Attract Top Talent by Preparing Ahead of the Interview

Most people heading to a job interview know that preparation is critical to make a good impression and increase the chance of getting a good offer. Because of this, candidates take time to ensure they are ready, doing research on the company and devising answers to potential questions. On the flip side, interviewers within an organization should also take time to prepare to interview a prospective hire.

Qualified candidates can be difficult to find. You don’t want to squander an opportunity to make a good hire by not being prepared or not making a good impression during the interview. Hiring managers need to understand the stakes are high, particularly in revenue-generating sales positions. Ultimately, time and money are wasted if you struggle to hire qualified candidates due to poor interviewing or a bad offer.

Start with a Clear Description

A critical element that is often overlooked in the small to medium sized business market is that job descriptions and duties may not be clearly documented and well understood across both sides of the interview table. Likewise, in a larger corporate environment, the HR department may not fully understand the details of the position, so specifics get lost in translation.

Data has proven the correlation between poorly written job descriptions and higher turnover. This can easily stem from mutual frustration at expectations not being met by employers or their new hires. To attract “A players,” a hiring manager must have a detailed job description that clearly identifies job duties, scope of work, and expectations.

Ask Questions and Actively Listen to the Answers

Once you have a solid job description written, strategically think about the qualifications necessary to fulfill the role. Use this information to create questions that go below the surface. Questions should vary from position to position within an organization because the qualifications for roles are different.

Don’t focus on their past experience or other information that can be gleaned from their resume; aim to dig deeper.

Here are some example questions to use as a framework to help you dig deeper when talking with a potential candidate:

  • What are some obstacles you have been able to overcome?
  • Can you succinctly describe a complex issue that you are knowledgeable about?
  • How does this position fit into your long-term career goals?
  • What mistakes have you made and what did were lessons learned from these experiences?
  • How do you handle conflict within your team or with a client?
  • Can you share an example of a work success that demonstrates teamwork and group interaction?

The ultimate goal is to gain a sense of the traits of the candidates including what drives and motivates them through their answers to the questions related to the position. Industry knowledge can be taught, and candidate mindset is a better indicator of success.

Download our free guide, A Simpler Way to Recruit and Hire Top Sales Talent, to get started on the path to finding your next top performer.

Five Mistakes That Keep You From Finding the Best Salesperson

Assembling the best possible sales team can be a gamechanger for your business. But like most things in life, it doesn’t just happen. Locating, recruiting, and hiring top sales talent requires planning, ingenuity, expertise, and focused action. To thrive in competitive hiring markets, you need to create a value proposition that attracts highly qualified sales candidates. Bear in mind, though: Your company is not the only one out there looking.

So what can you do to give yourself the proverbial leg up on the competition and guarantee that you will successfully identify and attract the best sales talent? Start by avoiding these common pitfalls that keep businesses from hiring the optimal candidate.

Mistake # 1 Your Ideal Candidate Profile is Unclear

Can candidates easily decipher what qualities, experience, aptitudes, attitudes, and skillsets are required to be successful in the role? If not, you may waste time talking to the wrong candidates, leading to frustration on both sides of the table. Writing an effective ideal candidate profile for a sales position is critical.

Additionally, the scope of the position should concisely indicate what an employee is responsible for in their role, as well as the nature of the work environment. While clearly outlining desired traits and responsibilities won’t alone enable you to hire the best salesperson, it will help you build a stellar candidate pool.

Mistake # 2 Your Company Brand is Weak

Strong companies understand that branding goes hand in hand with creating a good company culture, so remember that your company brand needs to be more than simply creating an appealing footprint for clients. Cultivate a positive culture that is reflected throughout your brand. Doing so will reduce turnover by creating happier salespeople. And happy employees are not only more likely to remain with your company longer; they are more productive and tend to create more positive experiences for your clients. In short, a strong brand creates a win-win situation. You get more qualified sales candidates who will perform better for a longer period of time.

But managing your brand goes beyond what happens inside the walls of the company. Sites such as Yelp, Facebook, and Glassdoor allow people to post employment feedback about your company, including management style, benefits, and compensation. If a revolving door of salespeople is reflected in the form of negative reviews, potential employees may not consider your company a good place to work.

Mistake # 3 You Are Valuing the Wrong Skills – or Ignoring the Right Ones

While technical skills are important to employee success, soft skills are equally critical. Mindset accounts for 80% of success whereas skillset makes up the other 20%. Obviously, this does not mean every potential sales hire has to be a happy-go-lucky ball of sunshine. But it does mean a candidate’s personality and mindset play roles in who will be a good fit, so keep those things in mind during the interview. Also, valuing interpersonal skills such as conflict resolution or emotional intelligence can play a vital role in finding the right candidates.

