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Topics Covered: <a href='/resources/search/?query=Sales Management'>Sales Management</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=Social Selling'>Social Selling</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=Social media'>Social media</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=Podcast'>Podcast</a>
Marketing & Tech
Canadian Professional Sales Association, Social Media & Tech Series lock

In this CPSA Recruitment and Talent podcast, we’ll talk about “hiring right” and the characteristics to look for when hiring the right salespeople.

Our guest in this episode is John Hirth. John Hirth is President of Selling Dynamics, a professional Sales Force Development firm with both national and international experience. They work with companies and provide strategies and tactics to increase revenue, improve profits and lower cost of sales. John is also a well known thought leader and writer.

Kevin: John thank you so much for being on this CPSA recruitment and talent podcast. Before we dive into the rest of the show, can you tell us just really briefly a little bit more about you and what you do today.

John: Sure Kevin, first of all thanks for having me on. It's a pleasure to address your audience. Selling Dynamics our firm we started in 1990. Our focus really is all about helping improve the financial performance of our customer's business. All relative to sales process. A couple of things we do, we work to drive the revenue side of course by selling more. We're looking to improve the bottom line profitability of the business by helping them sell what they sell for more and we also help reduce the cost of sales. We can get you to make a sale in three calls instead of four calls we're helping you save money. That's really where our focus is.

Kevin: That is excellent. You know as well as anybody that today hiring the right sales people is extremely critical for any business, large or small, startup, established enterprise, you name it. Also for remaining competitive today.

John: Yes

Kevin: Absolutely. Why don't you share with us three characteristics that we should be looking for when we're screening for sales people.

John: Well big picture Kevin. First of all, finding good sales people is  very important for a business and it's a very big challenge right now. There's a lack of talent out there. So maybe a starting point, three things I always like to focus on is really talking about can they sell and that's usually a skill assessment. Will they sell? You'll have some that can but you'll have some of the people that can sell but won't sell and because it's a lack of motivation or it's a lack of basic sales, what we call DNA. Then the third one is will they fit your culture and your business. Can they sell, will they sell, will they fit are big picture goals I always look at when I'm hiring people.

Kevin: You just referenced sales DNA which I agree with you on that. That sales is not for everybody. How do you reconcile that with today when you say that there's a talent shortage for sales people. What's going on there?

John: Well the problem and what most companies face is the percentage of unemployed good sales people is zero. They're all working.

Kevin: Wow.

John: So if you think about it, if someone's successful in sales they've got a job. When you start looking at hiring it compounds the problem because the better people are the tougher ones to find. When you look at hiring people it's becoming more and more difficult in the market because of that.

Kevin: Let me ask you this then John, if there is zero percentage of those who are truly qualified sales people that are available today, meaning they've all got jobs, and that's great that's good news. What about those that maybe have the sales DNA or the spark internally but they're in different roles, positions, and/or either underemployed or unemployed for that matter. We still have that pervasive problem especially in the states. What do you recommend to those individuals out there that are looking potentially to break out into another profession? What should they do to even self-assess if they have that sales DNA?

John: One of the questions that we will discuss or one of the issues we'll discuss is various assessment tools. If you're an individual that wants to get into selling I'd probably look for a company that can provide an assessment of my skills. There are skill sets you have to have. There's certain levels of motivation you have to have. There are certain belief systems that you have to have. There's a very unique set of skills. If I was looking to get into the selling business I'd probably want to try to find out first do I have the capabilities to be successful? If you come to walk away from a job you have now to get into the job you think you might want which is sales, and then all of a sudden find out that you're not well suited to do it. I'd probably that's where I would start.

Kevin: Let's talk more about that. Especially from the employer perspective. Speaking of technologies and assessments, what are those that you do recommend when it comes to screening for sales people on the employer side? From your experience what have produced some of the best results today?

John: Assessment tools are varied. We've been in business 27 years. You can assume we've probably bumped into most of them. I've seen the personality style, the Myers Briggs. We have a big investment from the standpoint to work with our clients in a tool from the Objective Management Group which is a sales specific assessment. It has no other value for any position in your company but sales. What we've done is we've taken a look at a lot of different tools and settled on this tool because we believe it provides the most accurate results.

Kevin: Do you have any specific results data that you can share in regards to X percentage of the time that's identifying the right sales people or helping to?

John: It's very interesting. Actually the assessment, when you look at assessment tools there's a couple of different ways you can validate them. One is called face validity and that's where they'll take a look at the tool and they'll have a psychologist read the tool and say you know what based on the face of the questions I think this tool will get you the information you need. The other way to validate a tool is through predictive validation. It's very expensive. That's where you actually follow a series of people that have been, A, recommended by the tool, or B, not recommended and follow them through a year period and see actually how they ended up and how successful or unsuccessful they were.

