Infocusselling’s Blog

October 19, 2009

Hiring Salespeople: Much More Difficult in Down Times

Hiring quality salespeople has become very difficult. Not because they are hard to find, but because they are now mixed into a very large crowd of unemployed salespeople who range from mediocre to miserable.

 Only three years ago, great salespeople were employed and you had to recruit them. With so much downsizing in the past few years, great salespeople have been the victim of bigger problems.

The sheer volume of available salespeople has made us forget what hiring is all about. Hiring is about finding the best candidate you can afford to fill a tightly defined job description. Filling holes with bodies is not a strategy you can afford—the costs in missed sales opportunities and damaged client relationships is too great.

I had a client admit that a recent hire had been based on how well she got along with the person, how much she enjoyed the person, and that it was an emotional hire. There was only one glitch—the person was totally unqualified for the position and the result was a termination in less than 30 days. How terribly expensive and disruptive for both the company and the person.  Yet, had this person been allowed to stay in the organization, a tremendous statement would have been made regarding the level of expertise and performance allowed at all levels.

The main responsibility of a president is to set the standard for inflexible and absolute excellence.

If you are trying to grow, every hire is critical toward that goal. Hiring is about increasing the average quality level of your employee team. It is a no-compromise approach that mimics the way you expect your R&D department to innovate and your manufacturing line to produce. Commitment to excellence starts at the top and your commitment to hire only the best sets a tone that will resonate throughout the organization. Today’s compromised hire is tomorrow’s painful termination, and is the beginning of an uncontrollable slide to mediocrity. When we allow someone into our organization who does not fit our requirements, we dilute the power and productivity of all our other team members, and create a myriad of unpleasantries including loss of profit, reduction in quality, and increased employee terminations.

Do you want to shorten the list of unpleasantries as president? Be brutally and painfully honest in sales team hiring and you will have fewer terminations. Sales hiring should follow this process:

  • Consider the level of active sales management you are willing and able to perform and commit to on a regular basis
  • Know if you are looking for an internal salesperson (who will focus on account maintenance, growth, and retention) or an outside salesperson (who will focus on new account development)
  • Have a written set of expectations, objectives, duties, and minimum requirements and qualifications.
  • Interview without emotion remembering the risk in today’s terminations.
  • Consider all candidates for 48 hours–never hire on the spot.
  • Invest the time to have multiple people interview your top candidates, even if that means going to someone outside your organization who can be more objective since he or she does not feel the pain of an empty sales desk. Use people who have different goals, perspectives, and personalities so that you get different views on your candidates.
  • Invest in communication, style, and skills profiling to see if the person is as presented. A mediocre sales person can sell a non-salesperson doing the hiring an igloo when it is 95 degrees out.
  • Include the expectations and duties in the written offer letter and go through the letter line by line face to face.
  • Relentlessly stick to your written objectives and do not get caught up in hiring someone who looks good if you really need someone who looks great. Stay the course and get a great addition to your team
  • Look for bad trends on the first day. Anything that does not seem right will only get worse.

 Once a salesperson has been added to your team, it will be your responsibility to keep this person on track. Hiring a salesperson is an investment, not a cost. You are spending cash now to receive more cash later. And like any financial investment, it needs monitoring for trends and results. No matter how little sales management you want to do, every salesperson, even the best salesperson, needs a sales manager. A sales manager is a coach, confidant, motivator, consultant, and congratulator—sometimes all in the same day. You cannot hire a salesperson and expect him or her to tackle the world and bring in sales on the first day or even in the first year without your input. You know your company better than a new person and you know where you are strong or weak in your market. (If not, find out before you invest in a salesperson.)

 With our current unemployment and underemployment, there are probably 1000 qualified candidates within an hour of you. Follow the steps above to be sure you are ready to hire and ready to manage. If you are ready, then as you add people to your organization, don’t get a good one–get the best one.

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2 Comments »

  1. Great article for those doing the hiring… however, also a great article for those seeking employment. Questions like: Do you actually fit into this organization? Does the company know their strengths and weaknesses in the area you are to be hired? Will you be successful in this company? Do they have a support structure in place for training? What is their track record for retaining employees?

    All good questions and more that fit both sides.

    Jim

    Comment by Jim Shireman — October 22, 2009 @ 9:27 am

  2. Jim,

    Very true. Like a lot of learning, it can be transferred from one topic to another. Interviewing is a two way selection process, and both sides need to know and understand the fit. It still amazes me how many people show up for interviews without knowing how to come across as the candidate of choice, and how to differentiate themselves, especially when looking for a job in sales.

    Comment by infocusselling — October 22, 2009 @ 1:35 pm


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