Salespeople are a direct reflection on your company. For that reason, one of the most important responsibilities of a sales manager is making good hiring decisions. It is critical that you make the best possible choices, because the amount of time, energy, effort, and money invested in developing successful salespeople is significant. Making successful hiring decisions involves following a structured, objective process that creates consistent results. This means that you need to create clear criteria for candidates and use effective interviewing and follow-up techniques. This takes much of the guesswork out of making hiring decisions, resulting in success for you, your staff, and your customers.
Step One: Establish Criteria
Knowing what you want in a sales candidate helps make the recruiting and hiring process more subjective and reduces hiring mistakes. This increases the likelihood that the new person will succeed, and that the manager can close performance gaps more effectively after the person is hired.
Step Two: Promote the Opportunity
Sources of Talent:
• Current team members
• Former colleagues
• Recent graduates
• Website inquiries
• Recruiting agencies
• Internal promotion
Advertising: Print Media/Web
• Job title and location
• Job description
• Unusual features of the job
• Absolute qualifications
• Brief description of company
• Salary range
• How and where to apply
Step Three: Screen Candidates
Careful screening of candidates is a vital time utilization strategy. You can waste valuable time by interviewing candidates who are not qualified for this opportunity. Screening of candidates can be done by carefully analyzing resumes and screening over the phone. Many companies use both screening strategies.
Resume Screening Tips
• Create a list of absolute criteria, those points a candidate must have to be considered
• Look for evidence of desirable criteria
• Look for frequent job changes and job overlaps
• Write notes or highlight key points on the resume
• See if the cover letter is customized to your business
Telephone Screening Tips
• Check against absolute criteria
• Listen for evidence of desirable criteria
• Clarify questions from the resume screening
• Keep questions consistent with all candidates
Step 4: Formal Interviews
Interviewing prospective salespeople is a critical skill to achieve your objective of a high performing sales team. Unfortunately, many sales managers place too much emphasis on the wrong factors. You need to look at a balance of elements and avoid giving too much weight to things like appearance, experience, similar styles and backgrounds, or education at the expense of strengths that could lead to selling success.
Three Levels of Formal Interviews: Once a candidate enters the formal hiring process there are 3 typical levels of formal interviews. Often these are three separate meetings with a candidate. Consider multiple interviews with different internal decision makers.
• Level 1 – Qualify the Opportunity: Determine if this opportunity is the right fit for the company and the candidate.
• Level 2 – Assess Behaviors: Uncover how the person will respond to the kinds of situations they will face. Present scenarios and ask how the person has responded in the past, or would respond. Listen for a specific situation the person faced, what actions he or she took, and the result.
• Level 3 – Clarify Expectations: Have a clear and candid discussion on expectations for the company and the candidate.
Step 5: Analysis
After all the work of establishing criteria, promoting, screening, and interviewing, you analyze each candidate against your criteria and against each other. In order to determine the best possible fit for your sales team, do the following:
Analyze the absolute and desirable criteria for each candidate – Which of the people that you have interviewed matches your pre-established criteria the most closely? You should consider other factors, but this step guarantees that you are keeping the selection process as objective as possible.
Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate. Taking a look at the candidate as a whole, what are the strengths that you can build on? Are there areas where you may need to allow time for the person to ramp up, or where you may need to provide additional support?
Step 6: Check References and Background
The background check is widely used in making hiring decisions. Think of it as you would an investment in insurance. Maybe you will never hire someone and wish afterwards that you had run a background check on them. On the other hand, there may come a time when you are grateful that you absorbed the cost of a background check either because something was revealed, or because you could say later that you had taken the necessary precautions.
Step 7: Follow Through
Once the candidate’s references have been thoroughly checked, and a hiring decision has been made, there are several follow through steps to consider and plan. Make an effort to promptly inform individuals who were not hired of your decision. Decide whether to keep the door open with candidates for future opportunities.