Taking into account how a potential hire will work within your organization is vital. Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your current sales team also enables you to identify your needs and find the best fit. The right candidate needs personality and/or character traits that match the demands of the job.

Mistake # 4 Your Interview is Ineffective

An old computer programming phrase can easily be applied to interviewing candidates: garbage in, garbage out. It means that concentrating on the wrong data will lead to the wrong results. The interview process for sales jobs can be easily sabotaged by underprepared, distracted, careless, or indifferent interviewers.

The best way to gauge a candidate’s aptitudes, qualifications, and skills is to use behavior-based testing alongside insightful questions designed to measure core competencies. Far too many sales managers believe they can pick good candidates based on their gut feelings, and unfortunately, this is rarely the case.

Mistake # 5 Your Sales Hiring Process Prevents Retention

Hiring and retention are really two sides of the same coin. Paying attention to one without also taking care of the other is like sailing in a leaking boat: No matter how much you bail out the water, the situation will not improve until you find and fix the leak that is causing the problem. For your hiring process, the first step in “fixing the leak” is to improve employee retention, and it needs to start even before your new hire does. A comprehensive and well-designed onboarding plan helps new employees know what to expect and prepares them to hit the ground running. It sets clear expectations, provides necessary information and training, and helps them to forge relationships within your company, ultimately improving company culture.

Another simple way to “fix the leak” and invest in your company culture is to survey your employees to create mutually beneficial solutions. Cultivating a company culture that focuses on making everyone feel valued and empowered can dramatically improve morale, productivity, and employee turnover rates.

Hiring the best salesperson for your team does not happen by accident. It is a deliberate process that requires attention, ingenuity, and planning. Avoiding these common mistakes is just the first step in building the best possible sales team to drive your revenue. Download our free ebook, How to Recruit, Hire, and Onboard Top Sales Performers, to get started on the path to finding your next top performer.

Your Most Valuable Resource: The Right People in the Right Positions

Business leaders are fond of saying, “People are your most valuable resource.” It is one of those generic, feel-good statements that seems like the right thing to say, but is it accurate? What if you have employees in positions performing work that they are not particularly good at? Maybe a more precise statement would be “The right people in the right positions are your most valuable resource.”

Sales is the engine of your company, powering the revenue generation you are aiming to achieve. And for engines to generate maximum horsepower, all pistons need to be firing. Carefully recruiting the best talent for your sales organization is a vital step to ensuring maximum sales performance. To do this properly, start with a clear understanding of how you are going to execute your revenue generation strategy so you know exactly what type of sales role needs to be filled. Is your strategy to seek out new clients to expand your customer base? Or is it to grow existing client revenue by selling deeper into your product or service portfolio? The path you take plays a big role in defining the type of seller you will be looking to hire. Typically, a business development salesperson will be a hunter, while a revenue expansion salesperson will be a farmer. Rarely is a person a combination of both as their characteristics are quite different:

  • Sales Hunter: A salesperson who seeks out new opportunities, often utilizes a consultative sales approach, and innately finds and assesses an opportunity within a prospect. Common traits include being innovative, motivating, excellent with communication skills, and assertive.
  • Sales Farmer: A salesperson who builds and cultivates relationships and opportunities, typically within existing accounts. Common traits include being likeable and caring, a good team member, empathetic to needs of others, and detailed oriented.

But ensuring you have the right talent does not end once the hiring process is completed. Just as important is for sales leaders to observe their salespeople in action, to watch them interact with prospects and clients. How well do they make personal connections? Are they communicating your value proposition in a compelling manner? Do they need further sales training to better fine-tune their selling skills? While this may seem obvious, a survey conducted by Sales Xceleration, a national provider of Outsourced VP of Sales services, found that only 50% of companies have had someone travel with their salespeople in the past 12 months. Yes, this requires a significant investment in time, but high performing sales teams are led by sales leaders who truly recognize the value in force multiplication, and for that to occur you must have the right people in the right positions.

 

The Importance of Building a Top-Performing Sales Team

I recently met with one of my clients to discuss the company’s sales team. They had ten salespeople on their team.

Five of the salespeople had brought in about 40-45% of the company’s revenue, and two others also brought in about 40-45% of his revenue. A bigger problem, though, was the remaining three that only brought in 10-15%. Those three were dragging down the team.

The biggest problem that the President was starting to realize was that the top two performers were becoming disgruntled and would probably leave the company. As I did my initial interviews with these two, they confided in me they had become frustrated that every time the company needed more revenue, the challenge was given to them to bring it in the door.

