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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.

 

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

4 steps to Hiring "No Assembly Required" Salesperson

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Jan 07, 2021

Hiring sales talent is often a costly, difficult, and time-consuming task. However, it's mandatory in order to grow an organization and sales team.

In this blog, we discuss how to identify top talent and minimize hiring mistakes by following a 4 step process.

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Hiring mistakes are expensive. Before we dive further into this topic, let's consider the following:

  • According to the Department of Labor, the cost of a bad hire can be as high as 30% of first-year earnings
  • Additionally, the CEO of Link Humans estimated the average cost to be as high as $240,000 plus expenses
  • A study of CFOs said that not only do bad hires cost them productivity, but managers spend 17% of their time supervising underperforming employees
  • Lastly, CareerBuilder reports that 74% of employers state they hired the wrong person for the job

If you have a salesforce of 25 people and 20% of your new hires fail due to lack of performance, the cost can be $100,000.00+. In a conversation with Roy Riley, President of Peel and Holland Insurance Agency, he stated that hiring mistakes are a 2-comma problem.

 

Maybe you are part of the 26% that have not admitted to making hiring mistakes. Perhaps a better piece to read would be this article, What Elite Salespeople Do Better, by David Kurlan.

 

Otherwise, here are four steps that, if followed and executed effectively, will cause you great excitement, create a more positive impact on revenue from new hires and drive a more profitable margin for your business.

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Step #1: Hire for Will to Sell rather than Can Sell  

Most personality evaluations will tell you if a candidate has the personality traits consistent with successful salespeople. This information will tell you about characteristics like building relationships, being solution orientation, etc. 

What you want to know is their:

  • Desire and commitment to be successful specifically in selling
  • Ownership of outcomes
  • Motivation to succeed (specifically what motivates them)
  • Outlook when things aren’t going well

 

Step #2: Hire those that are big, fast, and strong

In other words, hire for specific sales DNA such as:

  • Ability to Recover from rejection
  • Beliefs about selling that support success in sales
  • Not inhibited by their own need for approval
  • Comfort asking about and discussing money
  • Can overcome their own buying beliefs so that they can execute a milestone centric sales approach

 

Step #3: Always be prospecting 

100% of the time, when I ask if a company is pro-active or re-active in their recruiting, they will tell me re-active. Yes, they go into the market and talk to candidates. But hiring people when they don't need them or hiring people that they can’t afford are not consistent traits. Here are my recommendations:

  • Schedule at least 20% of your time to focus on prospecting new sales candidates
  • Have a system in your organization where key people are responsible for setting prospecting activity goals and asking for introductions to other talented salespeople
  • Report recruiting activity just like you ask your salespeople to report sales activity in huddles or sales meetings

 

Step #4: Eliminate variability in the performance of your recruiting process

Too often, companies with a large footprint allow market executives to sway from the recruiting processes established by Human Resources. Companies assume that the local executive needs to have the flexibility to maximize the recruiting opportunities specific to their area. Which is causing ineffective results. Instead:

  • All job attraction posts must work from the same format
  • The first step is always to evaluate the potential candidate using a sales-specific skills assessment
  • The next step is to do a 5-10 phone interview (unless phone skills are not important)
  • The initial interview must operate like an audition
  • Use scorecards for the assessment, phone interview, and initial interview so that decisions to move forward are objective
  • Provide the next person in the selection process an interview guide with key focus points
  • Make offers to only those candidates that are committed to making a transformational career change
  • Prepare candidates to decide at the time of the offer by eliminating think it overs after you present your offer
  • Confirm with the candidate that they are prepared to go through your 3-to-6-month onboarding process in its entirety. No Exceptions.

 

In the next article, I will go through the steps and provide some more detail about each, and share with you how data can help you select candidates so that you can improve your success rate to 92% and grow your business!

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Topics: cost of hiring mistakes, hiring salespeople, key to successful hiring, sales onboarding, hiring top salespeople

What Recruiting in the “New Normal” Looks and Sounds Like

Posted by Kelly Barcelos on Wed, Jul 29, 2020

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes. While some businesses have hit rock bottom, some are thriving and hiring at scale. Businesses in customer care, retail, healthcare, digital marketing, and online training industries are actively hiring because of the new market demands. But unfortunately, recruitment techniques that have been used for years aren’t the same anymore. The need for social distancing has made recruiters and HR professionals work from home, making the shift inevitable. Let’s understand how things have changed.

How has recruitment changed now that COVID-19 is here?

Before the pandemic hit the entire world, recruitment couldn’t be imagined without face-to-face interviews. But considering the criticality of the situation, organizations are adapting to new methods of recruitment to prevent the spread of the virus. Let’s understand how.

Virtual Recruitment: Once a prospective candidate is found, HR professionals are conducting virtual interviews in which the candidates need not visit the corporate office for the interview process. Instead, interviews are happening over video calls.

There are quite a few reliable virtual interview apps that allow scheduling and sending interview invitations, and then interviewing candidates over a video call. Some platforms also allow having virtual job fairs in which several candidates can join a chat room at once and recruiters can get to know them. Moreover, virtual interviews are equally interactive since the HR professional can assess body language, expressions, and gestures, just as they would in an in-person interview.

