Hiring sales talent is one of the most critical activities a company performs. However, few are
adept at hiring the right people for their firm. This article shows you how to hire the right talent.
had the opportunity to speak to a group of CEOs about their sales recruitment needs. To make a point, I mentioned to them
that my friend, Willie McMoney, had heard that I was speaking to this group and asked that I mention he was looking for a
new sales home. I shared Willie’s background with the group: Willie has a Bachelor’s Degree from a well-respected
institution, has a great look, has been selling for over ten years for household name companies that offer low-price products,
and has exceeded quota each of the last three years. That being said, I asked the group who wanted to hire Willie. Most raised
their hands in earnest.
with the group that there were a few more details to discuss before a decision could be finalized. The information to consider
was the profile of their company, which included the following attributes: they were a start-up with no name recognition in
the marketplace, positioned as a high value/high price provider, and required customization for each client. I asked the group
again about hiring Willie. The light bulbs started turning on. They began to recognize that finding a great salesperson is
not a one-dimensional exercise; rather, it requires that the company look within to determine the necessary skills and attributes
for someone to be a great salesperson in their environment. The term “great” is the issue here. Willie is a great
salesperson and he has the credentials to prove it, but the question is: will Willie succeed in your company?
this: companies spend thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, defining their ideal client. They hire firms to help
them analyze their approach and identify the audience, as well as how to reach them. When I asked this group to share with
me the attributes of their ideal client, I felt like a game show host. The group came to life and was shouting out answers
non-stop. I strategically interrupted them and asked them to share with me the attributes of their ideal sales person. After
hearing the deafening sound of crickets chirping, I shared what I often heard as attributes of this ideal: someone who is
very strategic, solution-oriented, sells on value, experienced, and a strong seller. The group sighed in relief as they thought
I had let them off the hook. Not so fast! I asked them how they can hire talent to match that scope. How can recruiters translate
that criteria into a project whereby they can laser-focus their approach and produce the right candidates? The relief disappeared
from the room and was replaced by angst.
sales people is the business equivalent of formulating a marriage… a sales marriage, that is. Appearance may be enough
to initiate the relationship, but without deep commonality of needs and values, the future of the marriage is bleak. Why does
that matter? The expense of sales turnover is truly immeasurable. Sure, you can measure cost of turnover, recruitment, and
training but how do you place a value on the damage caused by sending the salesperson of the day into the same accounts over
and over again? “Hi, I’m Ben this week’s salesperson representing Widgets We Make. I’m here to help
with your needs.”
way for employers to avoid this peril is to develop a profile of their ideal salesperson. This profile requires the executive
team to collaborate and be truly honest about the interworkings of the company in order to produce an effective exercise.
The profile includes three primary components: product characteristics, buying process, and organizational attributes.
What is the nature of the product(s) being sold? Is it tangible,
abstract, or concrete?
What is the nature of the buying relationship? Is it a one-time,
transaction sale or a repetitive, complex one?
Is the product a component of something broader (niche) or
is it a comprehensive solution?
How recognizable is the product and company in the marketplace
of your buyers?
In contrast to the competition, where is the product priced?
What are the expectations of the salesperson with respect
to prospecting? Are you generating leads or are they expected to self-generate them?
How long is the buying process?
Is the product “off the shelf” or does it require
the salesperson to creatively build a solution?
At what level is the purchasing decision made? Who are the
other buying players that influence the purchasing decision?
What sales support is available for the salespeople? Is the
salesperson required to go from end to end or is the salesperson only required to handle certain parts of the process?
a. How flexible does someone need to be to survive in your environment? Think in terms of how often the organizational
structure changes the compensation, and/or the territory.
b. What is the sales management approach? Is the sales manager a hands-on coach or a distant observer of performance?
c. What are you willing to teach to a salesperson? The product? Prospecting? Product positioning?
d. What aren’t you willing to teach to a salesperson? Sales 101? Prospecting?
e. What corporate baggage does your company have? What are the oddities that make it challenging for a salesperson to
succeed in your environment? Is there a difficult individual in your company? Are there technical flaws that make it challenging
to sell the product? This one requires true introspection and honesty.
this exercise complete, you are ready to formulate your ideal salesperson profile which looks like this:
We want a salesperson who
is experienced at selling
§ A product with the following attributes…
§ In a buying process that includes…
§ For a company characterized by…
that you have a profile for your ideal salesperson, don’t keep it a secret. Be sure that your entire leadership team
has a copy of it! Share it with recruiters so they can deliver candidates that match it. Develop interview steps that allow
you to measure if these candidates meet the profile. Formulate interview questions that expose these areas.
the meeting with a quick comparison of Willie’s skills and the company’s attributes, which can be seen on the
first page. A marriage between these two would be disastrous! Although I wasn’t able to find Willie a new sales home,
I did succeed in making the CEOs aware of the steps they need to take in order to create the best sales team possible for
Lee B. Salz is
a sales management guru who helps companies hire the right sales people, on-board them, and focus their sales activity using
his sales architecture® methodology. He is the President
of Sales Architects, the C.E.O. of Business Expert Webinars and author of “Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager.” Lee is an online columnist for Sales and Marketing Management Magazine, a print columnist for SalesforceXP Magazine, and
the host of the Internet radio show, “Secrets of Business Gurus.” Look for Lee's new book in February 2009
titled, "The Sales Marriage” where he shares the secrets to hiring the right sales people. He is a passionate, dynamic
speaker and a business consultant. Lee can be reached at lsalz@SalesArchitecture.com or 763.416.4321.