Hiring salespeople while avoiding mistakes

This is one of the most important decisions you will make — it will greatly affect the future of your company, yet most companies do a very poor job of this. Most times we write a job description and then give it to a recruiter — internal or external — who collects resumes and scans for keywords like industry experience or product knowledge. But how can one explain a scenario like this:

We need a rep to handle General Electric — GE is our biggest customer but we are getting killed by our #1 competitor. It is time for a change in leadership.

A search begins and over time we narrow down our selection to a final three candidates:

  • Salesrep A — longtime employee with deep product knowledge and some GE relationships and knowledge. Used to handle GE.
  • Salesrep B — New employee with no industry experience nor GE experience, but got off to a fast start. Obviously talented, but has never managed GE.
  • Salesrep C — worked for our #1 competitor, where he had worldwide responsibility for GE.

Based on the above, which rep would you have given the job to? Salesrep C did the job for our competitor. He is obviously our best choice. But I had firsthand experience with all three, and I can tell you what really happened. Salesrep B was the best by a country mile!

Salesrep A handled it first and got us into a mess. Salesrep B — who never managed GE before stepped up and asked to handle GE — and proceeded to dramatically outperform A. After B left, C was hired (the logical first choice) but he underperformed a large margin — and was soon fired.

The one with the least experience, no industry knowledge and no contacts did best — and it was not even close. And the logical choice, with experience and good contacts failed.

How is this possible? And if there is no correlation between experience and results, how do we identify the best candidates?

If resumes are poor predictors of sales success, so this begs the question. What makes a good salesperson? How do we avoid hiring bad salespeople?

According to extensive research done by Dr. Chris Croner, author of Never Hire A Bad Salesperson Again, top performing salespeople have an abundance of Drive.

Drive is defined by three critical personality traits:

  1. They have a strong “Need to Achieve.” They continually work to improve their game.
  2. They are highly Competitive. They love to win and convert customers to their way of thinking.
  3. They are Optimistic. They hang in there despite setbacks.

Dr. Croner also said they are “mercenary about their time.” They work smart, not just hard. Need to achieve is the hardest to test for and the easiest to fake. And Dr. Croner orginally did not include Optimism, but wondered why salespeople with one and two failed. He realized that Optimism was critical.

Look what he did NOT say predicted success — industry experience, product knowledge, etc. Yet 99% of recruiters look for this to cull resumes. As a result the turnover in sales is massive.

In the example above, Salesrep B had real drive — he excelled in all three. Salesreps A and C did not.

What do you need to do? Use an objective measure of sales measurement like SalesDrive. Use the tools there for interview questions. (Like the “magic wand” question.) Apply it to any possible candidate. $200 is cheap insurance against a mistake.

More later on how to conduct an interview and on sales leadership

For companies looking for best practices in b2b lead generation who wish to improve the way they acquire new customers, Find New Customers is the place to go.  CSO Insights says companies need to improve the way they generate leads and implement processes for business to business lead generation.

Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor, is a demand generation expert and sales leader, as well as the President of Find New Customers, a lead generation company, who helps businesses create lead generation campaigns and continually publishes the best lead generation ideas, so his readers can determine the best lead generation strategy to find new customers.  He can be reached at (516) 284-4930 or mailto:jogden@findnewcustomers.net.

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