Candidate Experience: Now that traditional interviews are slowly becoming a thing of the past, HR professionals are going the extra mile to ensure good candidate experience. Here are a few tips that you can also use to deliver good candidate experience if you’re currently hiring:

  • Use consistent content or messaging across all channels to communicate how you’re taking effective measures to ensure the safety of candidates. This will also empower you as a brand.
  • Provide candidate resources that would help them appear in the virtual interview without any hassle. For example, help them get access to the software or give them a simple guide for the interview process.
  • Do not delay interviews hoping that you will soon be able to conduct an in-person interview. Your competitors may take advantage of every minute you lose and it will also have a negative impression on the candidate.
  • Build a landing page to which the candidates can be directed to for answers to questions they may have.

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Applicant Tracking System: Using an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) is one of the most important recruitment techniques if you’re hiring at scale. It will allow you to work remotely and also make sure that you have the “right” candidate. During the pandemic, employers are hiring based on their fluctuating requirements. For example, many are hiring for flexible roles that may change post-pandemic and many are also hiring candidates on a contractual basis. And an ATS will help you screen the applications based exactly on your requirements so that you don’t unnecessarily spend time and resources on irrelevant applications. Moreover, you can also leverage its other benefits, such as:

  • One-click job posting
  • Resumes and applications repository
  • Seamless interview scheduling
  • Automated resume parsing
  • Automated emails and follow-ups
  • Analytics for conversion rate

Remote Onboarding: Remote work has become a new trending order to minimize physical interaction as much as possible. And to ensure safety even further, employees are being onboarded digitally without having to even set foot in the workplace. But this isn’t as easy as it sounds. To make onboarding seamless, you must:

  • Make training is available to new employees so that they can adapt well.
  • Give them some time to absorb all the information.
  • Communicate the organization’s culture to the new employee.

How you onboard a new employee can make a lot of difference since it can make or break the employee experience. Without it, you can’t say that you have made a successful hire.

Avoid common mistakes and form a new recruitment strategy that adapts to the changes as quickly as you can, because how you do it will determine the future of your organization.

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Author Bio:
Kelly Barcelos is a progressive digital marketing manager specializing in HR and is responsible for leading Jobsoid’s content and social media team. When Kelly is not building campaigns, she is busy creating content and preparing PR topics. She started with Jobsoid as a social media strategist and eventually took over the entire digital marketing team with her innovative approach and technical expertise.

Topics: hiring salespeople, key to successful hiring, recruiting sales talent, upgrade your sales force, hiring top salespeople, aquire sales candidates

Why Are My Salespeople Not Perfoming as Expected?

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Jun 26, 2020

Why do so many of my salespeople fail to perform as expected?  It's a loaded question.  Or, is it?  In our corporate sales training experience, we've seen that evaluating underperforming salespeople in the pre-hire sales assessment is crucial for success in your business.

From poor diagnosis of the right contributing factors for success, to other candidates being eliminated due to weaknesses rather than hiring on sales STRENGTHS, there are specific reasons that not all of your salespeople are performing the way that you thought they would.

Did you hire them this way or did you make them this way?  Let's take a look...

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If you are a sales leader and you look at your numbers and the people producing those numbers, do you ever scratch your head in confusion over why you are looking at a lack of sales results?

Certainly, you didn’t hire these people to be in the middle of the pack or at the tail end of the conga line, but that is right where they are.  I know you don’t believe you hired them that way, but it’s either that, or you made them that way.

Don’t get upset with me here.  The reality is that your team’s performance is a result of who you’ve hired or what you’ve done (or not done).

So, in general, why do so many salespeople fail to perform? I have detailed answers to that question that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else besides right here.

  • Underperformers have 80% of the desire of top performers. *Note – not all performers have off-the-chart desire – that is about 7% of all top sales people.
  • Those that underperform have about 44% of the commitment to succeed in selling that top performers do.
  • These two factors combine to measure motivational level. Underperformers have about 60% of the motivation of your top people.

SUMMARY – Underperformers just are not as motivated to succeed.

SOLUTION – STOP hiring people that are not motivated to succeed at the highest level of performance!

Using the Objective Management Sales Evaluation, there are over 100 data points to measure the opportunity for sales growth of a sales team/organization.  Additionally, this data helps us to predict the likelihood of success of new sales people and managers. 

Here are some interesting findings based on the raw data I have from assessing salespeople (as well as firsthand knowledge of some of the people in the study).

  • Top performers are trainable and coachable
  • Top performers have a high figure-it-out factor
  • Top performers have a low need for approval and…
  • Top performers score an average of 86.8 (higher score is better) and underperformers score 39.6 for handling rejection!
  • Top performers are hunters, consultative sellers and closers (average score for skills is 55% of required skills while underperformers average 39.6% of required skills)

SUMMARY  Salespeople – regardless of tenure or previous success - need training and coaching. Also top performers handle rejection extremely well and move on.

