If you’re having trouble hiring high-performing sales executives, you’re not alone. There is a systemic issue with these highly important resources that make or break a company’s performance.
Regardless of your company’s sales resources needs, it’s important to understand there are best recruitment and interviewing techniques to help secure any long-term successful employee.
I’ve addressed these techniques separately in The Hiring Prophecies: Psychology behind Recruiting Successful Employees. That book will help you understand and implement a successful recruitment structure irrespective of your particular resource needs.
Why is it so difficult to hire high performing sales executives?
When it comes to sales executives, however, there is an extra layer of difficulty. In this guide, I’ll share why that’s the case and techniques to improve your success rate.
The reason is simple—it’s so difficult because it’s a shade below impossible to simulate their future performance in your organization regardless of their past performance.
This is true in the most extended interviewing processes, but a virtual certainty in condensed ones. This issue is further exacerbated because many sales people are articulate (even if not strong in critical reasoning) and their eloquence masks their efficacy to an untrained interviewer.
What can you do to improve your success rate when hiring sales executives?
They’re smart! They’re articulate! They look good! That’s what you see above the surface. You need to examine who they truly are.
Simply because they’ve been successful elsewhere and have a wonderful network of business colleagues and friends doesn’t mean they’re your answer. Perhaps they were selling a household-named product. Perhaps they scored it big with a customer who blindly kept buying. Who knows?
To effectively assess them, you need to look at their history and project their future.
Most interviewers take a look at history in this manner, “Walk me through your most (or least) successful sale? Take me through it step by step so I can get an understanding of your sales techniques.”
This is helpful in some regard, but you’re turning control of the interview over to the sales candidates and also allowing them to explain something they’ve likely crafted to perfection. I suggest augmenting questions such as those with what I like to call “looking under the sales iceberg.”
Look Under the Iceberg!
Thousands of evaluations have shown me there are eight major areas to evaluate (only as a starting point) to ensure the sales person can actually sell. That means a-c-t-u-a-l-l-y sell.
It doesn’t mean “who they know” or “how they sound” or “how they look.”
While understanding these eight areas alone won’t provide the entire picture, it will offer significant evidence of their historical achievements as well as insight into how they will likely perform:
- Products & Services. What do they sell—is it a product, a service, or other?
- Target Buyer & Companies. To whom do they sell—target buyers and target companies?
- Techniques. How do they sell it—warm calls, cold calls, consultative selling, and/or transactional selling?
- Lead Generation & Qualification. How do they identify and gather leads? Do they do their own research? Do they leverage marketing channels, campaigns, target lists, and so on?
- Involvement. Understand their involvement in the sales process. Where do they start and finish in the process?
- Follow Up & Tools. What follow up tools and techniques do they use? What sales training and methodologies do they use?
- Quota Management, Achievement, & Distribution. Do they have a quota? What are their actual achievements against their target quota (for the last few years)? How was their revenue achieved (i.e., customer distribution, new customers, old customers, percentages for new and old, and so forth)?
- Communication & Presence. How well do they communicate? How effective is their logic? Are they presentable? Do they listen well?
Simulate the future!
Now that you have a sense of their history, it’s important to evaluate how they’ll likely perform.
My first suggestion is to avoid the typical Critical Behavior Interview (CBI) questions as a method to assess past behavior as a predictor of future behavior. We’re not looking for future behaviors—we are looking for future results!
The best way to evaluate future results is to simulate the future they are most likely to encounter in your environment. You know this best. After all, it’s your company.
Why not put them in real live situations you’ve recently encountered and ask them what they would do? How would they handle this particular scenario? What would they say? How would they resolve the issue? How would they develop the strategy?
This might sound obvious, but most companies completely ignore the most predictive criteria in favor of what the candidate did in the past.
The most effective interviewing processes, and therefore the ones that lead to the greatest long-term results, are those that look at three major facets of time—the candidate’s past (achievements), their present (current knowledge, skill base), and future (simulations of real-life situations they’re virtually certain to encounter).
For much more information on how to conduct these interviews, check out The Hiring Prophecies: Psychology behind Recruiting Successful Employees.
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