Hiring Right By Learning From Past Errors
Hiring the right salespeople can be difficult. In my experience, there are often times when sales managers hire the wrong salespeople. But, this doesn’t mean we cannot learn from these errors. From a sales manager’s standpoint, we should step back and look what at what made it a wrong hire. Evaluating what made it a poor hire can ensure that the same mistake is not made twice.
Too often we slide right into the “I don’t have time” pattern and repeat past mistakes. However, taking 30 to 45 minutes to sit and think about why it was the wrong hire will create a win for your sales team. This brief brainstorm will save you time in the long run. Morale will remain high, and your team will hit their numbers faster when ‘C’ players aren’t in the picture.
Here are five fundamental concepts successful sales managers follow when making hiring decisions:
First, make sure that you and upper management are clear on start dates. Good salespeople are in high demand. This dynamic means salespeople know they can have a job in no time if they are actively searching. Time is money. Don’t waste the sales candidate’s time, money, or emotional input if you don’t have a start date in mind. It sounds like an absurd business practice, but rolling start dates are more common than you think.
Second, have a detailed job description that fits what you need the salesperson to be able to do. Look at your current sales team. What are they doing well? What should they be doing that they are not able to do? And, what are some sales skills sets that are missing on your team? Understanding the answers to these questions will help you decipher what you need in a new team member.
Having two job descriptions are recommended. One should come from Human Resources, and the sales manager should create the other. Create your description listing the skill sets and functions needed on your sales team. This will ensure a proper description of the candidate you are looking for. When you meet the candidate that has an extensive crossover between both descriptions, you are getting closer to finding that winning candidate.
Third, if top performing salespeople have left your company, determine why they left. Focus in on two to three top-performing salespeople that you enjoyed having on your team. Consider why they might have quit. Is there anything you could’ve done to keep them at the company? What would you change if given a chance to do it over again? Make a list of responses to these questions. This exercise will help you analyze the characteristics of top performers within your company. It will also help you set expectations for the new hire, and for yourself, so everyone begins on the same page. At the same time, you will know what red flags to look for if your new hire’s attitude shifts, or if they become disengaged.
Fourth, interviews are very important. There’s no reason to have four to six rounds of interviews. Companies that have an overly invasive interview process often lose qualified sales people in the process. It’s much easier to have key decision makers involved in round two. It allows you to make those key decisions sooner. Additionally, it can be helpful to have an outside vendor make qualifying decisions about a candidate. (This is a service that I offer!)
One way to narrow down your pool of candidates is to create a rigorous application process. This will help sort out those that are not detail oriented, have poor writing skills, or lack patience. The longer and more detailed the application, the less likely someone that doesn’t have patience will take the time to fill it out. Let people weed themselves out of the process.
Once you hit the interview stage, don’t go on a power trip and have your candidate multiple times. Be respectful of their time. Plus, first impressions are usually right!
Fifth, weigh the pros and cons of each of your final candidates before deciding. Make a grid on either a whiteboard or a computer that you can project onto a large surface. Map out each person’s skill sets. Consider what you liked about them, what you didn’t like about them, and what you would want to be improved. Emotional control fits into this part of the decision making as well. Think about your candidates and their emotional power and attitude. Their skill set may be high, but if they have a bad attitude, there is no point in hiring them.
Now step back. What stands out about each client? If a candidate stands out as a negative, delete them from your grid. Have key decision makers weigh in. When you get down to two candidates, give it 24 to 48 hours. Go back to your grid and see what stands out this time, and determine who you want on your team. Then, your job is done. At least for the time being!
These steps will alleviate many headaches in the future. Working diligently up-front before making a hiring decision means fewer cleanups later. Just like you encourage your sales people to review each sales meeting, you need to review each interview. Ask yourself what you would change or do differently. What did you like? What red flags, if any, did you notice about your candidates? You are creating win-win opportunities, so new hires do not negatively affect the bottom line of your team’s productivity.