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5 Minute Interview – Hire Salespeople Who Will Sell

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Oct 15, 2020

If your salespeople MUST be great on the -phone then why not find out, as early as you can, how GREAT they are on the phone? If your salespeople have to be like most salespeople, they must:

  • Reach out to prospects in the marketplace by phone. Yes, there is email, and LinkedIn and Facebook etc. but eventually to schedule an appointment, most sales people have to pick up the phone to initiate the relationship or continue the relationship beyond a click on an article.
  • Be able to deal with people who are busy and generally don’t like to talk to salespeople, don’t like being interrupted and are not waiting by the phone waiting for your sales expert to call them.
  • Be able to speak clearly and concisely
  • Communicate exactly why the person on the other end of the phone should keep listening and perhaps invite them to visit
  • Have the skills to take control of a conversation by asking meaningful questions that will cause the other person to stop and really listen
  • Be memorable, engaging, thoughtful and easy to talk to
  • Convince the listener that it would be a mistake to not meet or it would be of great benefit if they did meet

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What is the best way to find all of that out and when is the best time to figure that out? As soon as you can. And that is why we recommend the 5-minute interview.

The interview takes about 7 to 10 minutes, but I want you to tell all candidates that it’s only going to be 5 minutes. Why?

  • You want to create an environment that is going to be similar to what they face when they actually call prospects.
  • You want to get a feel for how they respond to pressure and challenging questions:
    • Mary, thanks for calling in, we have about 5 minutes so let’s get started. You saw and read the job attraction post. What makes you think you’re a fit?
      • Mary will give you standard answers about how successful and dedicated she is.
    • To which you replay: Mary I’m going to talk to 3 other people this morning I’m pretty sure I’m going to hear the same thing.
    • The job attraction post requires hunting, so you ask Mary if that describes her.
      • She will give you the right answer and pass the intelligence test with a ‘Yes’.
    • You respond with – how would I know that? If I followed you around for 30 days how many new appointments would we go on?

You get the point. This is uncomfortable for you probably because is sounds so aggressive. Well that is pretty much what the phone call will sound like for Mary, Joe, Bob or Jane when they start making calls for you when you hire them. Again, when do you want to know that they can or cannot handle challenging perhaps difficult prospects?

Finally, you need to find out if your candidate can close. You must close your part of the conversation by informing the candidate that you will be interviewing additional candidates and will be making calls to invite qualified people in for an interview. If they hear from you then they’ve made the cut, if not you wish them the best of success. Stop and wait. If the candidate does anything to continue the conversation or asks something like, what do I have to do to make that cut?, then give them points. Depending on how the resume and the assessment results, you may or may not invite them in. If they do not attempt to close to get invited in for an interview, then chances are they won’t close for an appointment with a prospect.

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Topics: recruiting sales people, Interviewing, 5 minute interview, hiring better sales people

Variability in Performance – Let’s Talk Recruiting

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Sep 28, 2016

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

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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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