Consideration, then schedule a 5-minute phone interview with your phone interview specialist

These 4 steps are crucial to your success at hiring more qualified candidates, but none are more important than the phone interview!

WHY? 

Because your salespeople must be great on the phone. And if they must be great on the phone, when do you want to find out that they suck? As soon as possible. An effective phone interview will save you a lot of time interviewing people who are great at the audition but can’t play the role.

Trial the Highly-Predictive  Pre-Hire Sales Assessment

It will help you answer these questions immediately and early in the process:

    • Would I listen to this person if they called me?
    • Will they ask prospects questions?
    • When they face a difficult or challenging prospect, do they rattle easily?
    • Would I meet with this person just based on how they handled the phone call?
    • Did they close me for the next step?

These are all critical findings for you to uncover and the only way to do that is to test their phone skills upfront. This process is not impacted by you already knowing them or if they have a great reputation. It does not matter how many years of experience they have or how often they lead the company in sales. What matters is that when you hire someone, they will be able to pick up the phone, grab a prospect's attention, conduct a conversation, and close for an appointment. That is all you should care about early in the recruiting process.

Have more questions about the 5-minute interview process? Email Tony at tony@anthonycoletraining.com, subject line: 5-Minute Interview, and we will be happy
to conduct a demo 5-minute phone interview.

Click Here for Additional Hiring Tools!

Topics: Interviewing, 5 minute interview, hire better salespeople, assessing sales talent

3 Rules to Improved Candidate Selection

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Feb 25, 2021

When you don't have a pipeline of sales talent to go to when making a hire, you can become desperate. You become desperate because you believe having someone in the role is better than a vacancy.

In the 6th blog of our series No Assembly Required Hiring, Tony discusses how to avoid making reactive hiring decisions and the 3 rules you must follow to improve your candidate selection.

gerald fishing

What are your expectations of your salespeople when it comes to prospecting activity and a healthy pipeline? If you were going to go fishing, what is one of the keys to catching more fish? Not into fishing, then let us talk photography. If you want to capture the perfect sunrise picture, what is a fundamental principle to improving your probability of success? Last question to help make my point. If you want to improve any skill you have, change any outcome that you are unhappy with, what must you do?

The answer to these questions can be summarized here:

  • You expect your salespeople to consistently prospect
  • You need to have your lure in the water
  • You need to snap hundreds of photos to get the ONE
  • If you want to get better at a skill, you must practice thousands of times

What does this have to do with improved candidate selection?

Trial the Highly-Predictive  Pre-Hire Sales Assessment

Rule #1 Always be prospecting

As in the movie Glengarry Glen Close, when Alex Baldwin tells his salespeople to always be closing, I’m telling you to always be prospecting. 100% of the time over the last 25 years, when I ask sales managers, sales executives, and presidents if their prospecting was more proactive or reactive, they say reactive.  That is a problem because you are now acting out of desperation. When you become desperate, you feel pressure to find someone to fill the chair because your mindset is that you cannot let that chair go empty. Someone in the chair is better than no one in the chair. Do not believe that lie.  

The problem is, when you are reactive, it can also mean that you are being held hostage by someone. Let us assume that the recent open chair is a result of a termination you had to make. Chances are it was a decision that you made months ago but could not pull the trigger sooner because that employee:

  • Had tenure
  • Managed a single large account
  • Had a significant book of business or portfolio
  • Wasn't costing you anything

I want to challenge you on this. If you budgeted to hire two but could only grow headcount by one, who would be gone tomorrow? Then why are you waiting? You're waiting because you don’t have a pipeline of potential salespeople.

Rule #2 Own lead generation

I am not going to suggest that you stop using recruiting or placement firms. What I am suggesting is to stop using them as the reason you are not seeing enough candidates.

What do you do when your salespeople blame their lack of sales on the competition, the economy, or the mindset of your company? I am hoping you ask them: “If you didn't use that as an excuse, what would you be doing differently?" You must have that same attitude about filling your candidate pipeline.

If you own it, then you will fix it. Also, you can't blame HR or the hiring managers. You hired them; they have a responsibility to make sure the job is getting done consistently both in activity for candidate lead generation and execution of your recruiting process. 

Rule #3 Inspect what you expect

If you expect salespeople to report on sales activity, pipeline opportunities, and client retention meetings, then you and the executive team must submit to inspection on candidate lead generation, and execution of the recruiting/hiring process.

  • If you have a team of 5 people assigned to get introductions, network within associations, talk to former/current employees or connect with product partners, you need to inspect monthly their activity compared to the goal.
  • If your hiring procedures identify that assessing is the first step in the recruiting process, then you need to inspect that it's being done. No one should go rogue on this just because it is a candidate they know, and or the local president knows all the players in their market.
  • If you use a scoring process that objectively evaluates candidates every step of the way, then everyone that touches the process must follow and use the same process.

Failure to have a documented hiring process like the one we use, the Sales Talent and Acquisition Routine, will lead to inconsistent steps and processes. That will eventually result in the variability of performance from your new hires.

Click Here for Additional Hiring Tools!

Topics: Prospecting, sales talent acquisition, hire better salespeople, recruiting sales talent

The Importance of Profile Fit in No Assembly Required Hiring

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Feb 18, 2021

Your potential sales candidates have to have a successful history selling the way your company sells, to the people you sell to, in the environment you sell in.

