All companies know strong sales requires a great sales team, so they have to hire top salespeople. Yet most companies still wing it when it comes to selecting sales staff. When prospecting, many rely on the gut intuition of sales managers to select candidates. When folks base essential decisions on their gut, they often get crappy results. In sales staff selection, companies hire underperforming salespeople who flame out quickly. To hire top salespeople, you need the right system.
It’s a brutally competitive environment for most companies. If your company is better than your competitors, you can smash your competition by selecting sales staff.
Why Companies Don’t Do Better When Prospecting Salespeople
HR Daily Advisor reports that hiring the wrong salesperson in a high-tech company can cost the company $2 million+ per year. The cost is wasted training, salary benefits, and lost sales. You not only lose money, but if the person is awful, you may damage your reputation with potential customers for years to come.
If folks know it’s important to hire right and expensive to hire wrong, why don’t they do a better job? Hiring the right way is hard; most folks don’t even know how to do it right.
The Right Way to Hire Top Salespeople
First: Determine How Success Is Defined In Your Environment
Before you can predict performance, you must define it. You must understand what it takes your salespeople to be successful in your sales environment.
Best practices for defining success include conducting a job analysis where you look at your top and bottom performers. Staff-selection experts commonly refer to this as a “benchmark.” With a job analysis, you identify the most critical factors of your sales job.
For example, you conduct a job analysis and determine that high sales performers are high in persistence and low sales performers are low in persistence. In this case, an assessment test that measures persistence is a good choice for your business when prospecting new hires.
If you need help with sales job analysis, please contact us. We have strong expertise in this area.
Second: Select the Sales Test(s) That Measures Traits Important to Your Success
After identifying high and low performers’ characteristics, you should seek sales tests measuring those characteristics. Ultimately, you want to use pre-hiring test(s) that help you find people matching the characteristics of your top performers.
Make sure you use tests specifically designed to predict performance in sales. Avoid using tests designed to measure employee performance or for other employee development purposes.
For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a widely used personality test. The developers of MBTI state that they did not design this tool to use in hiring or to predict employee performance.
To get a complete sense of sales candidates, you must use multiple methods to assess their skills and motivation. When prospecting new hires, we recommend using pre-hire tests to assess:
(1) General personal and/or motivational characteristics
(2) Sales-specific skills and abilities
When you select your test(s), make sure the tests provide:
- “Predictive Validation” (accurately predict success) and
- “Predictive Reliability” (produces stable and consistent results).
For a deeper explanation of validity, reliability, and the legal issues related to testing, request a copy of our upcoming comprehensive Sales Assessments Guide, which evaluates the top sales assessment tests on the market today.
Third: Use a Pre-Hire Test(s) on All Applicants Before You Interview Them
Test all applicants and only interview those applicants that test well for the characteristics you need for success. Individuals are notoriously bad at making personnel decisions based on interviews. Test applicants to determine whom to interview. This way, you minimize personal bias and maximize the likelihood that you hire top salespeople.
You might ask, “isn’t this expensive and time-consuming?”
Pre-interview testing isn’t expensive when prospecting, especially considering the thousands you spend on a lousy hire vs. a few dollars on an assessment. Furthermore, a few testing platforms base their fees on job openings, not the number of applicants you test. A couple of test providers we recommend will charge clients a single fee to test all applicants for the open job.
Pre-hire testing will reduce the time needed for the hiring process because you only talk to candidates that can perform well. Request a copy of our Sales Assessments Guide for an overview of tests and review our recommendations.
Next Steps to Hire Top Salespeople When Prospecting
After your applicants take pre-hire tests, you would conduct a phone interview and, as the last step, conduct a structured in-person interview. We’ll discuss the interview process in a later post.