By Tim Rooney
Research has shown that making a bad sales hire costs a company, on average, $100,000.
This typically only assumes direct costs, before factoring in lost opportunity costs, not to mention the negative impact on other team members and your long-term relationship with clients.
Therefore when making new sales hires you need to give the process the time and commitment it warrants.
How can we increase our chances of success and avoid hiring “jerks”, “idiots” and “morons?”
Lots of books have been written on this subject, so this is not meant to be an exhaustive list. We’ll focus on 3 important things that could help you hire better sales people.
1 – Start by clearly defining exactly what you are looking for.
At Sandler* we use a process that goes by the acronym SEARCH – that helps you get very specific in respect to what you are looking for in your new hire.
* Sandler Training is a global leader in business development.
This SEARCHmodel can be used for any position (not only sales) and embraces 6 steps:
· Skills – what specific skills are you looking for in this job ? No one has all the skills – so what are the critical ones. Does the job require relationship skills as well as problem solving skills or perhaps the person needs to be good at process. Is the selling cycle short or long which may determine how assertive you want this person to be.
· Experience – what essential prior experience are you looking for? Can the candidate prove that they have already had some similar success in a prior job that has some similarities in respect to the product and the type of customers. Do they already have established relationships in place with the end customer you are selling to?
· Attitude – Microsoft in more junior & middle management positions gives more weight to this than to experience or skills – believing that on the job training can fix a lack of experience and skills – but there is nothing they can do if you don’t have “the right attitude”. It’s hard to define attitude, so maybe you want to start by talking about the candidates beliefs which drive behaviour .Beliefs about such things as themselves , the competition, rejection and selling at the “C” level
· Results – what results have previously been achieved – often a good indicator of future performance
· Cognitive skills – some jobs require right brain, others left brain and others both !
· Habits – an example here might be that the person works out on a regular basis and keeps abreast of industry trends
2 – Use psychological profiling.
The use of online psychological profiles can provide other useful insights about your potential new hire that you may not be able to pickup on in the interview process for two reasons:
1 – Candidates are often well coached in what to say and may be good “actors”
2 – Personal bias – “we like people who are most like us”
There are two popular types of psychological profiles: Disc and Devine
Disc is one of the most commonly used profiles available, used worldwide and based originally on the work of Carl Jung. Disc tells us how we like to communicate with others and what energizes and de-motivates us.
Disc also helps us distinguish between “hunters” and “farmers”. The former typically being better at finding new customers – while the latter are better at client retention. [Click here for sample report]
Devine is an alternative tool that complements Disc and measures a candidate on 30 different specific selling attributes from “listening” to “ego” [Click here for sample report]
3 – Think outside the box!
Let me make the point by telling a true story.
In the mid 90’s I was hired to run a building products company with revenues at that time of just under $10 million. Over the next 4 years sales grew to nearly $40 million.
Originally we had only one sales person in Eastern Canada. We then hired a person in Western Canada followed by 6 regional mangers in the US. I used a headhunter in the US to recruit the 6 regional managers. We set the bar high in respect to qualifications: a post-secondary degree and industry experience were key, and the age was to be in the 30-45 age bracket. We must have spent +/- $ 200,000 on headhunter fees for the hires. In the case of the Western Canada appointment – this happened more by chance than any good management.
The candidate in Western Canada approached me – he was in his early 60’s, had no degree and I’m not sure I really liked him! He was happy to work for a low base of $3000 and 10% commission.
I had no other candidates at the time so I thought, “what the heck? with very little downside risk in respect to compensation or contractually, I have little to lose!”
Fast forward to 4 years later, what were the results? This man consistently out-performed all the other sales people – not by a small amount but by a significant margin.
Moral of the Story
I had gotten lucky and had learned a really important lesson. Clearly defining what you want in a new hire makes sense. That having been said you need to be sufficiently open-minded; that you do not shut down options that are outside your (too) narrowly defined specifications for your ideal candidate. Be careful to watch out for personal bias and prejudice about age and lack of education – they have nothing to do with drive and ambition - a critical component in many positions, especially sales!