The OMG assessment has predictive validity. When you look at the results of the tool its ability to predict high performers, it's very accurate. We have a study we could provide anybody that would have an interest in that.

Kevin: Speaking of recommendations and kind of segue into referrals. I'm going to throw you a softball because I know at least most of the answer, only because referrals are still really critical in recruiting for many different kinds of positions in organizations. A lot of organizations, which is why it behooves them to have a decent if not better candidate experience for those individuals that don't get the job so they're still willing to refer others. Tell me about how important referrals are when hiring sales people. Should there be any incentives offered?

John: It's a good question. It addresses a significant concern for most employers seeking sales people and that's how do we build a candidate pool. The problem is most companies aren't good at building a robust candidate pool. So they're stuck picking from a very small sample. In terms of referrals what I would say is number one, I think they have value. Number two, I think I might incent an employee maybe 50% of it up front and 50% after the referral has stayed for six months and been successful.

The problem with referrals, too often times people refer people because they're a friend, he's a great athlete, he's a good neighbor, he cuts his grass. Those criteria aren't normally really determine whether or not they could be successful in sales. I think they're part of an overall recruiting strategy, but I think there's a lot more that has to happen to build a pool that will give you the options to pick the right people.

Kevin: Completely agree with you on that. Let's talk about one of those other components then which is all the interviewing. When you're actually talking with, whether that's a phone screen, a video interview, or a face to face in person interview, when you're getting to know that candidate, finding out do they have what it takes to be a successful sales person for that particular organization. What kinds of techniques do you recommend with interviewing? How important is it for recruiters and hiring managers to prep each other and the candidates before the interview?

John: I think if you've got people, for instance in HR, most HR people will tell you hiring sales people is one of the most difficult positions to fill. You'll also find that the people are usually interviewed by selling managers who aren't really that well equipped to conduct an interview. It's kind of like when you go out and buy a car and your neighbor says man I really killed the dealer. Well trust me you didn't kill him. He sells cars everyday and he made you feel like you killed him, but you didn't.

Kevin: Right.

John: They're very good. We only buy one car every three years. For managers, we're big believers Kevin in running an assessment on the candidates before you meet them. This is a little bit contrary to how most people think. The problem is once you meet them human bias naturally takes over. You'll have someone who knows your business, good rapport building skills, connects with you quickly, you really like them, and all those things have value in sales, but they lack sales DNA, they have a weak belief system, and they have all kinds of problems that you'll never be able to uncover in an interview like that.

We believe number one you assess people up front. I know you've done some recruiting. We talk about behavioral event questions. One of the things if I'm a company that's not the low price provider in the marketplace I would ask a sales person, hey tell me about a time that you were actually able to sell against a lower price option and how did you make it work. Literally asking people questions about things that you need them to do.

Another question I like to ask candidates, what would you do in you first 90 days on the job. It's amazing Kevin. You'll hear people tell you that for the first 90 days all they're doing is getting ready to sell. I want to hear somebody say right off the bat, my first 90 days, first day I'm in the office I want an account list and I'm going to start making phone calls.

Kevin: I have heard that again and again from really really good sales managers, Vps of sales at organizations that I've either worked for, with, or around, that that's exactly what you want.  Everything's competitive when it comes to sales. What I know from my world which is primarily technology and software. I know that that is one of the first things that they say, you've got to be able to sell from day one.

John: I will ask the prospect, the candidate, how would you go about getting new accounts. I want to hear them say, you've got to cold call. That's got to be part of what you do. You'll hear networking and social media and all of these other things that keep you from really doing the grunt work in this business which is making phone calls.

Usually at the end of an interview, Kevin, regardless of my sense or feelings of the person's capabilities, whether I think they're good or whether I think they're bad, I always tell them at the end of the interview, based on the information you've given me today I don't think there's a good fit here. We call it the knock out question. When you ask a good sales person that they're going to say well how did you reach that conclusion. We've only been here for half an hour. You really don't know... I mean how did you get to that point. That's what a good sales person says. They'll fight.

That's what I want to find out because when they're sitting in front of my customer who says I don't think there's a good fit here I don't want somebody who's going to roll over which is what you'll find with a lot of people. They'll say well gee Kevin I'm sorry to hear that but thanks for your time and I hope you can find someone who fits well.

The knock out question is a great tool to use to find out whether they're fighters or not.

Kevin: John, thank you again for being on this CPSA podcast. Where can we find more information about your organization and your sales insights?

John: Our website, would be a good place. I have a blog I publish called I've enjoyed being part of your meeting here today Kevin. I hope I've provided some value to your audience. I would look forward to helping any of them if they so felt it would be of benefit.

Kevin: Excellent John. We appreciate it and thank you so much again.

John: Thank you Kevin.

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