This is a rhetorical question, but if you’ve found yourself on that all too common sales carousel, where you just can’t seem to find the right person to help grow your business, you might be starting to wonder if there isn’t some twisted math involved.
Hiring salespeople and then losing them, or finding out they weren’t a good fit, takes a heavy toll on you, your clients, and your company’s performance. And yet, it’s an easy trap to fall into. Once the first couple of candidates don’t work out, you find yourself becoming increasingly desperate to find a professional who can take your business growth to the next level.
So, rather than put a number on it, or simply tell you to keep hiring until you pick a winner, I’d like to offer a handful of tips on making better hiring decisions.
Do your homework. Salespeople are a big investment. Even a great performer who hits the ground running is going to take up a certain amount of your time and available cash. With that in mind, don’t skimp on relevant background information like skills assessments, references, W2s, and even outside interviewers.
Salespeople, as a rule, tend to be bright and outgoing. It’s no surprise, then, that so many business owners tend to pick the one who seems “shiniest,” even though that person might be a terrible fit for their particular need. It can take quite a bit of work to distinguish the outstanding sales person from the fast-talker, but it’s worth the extra time and effort.
Take the necessary time to do your due diligence.
Check the previous two years’ W2s for proven performance. Require candidates to complete a sales skills assessment to measure their strengths and weaknesses against the priorities you’ve defined for the job. Use multiple sources such as Checkster.com, previous managers and past customers to check references.
It’s an important decision, so you want to get your best chance of getting it right.
Bring your own sales experience into the process. A lot of business owners don’t view themselves as “salespeople,” even though it’s a hat they’ve worn many times. If you’ve grown your business to the point where you’re hiring sales people, then you already know a lot more about sales than you think you do. Now use that knowledge in the hiring process.
Interview candidates for how they sell. Ask specifically about the strategies you know work in your market. Look for proven experience and results selling in a manner that you’ve seen to be successful with your current clients.
Candidates might have more sales experience than you do, but nobody can match your experience in your company.
Set the right expectations from the beginning. Many business owners are comfortable talking about a candidate’s experience, but not the expectations they envision for a new sales person.
This is a big mistake.
If you establish expectations and accountability from the first interview, then your sales person won’t be in for any surprises later as you monitor activities and results.
Talking about performance expectations opens the door for you to be more involved as a sales manager. And as an added benefit, it establishes a clear picture of the role. Those who don’t feel they can be successful will look for work elsewhere, saving you valuable time and money.
Keep an eye on things once the seller’s on board. The difference between a “good” hire and a “bad” one isn’t always cut and dry. Often a new sales person could go either way. It’s your input and development that helps them to succeed. Even if your new sales producer has a long track record in your industry, make a point of meeting with him or her weekly.
Review activity results, opportunities in the pipeline, and plans for the coming week. Discuss where he’d like support.
These sessions keep them on track and avoid misunderstandings down the line.
Not every sales person you hire is going to work out. But by following this advice and making smart interviewing decisions, you can turn your sales position from a source of stress to a source of new business and profits.