Hiring salespeople can be particularly challenging. When you think about it, it makes sense. Salespeople are good at selling and sometimes you can be sold a bill of goods. In any hiring decision, it’s easy to make a mistake. In sales, your odds of hiring the right person are 50/50 at best.
To make sure you don’t sabotage your chances of success, try these five tips:
- Use an assessment instrument. A good assessment, and there are many on the market, will often tell you what your candidate won’t. Make sure your assessment instrument matches well to the type of selling you do. For example, you don’t want to hire someone who is great at transactional sales if you want your salespeople to build long-term relationships with clients.
To save money, an assessment tool should be reserved for your top choices and is not necessary for every candidate. Use the first interview or a phone interview to narrow your choices before deciding who moves on.
- Develop a standard set of questions. Ask all of your candidates the same questions. It’s easy to get sidetracked by an engaging candidate and not cover everything you wanted to if you are just winging it with your questions. Using a standard set of questions will also provide you with legal protection, should there be discrimination charges brought against you. Come up with a set of questions that all candidates are asked. Ten is a good number of questions to aim for, give or take a few. You want to be able to compare the answers of all the candidates to see who is a good fit for your organization.
If you’re having trouble developing the right questions, remember to keep it simple and get help if you need it. An HR consulting firm that specializes in hiring or screening candidates can provide great assistance.
- Don’t divulge too much about your company upfront. A common mistake people make when hiring is to bring in a candidate and tell them all about the company. Then, they proceed to start the interview process. A savvy salesperson will “spit back” to you everything you want to hear using your own words to do it.
You can tell a great deal about a salesperson by the amount of homework they’ve done on the front end. So a good first question might be, “Tell me why you are interested in working at our company?” A good candidate will have researched your firm and prepared for the interview. Isn’t that the kind of salesperson you want working for you?
- Be tough. By being tough, I am not suggesting that you are mean or rude. Instead, you shouldn’t dance around hard questions like “Did you always meet or exceed your sales quota in your former job? If so, how can I verify that? If not, why not?”
Another good question might be, “When I call your former boss, what will he/she tell me about your performance?” Whether you plan to call the boss or not, the wording of this question will let the candidate know that you mean business. Consequently, your chances of getting an honest answer will increase.
- Do a mini-role play. It’s easy for salespeople to answer typical interview questions like “What are your biggest strengths?” and “What are your biggest weaknesses?” It’s much harder to role play and fake it with a “canned answer.” Ask the candidate how he would handle specific sales scenarios.
By John Hester