Eight Steps for Hiring Top Performing Sales People

To get great sales results, you need top performing sales people. This post is the first in a series of posts on how to hire the best sales people for your company.

In this series, we will address common mistakes companies make in recruiting, selecting and hiring sales people. We will also present unconventional and very successful approaches to hiring exceptional sales talent.

Find the right top performing sales people with these key stepsWe’ve helped many clients dramatically increase sales by optimizing their sales teams. Hiring top sales talent starts with hiring stronger sales people with grit who thrive (vs. gets by) in your environment.

You cannot maximize revenue with a mediocre sales team; yet, 50% of sales people miss their quota. In today’s global economy, you must hire stronger sales people to boost sales to new heights.

Here are key steps to use to help you find a top-tier sales talent.

Step 1: Interview the Job

If the job could “talk” and you interviewed the job… what would it tell you it needs in a sales person who can thrive and exceed quota?

We see too many companies misrepresent the position. This inaccuracy doesn’t happen because company execs are dishonest. It happens because they don’t understand the position!

Instead of trying to describe the job, interview the job! What would the job say it needs in areas such as work ethic, desire, commitment, sales grit, mindset, etc.

What is really hard about this job? What does the job say is its reward to a sales person? What else would the job tell you it needs to produce wildly successful a sales person?

To get more information on interviewing the job, visit our next post on how to establish sales candidate selection criteria.

Step 2: Define Your Real Sales Culture

Everyone says they want “A Players” but they don’t have an “A Player” culture. For example, Google gets 428 applicants for each job opening, does your company? Instead of competing with Google, Amazon or Zappos, play to your unique cultural strengths. That helps you identify your unique differentiator and the reward of being at your company.

Before you start your search, define your culture. You can discover how to define your sales culture in our next post on establishing criteria for hiring sales people.

Step 3: Write a real ad

Sir Ernest Shackleton led three British expeditions to the Antarctic. The ad he purportedly wrote to attract other explorers is legendary and brutally honest. There is some speculation as to the ad’s authenticity but this is what it said…

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”

Notice the first part is designed talks about the tough part of the job. This will attract people who love the thrill and adventure while scaring away people who prefer more creature comforts. The second part talks about the reward or payoff.

Be brutally honest in your ad. You want the right people to apply. If it takes 60+ hours a week to reach the six-figure income, put that in the ad. If they will be on the road 50% of the time, tell them that.

We will provide more details on how to write an ad to attract the right top sales professionals in a future post.

Step 4: Attract Top Sales Candidates

Don’t just spray and pray with your ad placements. Placing an ad on a few job boards may not get you the best talent. Think about where the most successful sales people hang out online. You want to get your message to people who are not actively seeking a new job. A top performer for another firm may be the best fit for you.

Look for our future post on where to place your ads for new sales talent.

Step 5: Assess All Candidates

Before you interview anyone, ask all applicants to take a sales assessment tests. Don’t start with interviews if you want elite performers.

Take the same approach as top-performing sports teams. Do you think NFL talent recruiters start by asking pro football players to list their top successes? NO. They ask prospects to show how fast they can run 40 yards, how much weight they can bench press, how high they can jump, etc.

Individual interviews are notoriously unreliable in predicting how well applicants will perform on a job. Past behavior predicts future performance. We work with a number of sales assessment tests. You can use a free sample test of one of our favorite assessment tests for a potential sales candidate at this link.

In a future post, we will discuss the best types of tests you should use to assess candidates for your sales position.

Step 6: Qualify

If you can, conduct a phone interview with candidates that pass the assessment tests. You should make this interview tough and very brief. This phone qualification step will help you identify the top candidates you should interview.

Step 7: Conduct a Structured Interview Session

Save the in-person interview until the end of the process. You should not interview candidates until after they have taken your assessments. By interviewing as the last step, you minimize the “I love them bias”. As mentioned above, individuals are very poor predictors of performance.

An article in Forbes Magazine reports:

“Interviews favor candidates who are attractive, sociable, articulate, and tall. They also favor manipulative candidates or ones who know how to make a positive impression even in a brief interview. But those aren’t always the best job performers.”

When you do conduct an in-person interview session, make it a structured interview. We will provide tips on how to conduct a structured interview in a future post.

In summary, if you want to field a top-performing sales team, use a well-thought-out process for recruiting and hiring pros.

Step 8: Build a Robust Onboarding Process

Don’t just dump new hires into the field.

The Aberdeen Group reports that 90% of companies expect employees to make their decision to stay with employers in their first six months. Human Resources Today also reports that employers can improve their retention rates by 25% with a solid onboarding program

Not surprisingly, the best sales people are the most likely to leave. Top performers have more opportunities. If you are not keeping your top hires, look at your onboarding process.

We’ll provide tips in a future post on how to build a successful onboarding process for new sales people.

In summary, if you want to field a top performing sales people, use a well-thought-out process for recruiting, hiring and onboarding sales pros.

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