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Every experienced sales manager knows how costly it is to make a bad hiring decision because that bad hire takes a lot of your time and attention and then doesn’t contribute anything. Here are six “must-have” techniques that successful sales managers can use when hiring salespeople.
Ask for a “Memo of Understanding” from the Candidate
A VP of Sales for a company with over 500 salespeople told me recently that he’d carefully analyzed the exit interviews of salespeople who had quit his company, focusing especially on those salespeople the company considered productive salespeople who had quit with 18-months or less in tenure with his company.
The #1 reason cited for quitting was “I didn’t fully understand the role here.”
To prevent this from happening in the future the VP ordered that a new step be inserted into his company’s hiring process for salespeople: region managers were directed to ask the sales candidate to send the manager a “memo of understanding” prior to the final interview.
Specifically, candidates were asked to send a short email answering three questions: 1) Please tell me what your understanding is of the sales role here, 2) Describe what you think a typical day looks like, and 3) Describe why your skills are well-suited for the role.
Ask this question of every sales candidate:
“What criteria do you consider important in selecting your next employer?”
The answer to this question reveals how much business maturity your candidate has – how much thought he or she has put in to this career change. The more specific and thoughtful their answer, the better.
Test for “Coachability” during the interview process.
Hiring someone who is coachable is very important because these are people who are open to learning and improving. To evaluate whether or not a candidate is coachable, run a short role-play scenario during the interview where the candidate plays a salesperson. At the conclusion, have them self-evaluate, and then you offer a few suggestions. Then immediately run the role play again, and see if they try to implement the suggestions you just gave them. If yes, that is someone who will listen to you and make a noticeable effort to implement your coaching.
Ask behavioral questions.
You want to ask questions that force candidates to describe their behaviors not just a particular outcome. That gives you more insight into their thought patterns and attitudes.
For example, a question like “What were your most outstanding achievements in that job?” This question just asks for outcomes. Instead ask, “Give me an example of an outstanding achievement and how you made it happen.”
Hire someone who is slightly under-qualified for your position.
What I mean by this is that you want the job you’re offering to be, from the candidate’s perspective, a step-up in their career path: more responsibility, more income potential, etc. When a candidate sees the job you’re offering as an advancement in their career path – not just a lateral move – it helps create the all-important fire-in-the-belly quality that provides the motivation to learn and succeed.
Grade (A, B, C, D, F) the quality of each candidate’s answer to your pre-determined interview questions.
Keep notes on each candidate’s proficiencies as a “scorecard” to use to compare candidates. As the saying goes, “comparison is necessary to recognize value.”
To download my “Screening & Hiring Interview Tool” click here. This tool assembles 37 of the best questions to ask sales candidates. The questions are organized into four key sections you want to delve in to: Initial Screen Interview, Sales Skills, Will/Attitude, and Cultural Fit.