Hunting Big Sales with Tom Searcy

6 mistakes Hiring Managers make when hiring Sales people

Guest Faculty post by Dave Hickman

Right now in the US talent marketplace, the two toughest roles to find, attract, and hire are IT specialists and great sales people.   Sales people are everywhere you look, however the great ones who can hunt for leads, think strategically, build trust and then close business are as difficult to find as unicorns in a blizzard.    

Over the last 15 years, we’ve helped companies hire over 4,000 sales reps, management, and leadership professionals in critical revenue generating roles for startups through Fortune 500 companies.  Because sales professionals come in all kinds of sizes, shapes, and flavors that relate to products, services, industries, types of decision makers, and size of deals, no one size fits all criteria.  However, what matters the most is they exist to drive revenue, and a bad hire will cost you 3X their salary if terminated at 12 months.  With an investment of that magnitude, having the right strategy and process in place to minimize risk and increase probability of success is absolutely critical.

Therefore, we’ve compiled the top 6 mistakes we see hiring managers make when attracting, assessing, and hiring sales professionals.  Focus on a couple at a time and gain confidence in your decisions to hire great sales people.

1. Misaligned your sales profile to what you’re selling – If your average sale is 3k, 30 day sales cycle, targeted to one low/mid level decision makers at fortune 1000 companies, you don’t need a highly skilled strategic sales person who is used to closing 500K deals over 6-9 months with multiple buyers.  This is a common mistake companies make when they want a whale hunter but really need is a transactional sales person.

2. Don’t use Competencies as data points – Managers understand skills, cultural fit, and hunter/farmer descriptors.  However, when it comes to competencies, most organizations outside Fortune 1000 fail to understand that competencies such as persuasion and influence, attention to detail, critical thinking (to name a few) are absolutely critical when hiring the right person.

3. Ask the wrong questions – Behavior-based questions are questions based on past experiences and have the highest correlation to future success. Use them…they work!

4. Break the 90/10 Rule – The 90/10 rule for hiring is that you should be listening 90% of the time and speaking 10% of the time.  This ties to #3. If you are asking behavior-based questions to determine how well the candidates exhibit the competencies, you will be listening a lot more than speaking.  Most sales managers want to “sell” the candidate on the opportunity, or ask situational questions and mutually engage.  Big mistake.  Ask the right questions and listen.  You’ll be surprised on what you learn.

5. Waste precious time by vetting candidates late in the process – Vet often and early.  Saves you, your organization, and the candidate time, which gets you one step closer to finding the right person.

6. Hire on gut, on resume and personality – Have you ever heard someone say, “Man, that guy was a stud!  Looked good in a suit!  Great handshake and presence. Star performer!”  After 6-12 months when the candidate crashed and burned, we hear, “How could I have been fooled? This guy was not who I thought he was.”  The reason is too much weight on external factors cause a bias that prevents objective assessment during the rest of the interview process. I agree that some of these external factors are relevant, especially if you sit in your customer’s shoes and ask if they matter to them. But they are only external data points that fit into a bigger picture.  Weighing them more heavily than the rest of the factors increases your risk of blind spots that will have you wondering what happened.  To find the real truth, all data points fill in the picture of how past (and recent) behaviors will impact future performance. 

These six mistakes are the ones that create the hiring failures that plague not, just the sales leaders, but all leaders when hiring.  Within each mistake listed is an alternative approach designed to improve your frequency of hiring the quality talent you need.

Posted by Jessica Soriano in Hiring/Firing/Paying.


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