Hiring the right salesperson and/or sales manager is a fundamental step in conducting business successfully. Without the right salespeople and/or sales managers, an organisation would not be able to effectively maximise sales efficiency and achieve its goals. Having said that, there are basic, yet critical, mistakes that either lead to the appointment of the wrong person, or that the right salesperson goes unhired. In order to avoid making these mistakes, a hiring manager should ask the following questions:
- Is your job description correct and relevant?
Too often, organisations employ job descriptions which consist of too many, vague or simply irrelevant criteria. Rather, job descriptions should consist of specific criteria and be updated continuously. They should clearly specify function, skill, ability and deliverables. How often have you seen that what is on the job description is not really what the person does? If the job description is not right, then you will attract the wrong person . The keys to accurately predicting success in sales roles are:
- Firstly identifying the specific type of sales role needed
- Secondly identifying the granular, role-related behaviours that predict success (those behaviours that differentiate top and bottom performers)
Identifying the specific type of sales role needed is critical for success. Is selling software to senior executives the same as selling cars, or products over the phone? The answer is, of course, no. The reality is that most organisations have four to six different types of sales roles. Understanding each at a very detailed level enables you to predict success. Additionally, an organisation should take the failures of previous salespeople, such as managerial issues, personality traits or lack of skills, into consideration. In doing so, you will be more aware of what you don’t want in a salesperson and avoid repeating previous mistakes.
- Do you rely on interviews to evaluate candidates and what are you evaluating?
Although interviewing is a critical selection method, the Chally Group suggests that it should only account for 30% of your hiring decision. Moreover, it is in fact usually quite a subjective process. To remove this subjectivity, the interview should be scorable in terms of pre-defined critical skills, rendering decisions easier to make as they are based on a score. Doing so will ensure a fair, focused and consistent assessment of your shortlisted candidates. Are you hiring on personality or ability? Certain personality traits, such as high energy, honesty, a solid work ethic, seem to practically guarantee success, yet they don’t. Many consultants and distributors of pre-employment tests maintain that certain personality factors help ensure management or sales success and offer psychological theories to support that belief. However, solid statistical research from many objective sources shows little correlation between any personality factor and any specific job. Producers of competent and reputable “personality type” tests admit that their tests are useful for self-awareness and training but not for hiring. Rather than focusing on people’s traits, Chally recommends focusing on their potential to execute the specific role-related behaviors that are most critical to success.
- Are your interviews structured and scored?
An interview usually results in:
- progression to the next phase, either a second interview or assessment etc.
- considering an offer to the candidate
- a lack of success, meaning that the candidate will no longer be considered
Interviews are often conducted by an individual who is not necessarily skilled or has not been trained on interviewing techniques. He or she may therefore be unaware of the difference between structured and unstructured interviews and their respective requirements. A structured interview requires predetermined questions, unstructured interviews do not. It is assumed that managers are able to apply a variety of questioning techniques to extract the appropriate information and enable an informed decision. In most cases, they lack the necessary skills, they don’t prepare and simply “wing” it, leading to wrong hires. Make sure that your managers are trained on how to conduct structured interviews, preferably using a score sheet which aligns to specific sales skills required for the role.
- Are you hiring based on yourself or a role model?
Even though it might seem valid that your own success makes you intuitively capable of recognising potential in another person, using yourself as a benchmark for hiring the next salesperson is a mistake, as your ego might get in the way and skew your objectivity. Moreover, what makes one salesperson “good” may not apply to everyone. If you are hiring based on yourself or a role model in your sales organisation, you risk basing your decisions on invalid criteria. Just because your candidate mirrors similar traits to you or your role model does not mean they will be the right person for the job. In fact, Chally states that “individuals are more different than similar in their overall makeup”.
- Have you evaluated the necessary skills?
There is actually very little overlap between personality and job performance. Many recruiters make the mistake of evaluating personality rather than skill. Instead, assess the specific skills that are key to the role, using an assessment tool like the Chally assessment to properly assess the skills from a scientific perspective. In fact, a recent study of 1,800 companies, completed by Chief Sales Officer (CSO) Insights, found that Chally was 7% more effective than all other tools utilised for pre-employment assessments of salespeople. You want to know what the salesperson can do and what he or she is capable of delivering, not how he or she behaves. To help clarify, Chally has identified fourteen specific sets of sales and service skills that are required to succeed in specialised sales roles.
- Have you done proper reference checks?
A candidate’s previous employment can tell you a lot about how he/she will perform in your organisation. By conducting proper reference checks, you can validate a sales candidate’s traits and performance abilities. Check for a tangible sales track record by conducting proper reference checks. Be aware that a reference check for a competent sales hire involves more than just confirmation of employment! It involves speaking to former managers (including direct managers), checking across multiple references and asking behavioural questions such as, “where did the candidate display desired selling behaviours?” or “how did he/she deal with hiring, firing and/or coaching?”.
- Are you hiring in desperation?
Make sure that you hire someone because they are right for the position, not because you need to appoint someone quickly. Pay attention to the red flags as the cost of hiring wrong can be huge. Hiring in desperation means that you are not performing your due diligence as a hiring manager and can lead to hiring someone who is gravely unqualified for the position.
As we have seen in this article, there are several burning questions that a hiring manager needs to ask to avoid hiring the wrong person in sales. By challenging yourself with these basic, yet critical, questions, hiring managers will de-risk the chances of hiring the wrong sales person for the organisation. As a rule of thumb, Chally suggests using the 30-30-30-10 Rule in making your hiring decision. 30% of the decisions should be based on the background check, 30% on the interview, 30% on the assessment result, and 10% to the “gut feeling” of your ability to work well with the individual.
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