Hiring Right, A Three-Part Series
Part II: Hiring Right
The first article of this series (Hiring Wrong) was critical of hiring salespeople based predominantly on their industry experience. It’s easy to criticize. What about solutions? Who are we looking for in sales? What characteristics make a successful salesperson?
- They have the ability to function without constant supervision. This requires above all self-discipline. The self-discipline to make and honor commitments as well as the ability to manage time.
- They think, act, and communicate strategically. Calls are planned ahead not only to maximize the effectiveness of each call, but to leverage every call into the bigger picture overall sales and marketing strategy. Constantly keeping their team informed of progress, they engage the right assets at the right time to win and keep business. They are strategically two steps ahead of the competition, and when they are caught off-guard they adapt strategy quickly to re-gain control.
- Through experience they become instinctive, knowing when to push, when to back-off, and when to alter their approach to move negotiations from one point to the next.
- Failures are not hidden or excused- they are lessons learned in their constant desire to get better. Great salespeople never believe they know it all. Always challenging themselves to get better, they never coast.
Nothing here talks about industry knowledge. Nothing about product knowledge. In fact, it could be argued that nothing here says anything about someone who is working exclusively inside the sales department. Sales is a profession that is more than merely convincing someone to buy something. It is convincing someone to change- and that has far wider and deeper implications in the talent hunt. When someone convinces someone they are the right person to hire, the hirer has been influenced to change. A new idea to improve productivity gets sold to a manager when the manager is convinced to take action. Managing change in an organization succeeds when it is sold to the participants and they believe it is in their interest to change. Whether convincing a prospective buyer to buy something or anyone to change the way things get done, selling skills are required. The talent for selling skills is not exclusively tied to the industry nor is it residing exclusively in the sales department.
While we have found in our programs that seven out of ten people who were terminated due to poor sales performance were hired for their industry knowledge, we also found that seven out of ten of the top salespeople in those same organizations had a previous sales position in another industry or another company department. This statistic comes from twelve different sales organizations that have 30 to 300 salespeople, totaling over 1,500 salespeople. These companies were in various industry segments, including electrical wholesale, media advertising, industrial automation and controls, healthcare, and consumer retail products.
Recruiting and Hiring Salespeople
Let’s address sales recruitment for what it should be: an ongoing strategy, not a momentary task. When businesses hire salespeople as a strategy instead of a task, the hiring process is where it should be- top of the mind. Considering sales is the only department in any organization chartered to produce measured profitable growth, sales recruitment should matter- and it should matter greatly.
If a company is having problems recruiting “good” people, or is suddenly in need of someone because they have an open field sales position, it’s probably because they treat the sales recruitment process as a task. They will never find a good salesperson by the end of the month to make the monthly numbers. They will not be able to hire a good salesperson at 10:00 am next Thursday. Recruiting good salespeople for hire is a continuous process, and includes the active recruitment of quality salespeople when they are not needed.
Good salespeople think strategically. Their decision to change companies or departments is no different- it’s a strategic one. More often than not, these types of decisions take time and good timing to make. Consequently, the executive who wants good salespeople must always be subconsciously recruiting salespeople. What we are trying to shed some light in this series of articles is for executives to re-think two major sales recruitment philosophies:
- Throw out the old way of recruiting from the industry. This, by the way does not mean to eliminate the industry from the recruitment process- it just means to not limit the search to the industry.
- Recruit the right sales behavior, which can come from any industry or any department in an organization.
The article “Hiring Cookbook” provides an outline for the sales recruitment and hiring process.