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What to look for when recruiting salespeople


What to look for when recruiting salespeople


Let’s be clear from the outset. I find it somewhat frustrating when people make simplistic claims and statements about salespeople like: ‘super sales performers are all risk takers and oblivious to rejection and failure’.

Statements like this are simply not true and trivialise the complex world of selling by trying to box people without proper analysis and insight.

As you prepare for next financial year and you are looking at sales recruitment, your first step must be to create your ideal sales force blueprint.

Design your sales force for your business needs to get great results. It’s all in the thinking and planning, before the execution.

By designing your ‘ideal’ sales force blue print, you can build and achieve the following in your business:

  • Change your culture by creating the sales culture you want
  • Design the ideal sales force you want
  • Recruit the sales force you want / your strategy needs
  • Refresh your thinking, ideas, actions and results
  • Develop career paths and succession planning
  • Clear performance expectations
  • Clearer, more accountable, performance reviews
  • Provide a framework for identifying what a high performing sales person looks for your business.
  • Profiling of the core sales capabilities / competencies for sales managers/ sales people for use in recruitment, performance management, training, coaching and succession planning, and
  • Provide a framework for assessing the caliber of candidates as defined by core competencies and values.

It’s important to start this sales force plan with the end in mind.What do you want to see happen to your business in the next five years and how do you visualise it happening? 

By beginning with the end in mind, you can then work backwards and plan your business progression by mapping it out over the next 3-5 years, taking into account your revenue and profit projections, then plan your sales force around these guidelines/goals including the appointment of your sales team.

I am a firm believer that like most things, there is no “one size fits all approach” and this is particularly true when it comes to your sales people.

Research shows that there are many types of effective sales people for different types of clients, products and markets. Just because a sales person may be excellent in one market may not mean they are well suited for another.

By determining a salesperson’s natural tendency or selling style, we can ensure that this is linked to the customer and products unique needs.

If you don’t know it already, sales recruitment is one of the toughest assignments around.  I know this firsthand, as I was in this role for over 8 years with a leading consultancy and recruitment company. During this time, I interviewed about 8,000 sales people face-to-face in the technical, industrial, medical, and scientific industries.  This gave me true insight into effective sales people and the behaviours required for different industry sectors and businesses as well as making me plainly aware of the costs involved in getting sales recruitment wrong.

The problem is that, for most managers or business owners, sales recruitment happens sporadically and too many managers still use unstructured recruitment practices that are the least predictive of sales performance.  Most are just winging it, relying on gut feel, and never getting enough experience to give them something to fall back on when they need it. It’s recruitment by hope, recruitment by chance.

Taking this ad hoc approach adds to the cost of sales recruitment because even if you get it right, you don’t know why you got it right, therefore making it difficult to repeat the process.

With everyone being so focused on cost management its also important we do the math on the cost of sales recruitment and the cost of getting it wrong.  So how to avoid this cost.

Sales assessments can be the next step once you have your blueprint in place. Effectively predicting sales success is critical to any business’ success and using well designed, rigorous psychometric assessments as part of a sales selection process can really boost our chances of finding and retaining the right sales people for our business. 

You can use psychometric assessments with other tools such as behavioural interviews, simulation exercises and structured reference checks as part of a selection process.

While they are effective, psychometric assessments should account for no more than 20 per cent of your decision-making criteria. Sadly, many people rely on overly simplistic grid type assessments that are not predictive of sales success or purpose built for sales recruitment and are even less reliable than ‘gut’ feel. To make sure you receive a quality assessment, use recruitment grade assessments that are purpose built to measure specific qualities, abilities or attributes.

Remember, our sales forces should be organised so that the natural selling style of the salesperson compliments the kind of product or service that they are selling, and fit in with the customer’s market.

My point is that we all need to know what type of sales role and sales person our businesses need to prosper. By determining a salesperson’s natural tendency or selling style, we can ensure that this is linked to the customer and products unique needs.


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