Sales hiring is a risky, and time-consuming task. But, if you’re trying to quickly scale the size of your sales team, you have to effectively use the interview process to discover all the critical information you need to make an optimal sales hiring decision in the least amount of time possible.
Nailing your sales hiring the first time around with candidates who can quickly become productive is the root of sales acceleration. This means that you need to employ a sales hiring process that helps you quickly qualify the right candidates and minimizes the amount of time you invest in interviewing candidates that can’t perform as you require.
Here are five interviewing strategies to accelerate your sales process for hiring the right candidates.
1. Verify First, Trust Second
An interview is no place for trust; that comes after you hire. Your priority in the interview process has to be ensuring candidates’ skills match your requirements and then verifying the track record on their resume. Every claim on a resume that is represented as fact by the candidate has to be verifiable. If it can’t, then you have to presume that it’s false. And, a candidate that has fudged their track record even a bit, has to be disqualified immediately. You can’t afford the risk that he or she might stretch the truth with your customers, too.
I recently met with a VP of Sales of a high-growth start-up who was rapidly expanding his team. I asked him if he ever hired salespeople who had not achieved 100% of quota. He said “no.” I asked if any of the resumes for the candidates he’d hired ever showed that person achieving less than 100% of quota in their prior jobs. He said “no.” So, then I asked if he were aware that studies reveal that fewer than 50 percent of salespeople achieve quota each year. He said “yes.” Then there was a long pause as he did the math. Even seasoned sales leaders need to be more diligent in their due diligence.
2. Value the Details
Details provide another objective measurement of a candidate’s suitability for your position. Sales is a detail oriented profession. It is also a profession that demands that salespeople create a strong first impression with prospective customers. Yet, in all the work I do helping clients hire sales team, it is increasingly rare for me to review a resume that is error free. Why is that? Is there any more important sales job for a salesperson than selling themselves?
I remember reading a blog post that attempted to poke fun at employers who disqualify sales candidates based on seemingly trivial details such as misplaced punctuation, typos and other errors on resumes. That author is dead wrong. Sales candidates with obvious mistakes on their resumes, mistakes that should have been caught with a minimal level of care and attention to detail, will very likely exhibit the same blatant disregard for detail in their dealings with prospects. Can you afford the mistakes that inevitably will follow?
3. Minimize Subjectivity and Focus on the Facts
Refrain from relying on the answers to opinion-based questions, such as “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “What are you looking for in your next job?” to form your opinion of a candidate. Instead, conduct a deep dive into the candidate’s sales performance history for the prior ten years. Go through a candidate’s resume line-by-line. Make sure that you understand the factual details and data associated with how they performed at their prior jobs. You’ll quickly know if they are being truthful. And, if they have a track record that demonstrates they can succeed at the job you have available.
4. Test for all Required Skills
Define the skills and knowledge that are absolutely required for success in the open position. Before you conduct a first in-person interview, test the candidates for the sales skills, industry expertise and technical knowledge that are required for the job. If they don’t score well on the test, don’t waste your time with an interview.
Once one of my clients was hiring a sales director. This person would manage a small team and carry a bag. The client was a small start-up and it was essential that whoever was hired into this role was self-sufficient when it came to developing proposals and tailoring sales presentations for prospects. We devised a simple test. Candidates were put into a conference room with a laptop and a product data sheet. They were given 15 minutes to create a three slide presentation to sell the product. The majority of the candidates who had been thoroughly screened over the phone and invited in for an interview either failed the test or refused to take it. A highly motivated candidate was hired.
5. Check a candidate’s references BEFORE you make a decision.
Typically, hiring managers wait to call a candidate’s references until AFTER they’ve determined which person they want to hire. The problem is that at that juncture they’re NOT interested in unearthing information that will derail their decision.
Before you decide to bring a candidate back in for a second interview, check their references. Don’t wait until after you have fallen in love with the candidate. By that time, your motivation to derail the momentum towards making an offer is diminished.
Embrace these accelerated interviewing strategies to quickly build the best sales team for you.