In the 5th installment of our blog series, No Assembly Required Hiring, we discuss the importance of recruiting salespeople who not only fit your selling requirements but also match the specific criteria of your organization.

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You believe you recruited Wonder Woman: someone with a great resume, OMG findings that showed strong Will to Sell, great Sales DNA, and they scored well in Sales Competencies. You could reasonably expect Wonder-Woman-level sales results. However, 12 to 18 months later, the results you see more closely resemble Aquaman (the 1967 version- not the new and improved Jason Momoa model). 

So what happened?

There could be a couple of explanations:

  • All salespeople need coaching – it could be that your sales manager is great at managing performance but not at coaching.
  • The onboarding process didn’t address some of the findings that needed work in either the Sales DNA or Sales Competencies categories.
  • The OMG is 92% predictive – you may have hired 1 of the 8 that got through.
  • Or, and this is the topic for our discussion today, it could be that there was a poor role fit.

When using and establishing the OMG pre-hire assessment, the sales executive answers a series of questions about the environment that exists within the company and what is required to be successful in that environment. The questions asked revolve around, but are not limited to, areas like the following:

If this is what it takes to succeed in your organization, and your candidate doesn't have success selling within your environment, they will struggle despite the Will to Sell, Sales DNA, and Sales Competencies. When we see overall strong results, but there is a mismatch with your criteria, “Recommended for Hire" doesn’t mean hire! You have to be ready to take on a project, adjust your onboarding expectations, increase the frequency of coaching, and change the type of coaching you would typically conduct.  

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Here is a sample from the pre-hire assessment that provides information about role match:

Imagine for a minute that the candidate did meet OMG Criteria scores for the Will to Sell and Sales DNA. There would still be a yellow flag in the category of Meets your Criteria if the candidate didn’t answer the questions the same way you did for role experience. This example tells you that your candidate wasn't successful as a high ticket seller, and they will not hunt for new business. This is a mild case of mismatched historical success and predicted success for your organization.

Over 25 years ago, we got our start on the big stage with USI Insurance. Back then the focus of that company, and many in the insurance brokerage industry, was organic growth from current salespeople and occasionally hiring a hotshot broker from one of the larger firms. They looked for brokers that would bring a high level of experience to the firm and possibly bring some large accounts with them. 

Often these highly touted recruits would fail. Why? Because the environment for success was different. They didn’t have a business card that had the name of a company that was easy to defend if something went wrong. Their success was based on the ability to show a card that said Aon or Marsh. In addition to having the right stuff, your candidates have to have a successful history selling the way your company sells, to the people you sell to, in the environment you sell in. 

They have to be a fit, and they have to be coachable. As you think about your next hire, think about the reasons people have failed in the past. Structure your recruiting, vetting, and onboarding process to uncover problems early and/or address them if you decide to take on a project.

Trial the Highly-Predictive  Pre-Hire Sales Assessment

Topics: Sales DNA, performance management, increase sales, hire better salespeople, will to sell

Solution vs Budget: The Great Dilemma

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, Feb 11, 2021

Typically, when a salesperson doesn't win an account it's due to a few different factors; the prospect didn't have a compelling reason to make a change, the salesperson didn't do enough to uncover their capacity to invest, or the incumbent wasn't properly eliminated from the running.

In this article, we discuss the 3 Rules every successful salesperson must follow in order to eliminate stalls and objections during the sales process.

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There is an age-old debate about which came first, the chicken or the egg. While that debate may never be solved, there is one “which comes first” situation that shouldn’t be up for debate and that is “see the solution first or know the budget first?” 

In my work with helping client’s develop their sales talent, I know there are two topics that get avoided on a regular basis, and both are to the detriment of the sales person. Those two “taboo topics” are discussing the incumbent and uncovering the budget. I will address the incumbent discussion in a later blog.

When I refer to the budget, I am referring to it in three categories commonly known as ‘TMR’—Time, Money, and Resources. What are they willing to commit, in the context of time, money and/or resources to make their problem go away? It is my experience that the stronger sales professionals don’t shy away from that discussion. They are successful because they follow these rules.

Rule 1#

Have the conversation. The 800 lbs. budget gorilla is in the room so talk about it. Don’t make it part of your opening conversation, but don’t ignore it either. If the need is big enough, and your solutions fixes it, most of the time, they will find the money.

Rule #2

Provide context. Regardless of the investment your prospect needs to make to fix their problem, it needs to be framed in the context of their pain and your ability to eliminate it. If the pain is minimal, then your solution won’t seem that great. We’ve had prospects tell us their problem is a “two-comma problem” meaning their cost of turnover was over $1 million dollars. That’s context.  Know their cost before you proceed

Rule #3

Don’t show your solution until you know the budget. It’s really that simple. If you have ever provided a solution to a prospect only to hear them say “that’s more than we intended to spend”, then you have an issue discussing the budget. Does it make sense to know their appetite for change, including budget, before you provide your solution? Here is where the strong sales professional is different. If the prospect doesn’t want to discuss budget, they know it can be for one of two reasons. They haven’t uncovered enough pain or the prospect simply wants to use you as a pencil sharpener for the competition. You don’t get paid to be a pencil sharpener so don’t become one.

In closing don’t be afraid of the conversation. In the history of sales, no one died from discussing budget. I doubt you will be the first.

Need Help?  Check Out Our  Sales Growth Coaching Program!

Topics: qualifying prospects, Selling Success, asking questions, Qualifying skills, increase sales

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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.

     

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