To keep their spirits up, I told them that these challenges were an honor. Like in basketball, you have your best players on the floor when the score is tied, with a minute left in the 4th quarter. One of them replied, “But if the 7th man would have made his four free throws, two layups, and grabbed those two defensive rebounds in the 3rd quarter, the score wouldn’t be tied at the end.”

Great people want to be surrounded by great people. Top athletes want to play on the same team as other top athletes. Top salespeople want to work in the same company as other top salespeople.

Every salesperson knows that s/he is only part of the manager’s number. The manager’s number is probably 90% of the sum of the team. If there are ten people on the team and three of them are not doing their job, then the manager’s pressure doesn’t go to the struggling three; it goes to the top salespeople. They are challenged to bring in more deals in the quarter. They need to be creative and sell more product upgrades or pull in a sale from next quarter by offering a great deal. They don’t want to do this, but the manager needs the revenue. This deal-making puts the top salespeople an opportunity or two down for the next quarter. Now they have to push even harder to get to even.

Just like in football, the team doesn’t win if everyone isn’t doing their job. Linemen need to block, running backs need to run fast and not fumble, and wide receivers need to catch the ball in bounds. Every individual position contributes to the success of the team.

Good salespeople on an underperforming team feel like Sisyphus trying to get the stone to the top of the hill. Nothing they do is good enough. They are frequently asked to do more while seeing their less-skilled peers praised or even rewarded for just getting by.

The solution is obvious, but it may not be easy if you are not an experienced sales manager. You need to “trade up” on sales reps that cannot perform. Yes, you need to train underperforming contributors, but at a certain point, you cannot wait anymore. Underperforming salespeople will frequently perform better in their next job, so do not despair too much. Those at the bottom of the leaderboard are seldom happy and content. If they are content, then you have an even bigger problem.

The next step in trading up is even more critical. You need to find talent that will perform. This isn’t easy, but it also isn’t rocket science. Don’t advertise in all of the usual places. You will be inundated with applicants, and finding that needle in the haystack is virtually impossible. Rely on a competent recruiter to find you qualified candidates and only qualified candidates. This will cost you a bit of money, but it will be a fraction of the cost of a bad hire, and it will be faster and use less of your resources.

Once that recruitment agency has found you 2-4 high-quality candidates, you should put the candidate through a test. There are many of them out there, but I suggest PXT Select Specialized Behavioral Assessment for Sales. PXT Select is a unique selection assessment that fills the gap between the resume and the interview. Powered by the latest assessment technology, PXT Select drives a suite of reports that that are useful throughout the employee lifecycle. Its suite of sales-specific reports focuses on an individual’s approach to critical sales practices, helping you gain insight and confidence in hiring the right salespeople.

The most significant risk in having a sales organization with too many non-performing salespeople is that your top performers will get frustrated and leave. Top people want to be around other top people. If you do not have a strategy to improve continually, you may find yourself in real trouble as your best salespeople become free agents and join a championship team.

Take my free online Sales Agility Assessment, or email me directly at soshaughnessey@salesxceleration.com to learn how I can help your business build a top-performing sales team and process.

Improving Your Sales Recruitment and Hiring Process

You have completed your sales hiring process: waded through the sea of resumes, conducted interviews, and finally have your new salesperson in place. Time for them to begin driving revenue for your business, right? Hopefully. But it can be difficult to know if the person you have selected from the candidate pool will meet your sales expectations. And if that pool didn’t include the highest-level talent, you were behind before you even began. How can you be sure that your new sales hire was the top talent available? Your process for recruiting and hiring salespeople is pivotal in answering that question.

Time, Time, Time

Every minute that a sales position is unfilled represents lost revenue, and for that reason you need to fill roles quickly. But often, an extensive (time-consuming) search is needed to find the candidates with the most performance power. Sorting through online databases of resumes can be a dead end and presents an incomplete picture of potential hires. Likewise, online job listings acquire the good, the bad, and the unqualified. Often, the best talent is already taken and reaching them with your opportunity can present a challenge. But finding the time to gather the best possible candidate pool is the first step in hiring sales leaders and salespeople.

Because of the time needed to accomplish this, many businesses turn to recruiting agencies to be their eyes and ears. Outsourcing the recruiting process takes you out of this first step entirely, filtering out potential hires that might be underqualified or an otherwise bad fit for your organization.

