Fix the 5 Reasons Sales Hiring is So Hard to Get Right

We work with many companies, both small and large, who suffer from the same issues when it comes to hiring. They all have difficulty attracting, selecting and onboarding the right salespeople.

Repeatedly, we hear the frustration of executives who have wasted countless hours and thousands of dollars hiring salespeople who don’t work out. Compounding the problem is that when the market is tight for good sales talent, hiring managers feel pushed to just fill positions, not understanding that hiring poorly likely will cost the company three to five times the hire’s annual compensation.

Sales hiring is the most difficult to do

When it comes to hiring salespeople, the task is much more difficult than when hiring for other positions. Here are the reasons why:

  • Most job postings are not focused on what matters to the right candidate. Instead, we write ads focused on how great our company is, rather than on why a certain type of candidate would make a great fit.
  • Resumes stink. They are merely marketing tools likely created by a professional resume writer. And, for some reason, because the information is in writing, we choose to believe it. I have read that over 30 million people secure jobs each year by lying on their resume. And a recruiter friend of mine claims that nearly 100% of people lie on the resumes he sees. Yikes!
  • Sales candidates are likely better at question-asking than the interviewer. It is all too frequent that the interviewee becomes the interviewer. All they need to do is ask a couple questions and the interviewer is off and running with all kinds of information, likely because they would rather boast about their company than ask tough questions that might make the interviewee uncomfortable. And because the interviewer did most of the talking, they will end up liking the candidate.
  • Trusting one’s gut. Hiring managers who do not frequently conduct interviews are most susceptible to this it seems. Rather than approaching the interview with a plan in place, they simply try to determine whether the interviewee will fit in the organization. In other words, they look for someone similar enough to themselves that they will enjoy managing. Gut calls are only right about 14% of the time yet most sales hiring decisions are based at least partially on gut.
  • Not providing adequate onboarding to enable the new salesperson to excel quickly. Too often the burden of onboarding a new salesperson is placed on the manager’s shoulders although he or she already has a full plate. The manager has every good intention but ends up getting pulled in other directions and the salesperson is left floundering. Some managers even view it as a test to see if the salesperson can make it. This is shortsighted and money wasting.

Solving the problem

The solution is simple: Instead of settling for the way it’s always been done, commit to a process and have a vision of an upgraded sales team. Here’s a five-step, nearly foolproof plan of attack that will upgrade your sales team through effective and efficient sales hiring.

  1. Use a precise manner to attract the right kind of candidates. Bust out of boring sales ads and really describe the ideal person you are seeking. This will at least get the right candidates thinking about the position. And, when the market is tight, be proactive about going after the type of candidates that have experience selling the way you need them to sell to be successful.
  2. Complete an objective assessment tool before wasting precious time reviewing resumes. Before you fall in love with any candidates, implement the use of a predictive, completely objective assessment, like the Objective Management Group battery of tools we’re partial to, the only ones designed specifically for sales roles. See a sample report here.
  3. Briefly screen recommended candidates from the assessment via phone or video. Create a repeatable template of interview questions to use in the screening then implement a scorecard system to rate candidates based on necessary requirements to be effective in the position.
  4. Conduct a thorough interview of the highest scoring, screened individuals. These are the key elements to follow:
    • Ask everyone a set of the same questions, ones that help you understand how the candidates will fit in with your position.
    • Focus on their resume and ask behavioral questions based on their stated performance. A great, easy-to-read book that provides good guidance on conducting this portion of the interview is “Who: A Method for Hiring” by Geoffrey Smart.
    • Use the questions from the assessment report to dig into those areas lurking beneath the surface of the candidate. Find out if the gaps in the candidate’s skills will be too significant to overcome.
    • Once you follow this process and have the objective information from the assessment, feel free to become subjective. For example: Do they have the right swagger, the right handshake, the appropriate confidence, etc.?
  1. Follow a repeatable and predictive onboarding program for the candidate you hire. The key components of successful onboarding include shifting the responsibility to the new hire for getting what is necessary to be successful out of the program. Start by determining what the individual needs to gain or master from each step of the onboarding program. If you need a place to start, you’ll find a good 90-day overview template here.

Demystifying salesperson hiring and onboarding

By following the repeatable 5-step process we’ve described, you’ll upgrade your sales team and improve its success. Just remember to use science before falling in love with a candidate. To see typical results this program can accomplish, read this case study and if you want help with any of these elements, just contact us.