Hire for Attributes; Develop Competencies

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Ask anyone who hires sales people, and they’ll tell you how difficult it is. The world of products/services constantly changes as do the markets/clients. As a result, it’s not easy to assess who and what is responsible for a given sales person’s success or lack of it.  So what’s an effective formula for recruiting?

Increasingly, experts realize that the presence or lack thereof of technical information within a specific industry is not what distinguishes winners from losers; if the person has a high attribute for learning as demonstrated based on prior individual activities, then the person is likely to be able to learn your product/service information, too.  Another essential attribute is the ability o hold strategic-client conversations, clearly assess needs and obstacles, and structure the sales process to match the customer’s buying process.

So spend less time focusing on school learning and placements among prestigious schools and companies, and focus on how well the person can demonstrate the kinds of attributes that mark the best of your current sales people.

When it comes to interviewing, use these best practices:

  •  Ditch the “free-flowing, unstructured” interviews.  Structured ones get you specific information that you can compare.
  • Go beyond technical knowledge and industry contacts and focus on personality traits, ability, values, attitudes and real relationships.
  • Document carefully the entire career history – leave no gaps – and get information from each boss.
  • Use two interviewers to rate the applicant’s answers independently and compare.
  • Let the applicant do most of the talking. The more an interviewer takes during an interviewer, the more likely that the applicant gets a higher rating, since the core of the judgment is being left to a “snap decision” rather than an in- depth and informed decision.

Have you had an experience where not following this formula produced poor sales results? Share them so we’ll all fully understand what to avoid, and what to do that will work!