How can you tell if someone will be a great salesperson? What characteristics should you look for in potential candidates? Is there a way to guarantee that this person will work out for you in the end? These are some of the questions I am most frequently asked.
As the age-old adage says, “You need to know where you want to go in order to get there.” The same is true when you’re looking for great sales candidates. You have to develop a clear and concise image of the type of person that you want to hire.
This can be tricky because salespeople, especially experienced ones, know how to sell, including how to sell themselves well in an interview. They can be slick, glib, and charming enough that anyone would hire them. But we all know that being slick, glib, and charming are not all they are cracked up to be when it comes to being a great salesperson. These characteristics are just the cover of the book and often nothing more than fluff when it comes to what it really takes to be successful.
The Two Laws of Hiring
As you start the hiring process, remember these two important laws of hiring.
1. Be Slow to Hire and Quick to Fire
In other words, be very slow and deliberate when you hire any professional. Take your time, vet the person completely, and interview, interview, interview. Also, if you made a mistake and the person is not working out, then get rid of that person quickly. The longer the wrong person is there, the more it will hurt your company.
2. Hire for Passion
Some industry knowledge is preferred, but you can’t teach passion. You can, however, teach salespeople about your products and company. A truly passionate and energetic person can and will sell anything and do it well. The love of the hunt for a sale is what drives great salespeople, and this cannot be learned.
Three Steps for Staffing
Here are three steps to ensure that you hire the best salespeople for your company.
1. Find the Right Salespeople
The first and most important step to take when looking for a new salesperson is to develop a template for the ideal candidate, including all of the aspects that you are looking for in a new salesperson. Some examples of what to look for include the following:
- Marketing courses
- Business experience
- Technical experience
- Sales experience
- Marketing experience
- A deep hunger to succeed
- A willingness to learn and grow with a company
2. Hire the Right Salespeople
Create a job description that perfectly describes what you want the salesperson to do, including goals and objectives, such as forecasting, new account development, and cold-calling and lead generation. You should also include any technical knowledge of your company’s technology that’s required, and describe their expected daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly responsibilities. Then, develop a compensation package that is interesting, exciting, and motivating and drives salespeople to provide your company with the business you want.
3. Use the Right Interview Questions
I have a series of questions that I have developed over the years, and they really work. These are meant to probe into the interviewee’s character. They might seem tedious, but remember that hiring good people should be tedious. Think of all the negative repercussions when you hire the wrong salesperson; it can be a costly disaster. Take your time, and once the question is asked, be quiet, and give the candidate enough time to answer the question; this is a case where silence can be golden.
- How did you get started in this business?
- How long had you been in the business before you realized what it took to be successful?
- What separates you from the other candidates?
- What kind of formal education have you had?
- What kind of informal education have you had?
- Do you think people can be trained to be successful?
- What influences from the past have been continuing motivators in your life?
- Do you have a guiding philosophy in your life?
- What were your original goals when you started your career?
- Was there a turning point in your life or career? Why did you pick the route you took?
- Have you ever had what you would consider a significant business failure? What did you learn from that?
- How many hours do you work a week?
- How do you use your leisure time?
- When and how do you plan your day?
- Do you follow a system when making decisions? If so, what is it?
- Let’s assume you are hired on Monday. What are you going to do the first week, first month, and first six months?
- What do you feel is a major hindrance for an individual to achieve his or her potential? How have you overcome that obstacle?
- Which of your accomplishments do you find the most satisfying?
- What would you regret not having accomplished before you die?
- Where would you like to be in your career in one year or five years?
- What do you think are the advantages and weaknesses of our company in this market?
- At the end of your first year with us, describe what you would consider a successful year?
And finally, have a number of other people from various levels of your company interview the candidates, including your management team and people who will be their peers. Then, meet and discuss the candidates before deciding. Follow these rules carefully, and you will always hire the right people the first time.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.