So you're faced with hiring a salesperson or maybe even several salespeople. You and your company know that even though we're facing hard economic times, the only way to thrive and survive is to generate more sales by keeping your current customers buying and finding new customers, perhaps even scooping them up from your struggling competition. The only way to do this is to have an effective sales force. Whether you're looking to expand, to fill an opening left by a retiree, or scrambling to replace an employee who had an untimely exit, you know that good employees are hard to find and the hiring process isn't easy. You may have even been through this scenario before: You hired a salesperson you were certain was a superstar, only to find out that they not only weren't the star performer you expected, but shouldn't have even been given a place on your sales team. This time you want to get it right.
Hiring the Right Salesperson
Test 1: The Candidate Should Demonstrate Preparation and Skills
You've sifted through the resumes and now it's time to get down to the interview. As everyone knows, a good salesperson will sell themselves. Interviews should be a slam dunk for naturally-talented salespeople. If they can't sell the product they know inside and out (themselves), how can they sell your company's product?
A qualified candidate will be well-prepared for the interview and will have researched your product and company. They will bring statistics, reports, and other materials to demonstrate how they've been successful in the past. As they listen to you, they should guide you through these materials (as they would guide a potential customer through a brochure), highlighting prior accomplishments and convincing you how their experience will benefit your sales team and company. Come up with a system and score them on how well they performed in this first test.
Test 2: Do They Meet Your Requirements for the Position?
Hopefully, a good number of the candidates do all of the above. They're professional salespeople and experts in interviewing. That's good, but don't let these candidates detour you from your interviewing objectives. Make sure you enter the interview with your criteria set and don't end it without finding out if your future salesperson will meet all your requirements.
Think about what your current sales stars do to sell your product? What is your company's sales process and what do the high achievers do differently to set themselves apart? Does your candidate have experience with a similar process? Does he or she use similar methods to your best performers and have many of the same traits? Ask them about their sales achievements and how, specifically, they arrived at them. You'll want to be sure they can sell, but even more sure that they can sell your specific product.
How does the candidate respond to an objection? Test your candidates with a few common objections to your product. If they can engage you without missing a beat, you may have your next employee. If they make a solid effort, but aren't totally polished, they might be at more of an entry-level stage now, but have what it takes to be highly successful with training and guidance. If they don't even make an effort, claiming not to have enough knowledge about your product, then this candidate probably doesn't have the drive to be an effective member of your team. A good salesperson should be able to make a case for selling you anything. How did your candidates score on this portion of the test?
Test 3: Will They Fit In With Your Team and Culture?
If your candidate is unemployed, you'll have to consider why. He or she could be young, new to the workforce, and full of potential. Considering the current economy, there's a good chance the candidate could have simply been laid off from a failing or failed company and their loss may be your gain. Yet, most top-performing salespeople tend not to find themselves unemployed and most employees in any profession aren't let go for performance alone. More often than not employees and companies part ways due to personality and behavior issues along with or in spite of performance. In order to have your sales team run effectively, you need the members of it to work together well. Bringing in the wrong person can have a significant, negative impact.
During the interview process, bring in a trusted and respected member of your sales team. This way you're not relying on your opinion alone. Finally, both you and your trusted salesperson should score and rank the interviewed candidates, based the pre-determined factors. This will eliminate the possibility of making a choice based solely on emotions. Did both you and your salesperson rank the candidates the same way? If not, discuss why.
One Final Important Note: Don't Settle!
Most importantly, don't settle on a candidate just to fill a position quickly. Hiring the wrong person will cost you time and money and in the end you'll find yourself sitting in the interviewer's chair all over again.
About the Author:
Lynn is the content editor/career writer for Beyond.com and their many niche job search websites.