Getting the the sales hiring process right is never easy, but it is vital to the long-term success of your business. It can be difficult for small and medium sized businesses as recruitment agencies can often be expensive and having the right industry contacts can sometimes be a struggle.
I took some time to have a chat with one of our partners last week, Jeff Gardner. As founder of one of the leading training and consulting organizations, Maximum Performance Group, he certainly knows his stuff when it comes to hiring the right people for your ‘A Team’. So we put some questions to him to find out what does and doesn’t make a good hire.
What, in your opinion, makes a good hire?
It’s difficult and can vary from position to position; someone can perform incredibly well in the office products industry but sink quickly when selling in the automotive industry.
However, there are a couple of important traits that resound across any industry when it comes to hiring new staff. Intelligence, ambition, autonomy and leadership are all givens, but what about the cultural fit with your business? If anything, I think this is one of the most important traits any new hire can have. This trait means the difference between an employee that flits from position to position, consistently failing to produce results and an all-star individual on your team.
You can train an employee tirelessly on your product, the industry and their competition, but you can’t train someone to have integrity, resilience and a strong work ethic.
What skills do you think are most important in sales positions?
Outside of the obvious industry experience, qualifications and good references, there are a couple of qualities that are equally as important.
Initiative and energy are some of the biggies here. Good results and success will not fall into your lap. Ever. Sales don’t just happen, they are made. It’s all about problem-solving and taking the time to explain why your product is better than a competitor’s. Energy is also vital – it will set them apart from other candidates and emanate from them the second they step into your office. With energy and enthusiasm come excited customers and good sales practice.
How important is leadership in nurturing new employees?
Leading and guiding new salespeople is not a simple thing to do. It is often the case that poor sales performance can be linked back to the sales leader and ineffective sales leadership fosters underperforming sales people. As a sales leader, you must take the time to get to know your new hires, share the vision of your company and be patient! Spending time with them will make them feel welcome, upbeat and not just another avenue to a better bottom line.
Leadership is not a matter of dictating what new employees do and how they should behave, but a matter of employee engagement and making them feel good and valued to be a part of your business. Ruling by fear has quickly become a no-no.
Would you say experience is more important than expertize?
Just because a candidate has worked in your industry for the last 15 years doesn’t necessarily mean they can perform the sales role you are looking to fill. What’s to say they haven’t been lucky to keep their job for the last 15 years, just bumping along and not making any real impression? Luck and success are two very different things in the workplace.
While there are few things more valuable than being able to call upon experience to make decisions, expertize in any position is just as important. Personal experience of similar situations, knowing how to deal with difficult predicaments or having the knowledge to make the right call will count.
With experience comes expertize and a true master of your field. But it is worth remembering that sometimes we don’t want or need a new hire with 20 years worth of experience that knows the industry inside out and is potentially stuck in their ways. Graduates and ‘fresh meat’ can often bring something to the table that may freshen up your approach and can be trained and moulded to your business.
How bad is a bad hire?
In short, you’re looking at wasting upwards of $50,000 or more with hiring the wrong person. The consequences of hiring someone who isn’t right for the job can be costly and even detrimental to the morale of your other team members. From salary and expenses to the loss of time spent on training, bringing the wrong person on board can really hit your business hard. You know as well as I do that there are absolutely no guarantees when it comes to hiring, however when you take the time to do it properly, you can greatly reduce your chances of failure.
It all boils down to the interview. Give us some of your favorite questions.
Personally, I think that it is important that you design questions that elicit a behavioral response that meets the requirements for the position. To find out about a candidate’s ability to prospect, you might ask: “What is your response to the objection: I’m happy with my current supplier” or “how do you get the attention of the decision maker?”
Interviews for sales positions can be interesting. In effect, candidates are essentially selling themselves to their prospective employer. “How do you currently convert a lead into a prospect?”, “Tell me about the selling process in your last job?” and “Why are you here?” are all strong questions – the last is a particularly good one to ask right at the very beginning of the interview; it can tell you everything you need to know about a person.