SOLUTION  Do not hire based on past performance. (It’s like investing in a mutual fund – past performance is not a guarantee of future returns.)  During the interview process, reject the heck out of the candidate – the strong ones will recover and attempt to close you over and over again!

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The following data indicates that sales strengths are better indicators of success rather than sales skills:

  • Underperformers have 85% of the sales skills of top performers and have…
  • Only 71% of the sales strengths that support execution of sales skills and…
  • The severity of their sales weaknesses are 52% higher than that of top performers

SUMMARY – The skills are about the same, but those with strong strengths of desire, commitment, outlook and responsibility win.

SOLUTION – Make sure your pre-hire assessment process looks for strengths and “will sell” rather than just skills, personality and behavioral traits.

So, back to the original question:   “Why do so many of my salespeople fail to perform as expected?”:

  • Poor diagnosis of the right contributing factors for success
  • Candidates eliminated due to weaknesses rather than hiring for sales strengths
  • Too much credit given to sales skills exhibited during interview process
  • Lack of solid training and development on the root causes of poor performance

Now that you have the answers to the question, what will you do about it?

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Develop Your Sales Talent to Increase Sales in 2020 and Beyond

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Mar 25, 2020

If you are not in the acquisition business, then you must develop your talent in order to increase sales in 2020 and beyond.  One of the keys to doing that is to understand how to drive sales improvement. 

You must determine what is really happening with your salespeople when they fail to acquire a new piece of business, and then you must take key steps to help you determine if they lack the skills to get the job done, or if they are making excuses for their lack of success. 

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Companies are constantly trying to figure out how to drive organic growth by:

  • Acquiring a revenue stream by buying a business or lifting out talent from a competitor
  • Developing current talent

If you are not in the acquisition business, then you must develop your talent.  One of the keys to doing that is to understand how to drive sales improvement.  You must determine what is really happening with your salespeople when they fail to acquire a new piece of business. 

Are your people just making excuses for failure or do they have deficits in the required sales competencies or will to sell?

To be successful in determining the real issues with your salespeople, you must have a system.

I read a blog the other day by Dave Kurlan.  We’ve had a strong business partnership with Dave and his company OMG (Objective Management Group) for most of our 24 years in business.  With OMG, we have the ability to determine the answer to the question – is it excuses or is it a talent issue?

Dave’s post  - 12 Reasons They Didn’t Like You Enough To Buy From You – helps address some of the issues associated with “not getting the business”.  It primarily focuses on the area of matching styles.

This got me thinking about the issue of “style” as it relates to talent, which relates to sales competencies and excuse making.  The challenge for the sales manager is determining if the reason a salesperson did not get the sale was really a talent issue, or an excuse issue.

To determine the root cause of the results, a sales manager must work more closely with the relationship managers and implement a process that Bill Eckstom calls “intentional coaching”.  This process of working closing with your RMs is addressed in our Sales Management Certification Program in the Coaching for Success Module.

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Here are the 5 steps you must take to help you determine if your salespeople lack the necessary skills to succeed or are making excuses for their lack of success:

  1. You must gain insight. You gain insight by using various data points. The data points you MUST use are: 
    1. Observational joint sales calls – You do not run the sales call; you observe your RM
    2. Data from your CRM or SAT program (SAT – Sales Activity Tracking)
    3. Sales meetings – In all of your sales meetings, you need to include a segment on skill development where you drill for skill, role play and conduct strategy development discussions
    4. 1-on-1 coaching – Each week, you should have time set aside for 1-on-1 coaching with those people that are NOT in the 1st quadrant of the “Where’s Walter?” matrix
  2. Provide feedback. In advance of the discussion about lost opportunities, you want to provide your RM with the data you have – no ambushing.
    1. You discuss – ask the RM questions about what they see in the data
    2. You provide them feedback based on what you see and where the problems might be
    3. You discuss what the future might look like if the current trends continue
    4. You agree that there is a problem
  3. Demonstrate – Once you identify the problem as either an excuse or a skill issue, you demonstrate to the RM what you expect them to execute.
    1. If they are making excuses – "They didn’t understand the value of our offering” – You ask, “If I didn’t let you use that as an excuse what would you have done differently?”
    2. If it’s a skill problem – “I asked them if they had a budget and they said yes.” “When you asked them what it was, what did they say?”  “They said they didn’t want to tell me.”  “When you asked, ‘why not?’, what did they say?”  “I didn’t ask that question.”
  4. Role play – The scenario above allows you to now role play with you acting as the prospect. You need to start with Drill for Skill and then graduate to the full role play.  Getting them to practice what you expect them to do takes patience and repetition.  Do not believe for a second that one role play will be enough.  You need to start your RM on a weekly coaching session repeating the required skills over and over again. 
  5. Action steps – Each coaching session must end with action
    1. "Bill, so what I want you to do is call Mary and have this conversation we just role played."
    2. "I want you to report back to me by end of business today what happened as a result of that conversation."
    3. Hold your salespeople accountable while also coaching them along the way! 

Implementing a process of gaining insight, providing feedback, demonstrating, role playing and establishing action items will go a long way in helping your team discern the difference between making excuses for failure and the need for skill development.

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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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