Fortune magazine always is full of helpful business advice, and they’re back at it with a few great tips for hiring quality salespeople who will stand the test of time.
First, bosses must realize that talented salespeople don’t always make talented sales managers.
“Selling and managing, including hiring, require very different sets of skills,” notes Dave Stein, co-author of Beyond the Sales Process: 12 Proven Strategies for a Customer-Driven World.
Stein spent the past 30 years coaching sales teams and their bosses. He says that whoever promoted you without enough management training “deserves at least half the accountability” for your current pickle. He points to research showing that the failure rate among star salespeople “rewarded” with promotions like yours is a startling 85%.
So what should you do instead? Here are three great ways to hire the right people, in Stein’s view:
1. Don’t go it alone
A time-tested way to tell how well someone will fit into your organization’s culture, and understand its goals, is to invite a couple of colleagues to sit in on meetings with candidates. Stein recommends a three-person interviewing team, but they don’t have to be the same two people (besides you) every time. If the manager who initially hired you is still there, for instance, you might ask him or her, along with perhaps a high-performing member of your current sales team. The point is to get more than one set of insights about each applicant.
2. Stick to a consistent hiring process
Stein has seen many sales managers go wrong by trying to wing it. “You need to think hard about precisely which skills and attributes your best salespeople have, based on what’s been most effective in reaching your particular customers,” he says. “Once you have that profile, make a list of interview questions with definite right and wrong answers — no exceptions.” This takes a lot of thought ahead of time, he adds, but it’s worth the extra effort, since relying on a “disciplined, black-and-white set of hiring criteria cuts sales-staff turnover to an annual rate of 5% to 15%.”3.
3. Require candidates to simulate real-life sales calls
It’s hard to guess how well someone will perform without seeing him or her in action, so Stein recommends role-playing exercises he calls simulations. “I’ve known many sales managers who have been horrified or embarrassed during their first customer meeting with a new rep they just hired,” he says. “It happens more often than you would guess.”
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