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Why Companies Struggle with Hiring Quality Salespeople

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Sep 30, 2021

Finding and putting the best people in the right seats is the biggest problem identified by most business owners, especially as it applies to critical sales roles.

Here are the 5 most common reasons most companies struggle with hiring quality salespeople.

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#1 Companies outsource their recruiting and the responsibility. Recruiting is something that a company has to own. They can no longer outsource the work and the responsibility. That makes it too easy for people internally to throw up their hands and transfer failures associated with the hiring process to the outsourced firm. If companies are going to improve the quality of their hires, they have to own the process.

#2 There is a lack of a consistent process for constantly searching. Most, if not all, companies make the mistake of looking for candidates only when they have an opening. This leads to many problems:

  • Being held hostage by salespeople with “large books”. Companies feel they cannot do anything about them for fear of losing the “books” since there aren’t any replacements.
  • Feeling desperate to fill a chair with a warm bottom when there is a vacancy. A body,
    anybody is better than no one sitting in the chair (branch).
  • Not replacing underperformers because there isn’t a pipeline of candidates to choose from. The underperformers stay around too long; others know it and realize that they don’t have to perform to keep their job, so overall team production continues to decline.

#3 Companies are not getting quality candidates entering the process. The traditional model of recruiting today is one where the placement firm tries to convince its client why a candidate should be hired. Companies should, on the other hand, work extremely hard to disqualify candidates because there are specific skills that apply for that sales job and many/most candidates do not have those skills. Bottom line, the company has to assess at least two things: 1) Do they have enough of the right strengths to be successful? 2) Will they sell versus can they sell?

#4 There is poor communication about the specific role and expectations of this new hire. Too often, everyone is so excited about putting the deal together (getting the seat filled) that no one takes the time to get into the details of the day-to-day requirements of the job. This leads to early misunderstandings about the role and eventually, failure on the part of the new hire to meet the expectations of the company. Failure to “negotiate on the 1st tee” leads to misunderstanding and failure to execute on the sales goals.

#5 The onboarding process is inadequate. Most companies are ill-equipped to effectively onboard new salespeople. They spend time introducing them to the “culture” of the operation, the mechanics of the job, and how to get things done. They introduce them to HR, their support team, marketing, and their partners. And, yes, there is a discussion about goals, sales activities, and how to enter data into CRM. And then… the new hires are on their own.

Companies think that they have hired their next sales superstar and then, 12 months later, they cannot figure out what went wrong. They look at the numbers and discover that the new hires are producing “just like everyone else in the middle of the pack.” The process most companies have in place currently to recruit and hire salespeople perpetuates this problem.

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Topics: hire better salespeople, key to successful hiring, sales onboarding

3 Critical Factors to Include in Your New Hire Onboarding Program

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Apr 15, 2021

In the final installment of our No Assembly Required Hiring series, we discuss the importance of having a strict and detailed onboarding process when bringing new sales talent into your organization.

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For this segment, I thought it would be best to interview Anthony Cole Training Groups expert on hiring, Alex Cole-Murphy. We tricked Alex into leaving a great job at a recruiting firm to join ACTG and run our Hire Better Salespeople program. As part of that segment, Alex spends a great deal of time helping our clients onboard new salespeople into their organization.

Question 1: Alex, I’m sure there are many contributing factors to successfully onboard a new salesperson, regardless of experience. What would you say are the three most critical steps included in a successful onboarding program?

Answer: I would say that the three most critical steps in the onboarding process are:

    1. Using a sales-specific pre-hire assessment, like the one from Objective Management Group, as a training and development tool. The assessment helps to pinpoint some of the skill gaps that a new hire would need additional coaching and help with. It can save you a lot of time, energy and will help get the new producer up and running more quickly.
    2. Having strict, black-and-white goals and metrics to track. Specifically, a success formula that the new salesperson can live by and the manager overseeing that individual can hold them accountable.
    3. And lastly, weekly coaching and training focused on improving their sales skills and gaps in competencies (which you would identify using a pre-hire assessment). Most organizations know and understand that training around company policies, techniques, products, etc. is critical. But for the new hire to successfully sell for your business, problem areas within their sales process also need to be addressed.

Questions 2: Without the sales-specific pre-hire assessment information, how difficult would it be for anyone to effectively onboard a new hire? Additionally, without analytics like their personal Sales DNA or Will to Sell, what does the typical coaching look like or sound like between the manager and new hire?

Answer: The short answer is very difficult. Here’s why- all salespeople, regardless of experience, come with some gaps in skills or personal beliefs that impact their sales process. If you don’t know what those specific problem areas are, it becomes a matter of guessing, which is never effective. You could have hired a highly competent salesperson, but if you don’t know how to address and coach their weak spots, they will struggle to succeed in your business. The coaching that does take place when things like Sales DNA or Will to Sell aren’t available tends to be more general management. The manager or coach of this new hire will often listen to a problem, assume they know the exact cause based on their personal experience and correct the new salesperson in a “this is how it should be done” fashion. Eventually, the new hire and the sales manager become frustrated because very little progress is made. The job becomes much easier when you start with this information in front of you.

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Question 3: You mentioned as one of your three factors the idea of having a goal that the salesperson owns and building a success formula to match. Tell me more about those two things and why it’s critical to successful onboarding.

