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How Do I Hire a Sales All-Star?

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Jun 17, 2019

Hiring an elite salesperson is tough work.  It's not easy to find a sales all-star and it's even harder to keep them on board if you do hire them.  

In this article, we provide 8 reasons why hiring elite salespeople is difficult and the exact steps needed to hire them in your organization.

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8 Reasons Why Hiring Elite Salespeople is Difficult:

  1. It's hard to find qualified candidates - only 7% of salespeople fall into the “elite” category (What elite sales people do differently)
  2. You have other responsibilities
  3. If things are “okay”, you don’t look for someone… until you have an opening and then you feel desperate to fill the seat
  4. Elite sales professionals – those with excellent sales skills – often are not actively looking for new jobs
  5. The resumes all look the same
  6. Personality and behavioral tests tell you how they like to be managed but don’t have any predictive validity for sales success
  7. Your HR (talent-acquisition partners) really don’t understand why hiring salespeople is different than hiring anyone else for a company
  8. It’s not your go-to skill set.

how to hire top salespeople

Step 1: Make sure you know and identify exactly what sales skills make your elite salespeople ELITE salespeople. 

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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

  • Hunter
  • 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

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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 skillsOnce 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:

  1. They will be asked to complete the online sales skills inventory assessment.
  2. 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:

  • Consistency
  • 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!

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Topics: hiring, hiring better, hiring salespeople, find salespeople, hiring top salespeople

Why is It So #%&@ Hard to Solve the Sales Growth Problem? – The 5 Constraints to Growing Sales – Part II

Posted by Tony Cole on Mon, Jan 23, 2017

In the previous post, I identified 8 clues that would indicate that your sales organization has a sales growth problem (CLICK HERE to read the article and review the 5 clues).  In that article, I identified (in some detail) 2 of the 5 constraints to sales growth:

  • Weak or lacking performance management
  • In-the-moment coaching rather than coaching that changes behavior and improves skill.

I received some feedback that the previous article was tooooo long and so, instead of covering the 3 remaining constraints here, I will present them one at a time (and hope I keep you coming back for “the rest of the story!”).

Constraint #3 - Hiring salespeople based on the wrong criteria with the wrong processes and systems

hbsp logo cut.pngTo Hire Better Salespeople, you have to have a better way to attract better salespeople and a better way to eliminate those 90% that will not do 100% of what you need them to do.

As in the previous article, let’s first determine “IF” there is a problem (check all that apply):

  • You have trouble finding enough candidates to choose from
  • The candidates you interview all look and act the same
  • When you interview candidates, you…
    • Spend time establishing rapport
    • Sell them on the company, the position and the opportunity
  • Your turnover rate of salespeople that don’t work out is at least a 6-figure problem or 2-comma problem (#,000,000)
  • When you evaluate the performance of the current sales team, there are people in the middle of the bell curve that are not performing like you thought they would or expected them to
  • You feel desperate to fill seats
  • Your recruiting is usually reactive

If you answered honestly and have 3 checks or more, then let’s agree there is a problem.

Several years ago, my son, Anthony, and a good friend of mine, Dave Zimmerman, went with me to NYC to watch the Bengals play the Jets.  We were guests of then general manager, Terry Bradway.  We met up with Terry the evening before the game just to catch up and introduce him to Anthony.  While we were in his hotel room, I asked him what was the most difficult part of his job. Without hesitation, he replied, “Player personnel - that’s the most difficult part of the job.”

He went on to discuss how he and the scouting staff spent Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays all over the country watching college games. Sometimes they attended two games a day just to find the talent they needed to compete and win on Sundays.  Unfortunately, Terry lost his job with the Jets in 2015. Terry is a great guy and a personal friend, but I cannot imagine the pressure and small window for success in drafting NFL players.

In the 2016 NFL draft, there were 256 players drafted.  There are roughly 15,588 student athletes playing on college campuses through out the US.  Two hundred and fifty six is 1.6% of all the college seniors.

I’m not suggesting that your hit percentage should be the same, but Geoff Smart, author of Who and Topgrading, suggests that it be at least 1 out of 20, or in other terms, 5%.

You may or may not notice the intentional use of the phrase “a better way to ELIMINATE those 90%” in the opening paragraph, but one of the keys to hiring better is to get better at disqualifying candidates!

In our approach to helping companies hire better salespeople, we find that it is critical to first change the mindset of the process and then change the process. The mindset that has to change from “find candidates that qualify” to “disqualifying candidates.”  If you work hard at disqualifying, then those that are left are more likely to be successful candidates.  Using this approach to hiring - in conjunction with using a predictive sales success assessment - will help you eliminate hiring mistakes!

I won’t go any further into the details about the process of eliminating mistakes here today except to mention one critical component – scorecards.  You should have in your possession a scorecard to evaluate talent based on the competencies that are required to succeed.  Specifically, that means the competencies, skills and behaviors needed to complete 100% of the job at an extraordinary level. The challenge here, of course, is to sort through the 90% of candidates that are incapable of executing what you need done 100% of the time.

Additional Resource: 

Download our free eBook - How to Hire Bankers Who Will Sell

Topics: hire better salespeople, find salespeople, predictable sales growth, hiring top salespeople, sales management responsibilities

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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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