The competition to find, and land, top-notch sales talent is as fierce as the push to meet Q4 numbers. Between the formalized open positions and the “always looking for good talent” opportunities, if you’re a successful sales professional, the world is your oyster. If you happen to be on the managerial side of the equation, life may not seem as rosy. With the cost of mis-hiring a sales rep costing you well into the six-figure range, it’s crucial you make an informed, but expedient, decision.
To help ease the stress of finding the right team members, we asked a few pros to chime in with their go-to strategies for weeding through a pile of candidates to find the winners:
1. Start at the beginning.
Penning the right job description is critical to ensure you’re assembling a diverse pool of highly qualified candidates. If you’re using a job listing you’ve leveraged in the past, make sure it still addresses the needs of the business today. Also, edit the listing through a lens of inclusivity. It’s been proven that women are more likely than men to only apply jobs they’re 100% qualified for. Make sure your posting clearly differentiates must have traits versus nice to have traits.
Cynthia Barnes, Founder of NAWSP, points out that the language and tone used in job postings can skew the type of candidates that apply. Steer clear of masculine words like “rock star,” “aggressive,” or “assertive” which studies have shown can alienate female applicants, and swap them, or balance them, with more collaborative terms.
2. Diversify your interview committee.
It’s important to have a group of colleagues you trust to help evaluate potential hires. It’s equally as important to make sure the team you assemble brings a variety of viewpoints to the interview process.
If the new hire is going to be partnering with different teams, make sure those groups are represented. And always be honest about where your own blind spots are as a hiring manager and make sure someone’s got those covered.
3. Ask behavioral questions and use multi-dimensional listening.
Behavioral questions aim to use past behaviors as indicators of true ability. Although these exploratory types of questions aren’t the secret weapon they once were, they are still useful - especially if used correctly. As Andy Craze, Sales and Strategy Coach and former head of Waters’ Global Marketing recommends, try coming at the question from a different angle.
For example, ask a candidate what they’re not good at doing. When they respond, listen to both what they tell you and how they explain it. Another favorite of his? “How would your best friend describe you?” He finds people are most likely to end up describing what they perceive their most positive attributes to be. The responses you get to those questions, and how they’re articulated, are more useful than standard strengths and weaknesses questions.
4. Don’t get lost in translation.
The lure of a supposed rock-star can be difficult to avoid. Whether it’s the stats on their resume or whispers heard through word-of-mouth referrals, it’s easy to go starry-eyed thinking of the six or seven-figure deals a rainmaker could close.
It's important to do your own due diligence to determine how a candidate can and will perform in your company's environment with your team specifically.
Ellen Pieper, CCO at Research Results Inc, likes to take the interview process outside of the office. The field trip helps her see how candidates interact with colleagues while testing for behavioral factors that translate to success on her team. Her go-to activity? Bowling! She can gauge candidates’ ability to let loose and socialize, their willingness to ask for help if needed and of course, size up their competitive nature.
Building the right sales team can be simultaneously inspiring and frustrating as all hell. While it’s important to create an informed hiring process, it’s also important as a leader to listen to your gut. Every time I’ve ignored my gut and been persuaded to hire a candidate I didn’t feel was the right fit, it backfired on me. If you’re lucky enough to land an amazing candidate or two, make sure you’re maximizing your investment and setting them up for success once they’ve joined the team.