The Network

Taking the time to gather candidates also means working your network to find the best possible leads. This is another step in the hiring process that can benefit from utilizing a sales recruiting firm. Recruiting firms expand your network exponentially. No matter how many connections you may have on LinkedIn, they have more. Their only job is to identify leaders in their industry and connect the right people with the right opportunities. A good sales recruiting firm will take the time upfront to gain an in-depth understanding of the position you are looking to fill, and vet candidates from their network to greatly widen your reach.

In Your Corner

In order to find the best sales talent, you need to have someone working with your interests in mind who can focus on only one thing: finding the best possible person for the job. Compare this with expecting in-house personnel to handle the hiring process across departments or in addition to managing their own responsibilities. Smaller businesses may find that they lack the necessary skillset to identify candidates that will generate revenue. Seeking the knowledge and experience of a specialized sales recruiting firm can eliminate this issue and free up company time to concentrate on other objectives.

The best way to guarantee that you select the highest performing sales hires is to have an effective sales recruiting and hiring process in place. Improving that process starts with partnering with a proven sales recruiting agency.

Follow these Five Steps to Hiring the Right Salesperson to set your company up for more revenue generation or contact us to learn more about our recruiting solutions.


 

Hiring a Salesperson? Consider Recruiting Outside Your Industry

Hiring a salesperson with experience is important, but hiring a salesperson with experience inside your industry is even better, right? Wrong! In fact, confining your sales talent search to candidates inside your industry may short-circuit your sales recruiting success. Skeptical? Here’s why recruiting and hiring a salesperson based solely on experience inside your industry is a bad idea:

The Right Kind of Sales Experience Is What Matters Most

If it seems surprising that industry experience is not that valuable to sales success, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your sales process truly different based on your industry’s products and services? 
  • Are your industry’s buyers wired so differently they respond only to highly specialized industry-specific sales strategies and methods?
  • Does your business really need another in-house expert regarding your products, services, or industry?

If you answered “no” to these questions, ask yourself one more:

  • Does your company truly need a salesperson accomplished and experienced in driving new business – regardless of their industry background? 

If you answered “yes” to this one, you’ve uncovered a competitive advantage when it comes to effective sales hiring.

Surprisingly, industry knowledge is seldom the most important criteria in sales success. In fact, other factors rank higher:

  1. Bottom-line sales competency and a proven track record in achieving strategic sales goals. 
  2. How the new salesperson will fit in with your organization’s culture. 

If you undervalue the first two critical sales recruiting factors, your sales success will suffer regardless of your new salesperson’s industry experience.

Why Industry Experience Can Actually Damage Sales Recruiting and Hiring

The Revolving Door Effect

Salespeople who move from company to company within an industry might be knowledgeable about the industry itself, but unskilled at sales. After all, why move around so much if they are that valuable and adept at selling? Why are they so often available? Why the revolving door?

Change is Hard

Business owners often believe hiring a salesperson away from a competitor will lure their former customers, too. This seldom happens. Why? Because customers don’t like extra upheaval. Changing their sales rep is one thing; changing the products and services they use is more difficult. 

Bad Sales Habits Repeat Themselves 

Salespeople with direct industry experience are expected to hit the ground running, providing speed-to-revenue while reducing training cost. But an over-reliance on an industry-experienced sales background might also result in recycled bad habits and the rejection of new sales processes.

Sales Proficiency Takes Years to Develop

It’s surprising but true: Most qualified salespeople can learn the required industry, market and product knowledge in three to four months – time that should correlate with your normal onboarding and orientation process. Sales proficiency, on the other hand, can take many years to develop – as many as 10 to 20 years. 

A Better Way to Recruit and Hire Sales Talent

Recruiting only inside your industry can undermine sales, upset your company culture, and reduce chances for overall success. On the other hand, expanding your search beyond your industry can land you a superior sales professional with years of success honing their craft. Indeed, a top salesperson who consistently achieves or exceeds quotas has the skill set and discipline to attain similar results anywhere. What’s more, top salespeople capable of switching industry focus may bring fresh perspectives and creative approaches to your sales operations.

So, the bottom line is this: Hire the best sales talent available, regardless of industry. Period. 

Another way to improve your sales recruiting and discover more high-quality sales candidates is by outsourcing your sales recruiting. Dedicated sales recruiters can simplify and streamline the process. They can also make it easier to expand your search to sales candidates outside your industry AND even to include top sales candidates not actively seeking new employment.

Breakaway Sales Recruiting specializes in placing sales candidates that deliver revenue results. Guaranteed. Our dedicated talent managers go deeper than standard sales recruiting. They factor in sales experience (inside and outside your industry) and many other critical factors while taking the burden of recruiting off you and your team. 

To learn more about Breakaway Sales Recruiting, contact us today at 844.874.7253.