Answer: The goals set for a new salesperson are often too general. Typically, success standards for a new hire can leave a lot up to interpretation. The common thought from a management perspective is “we’ll put these goals in place, but if they don’t hit them… Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” And that’s a dangerous, perpetuating cycle. That’s how you end up keeping unsuccessful salespeople on your team long after they should be let go. Having specific metrics in place lets everyone know right from the start that if certain things are incomplete after the first 90 days, the new hire has not been successful, and they will be penalized. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy; simple metrics like attending every sales meeting, completing all internal and product training within 90 days, making 50 calls a week, etc., should be considered non-negotiable. If they're unable to hit these standards, that gives you a pretty clear idea of what working with them for the long run is going to be like. Using a success formula helps you identify what those standards and metrics need to be.

Question 4: Every week, for a minimum of 13 weeks, you talk to and coach new hires. What I find interesting is that you schedule just 15 minutes each week. Our readership might be wondering, why 15 minutes and what can you possibly accomplish?

Answer: To start, 15 minutes is about 5 minutes beyond the attention span of the average salesperson. Anything much longer than that, and they start to lose focus and interest. My goal is to make our short time together as impactful as possible. We specifically focus on current opportunities in the pipeline and game planning for the next step with those prospects. I help them develop their process and pre-call plan, and we spend time roleplaying. I also listen for and refute excuse-making so we get to the real issues as quickly as possible. A coaching session that lasts more than 15-20 minutes is not going to be hugely effective as there is a lot of information for this person to digest and then try to implement. Biting off a piece at a time is going to be your best bet.

Question 5: In closing, what would you offer our readership, perhaps to help them improve the probability of success for future new hires?

Answer: I said it once, but it’s worth repeating- start by using a pre-hire assessment, preferably a sales-specific assessment. It will give you many of the details and analytics you need and provides you with a good roadmap for training and development. If you are interested in a tool like the one from Objective Management Group, click here or the button below for a free trial. Lastly, develop a plan and the success metrics we discussed earlier and commit to them! It will immediately start to positively impact your onboarding process and the success of your new hire.

Trial the Highly-Predictive  Pre-Hire Sales Assessment

Topics: success formula, pre-hire evaluations, sales assessments, increase sales, hire better salespeople, sales onboarding

Confirming the Role and Expectations When Hiring Sales Talent

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Mar 25, 2021

When you get to the offer step in your hiring process, it can be tempting to rush ahead and get your candidate contracted. However, this is a critical point in your system that cannot go overlooked. 

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When was the last time you went to a movie, and the movie didn’t live up to the trailer you saw on your television or online?

It’s like that with recruiting talent as well. In our previous article about the 11 deadly sins of interviewing, I mention that the candidate has one thing in mind – convince you that they are the right person for the job. That is what the trailer is designed to do – convince you that this is a must-see movie. So, what happened to the candidate that seemed to be perfect but isn’t working out in the first six months?

DON’T BLAME THE NEW HIRE!

Before you condemn yourself, the candidate, or your hiring team, you must take a look at the steps and processes in place that are responsible for reviewing the role and your expectations. How do you communicate these details to a candidate as part of your offer and contract steps? Too often, companies that are either hiring lots of people to leverage market opportunities or are desperate to fill a chair are so excited about having a candidate they rush to contract and skip this important step.

Confirming the role and your expectations

  1. Once you make the offer and the candidate accepts, you want to give them a chance to back out. You ask them, “Are you sure?” They are going to say yes. You tell them it’s going to be hard, and they will say I know or no problem. Then you ask, “Does that mean you’re willing to do everything possible to succeed assuming ethical, legal, and moral standards?” They will say yes.
  2. Review the role. This includes but is not limited to; hunting for opportunities within your target markets, executing the prospecting plan at 100%, and entering all activity and opportunities into your sales enablement tools. It may also include managing current relationships in the portfolio or book assigned to them, as well as cross-selling into other business units within your organization at agreed-to standards.
  3. Review expectations when entering opportunities in the CRM and keeping it up to date, attending and participating in all sales meetings, and completing your onboarding training and development program.
  4. Quarterly reviews of goals, activities, and year-to-date results.
  5. Participating in all pre-and post-call assigned meetings to discuss opportunity strategies.
  6. Review consequences for missing targets and execution.
  7. Review the compensation plan and rewards for success.
  8. Let them know that all the parts to their onboarding are more than suggestions; they are requirements that you expect to be met at 100%.
  9. If they miss a target or fall short of an expectation, you will have a discussion. It’s understood that a miss within the onboarding period (whatever length of time you establish) is a strike.
  10. You take a baseball approach to manage this process – 3 strikes, and you’re out.
  11. Finally, you ask the question, “Is there anything about this you don’t understand or have questions about?”
  12. Depending on how that conversation goes, you ask them to repeat back to you what you just heard.
  13. Ask them how they will make sure they execute this plan and will avoid “strike” conversations.
  14. Finally, if all goes well, you ask, “Okay, do you still want the job?”

Here is what I assume. 

  • You read this and said; that’s crazy, and no one does this. I would respond that you are probably right.
  • You’ve had problems in the past with candidates not working out. I would say that your contracting and onboarding process is perfectly designed for the results you are getting.
  • You feel this is too extreme. I would tell you that it might be and suggest that you find your middle ground. But whatever you do, make sure you confirm that the candidate clearly understands the role and expectations before signing the final employment contract.
  • You may not have all the steps in place to carry out this kind of onboarding process. Give us a shout, and we’ll walk you through how to get that done.

Enjoy the movie!

Click Here for Additional Hiring Tools!

Topics: sales talent acquisition, hire better salespeople, sales onboarding, assessing sales talent

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.

Trial the Highly-Predictive  Pre-Hire Sales Assessment

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!

Click Here for Additional Hiring Tools!

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

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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    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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