Building a strong sales force is a key to success for many companies in 2014. There are many factors that can lead to disappointing results or actual failure including: bad company strategy, poor leadership, lack of management, failure to provide adequate training, and lack of infrastructure to support the sales force. I find that, whether or not the above-mentioned problems are present, most companies do not interview sales candidates properly because they fail to understand the complexity of the task.
Sales is a very broad profession with many different types of salespeople earning between $30K to more than $1 million per year in a wide assortment of compensation structures. The salespeople you need for your situation require a special mix of skillsets, personality types, experiences, knowledge, and likeability to succeed. To give this some perspective, here are some of the different factors that one needs to know about a salesperson’s prior positions:
The mix of answers produces different types of challenges and explains why you might hire someone that was successful in one situation and fails to succeed for you. It is critical to understand your situation and the composition of skills, experience, and knowledge needed for success in your company. Your job is then to screen and interview for people that have this composition. Most companies do not spend enough time trying to figure this out. They also fail to have the patience to wait for the right people to present themselves.
Most companies have either a poor screening process or none at all. Given the range of considerations presented above most companies fail to produce a large enough candidate pool that would produce the success they seek. The more difficult your sales situation (e.g. unrecognized brand, average product or service, little differentiation, product is not a necessary purchase, complex product, lots of competition, etc.) the more candidates you will likely need in your candidate pool. I recommend a good assessment tool as your first screen and then a strong phone screen with the right questions. This will help you widen your pool of candidates and efficiently and quickly narrow it down to a short pool of 3 to 5 great candidates.
Once you get to the first interview, you really need to do a good job of crafting your questions. The traditional behavioral interview will fail miserably with salespeople. You need to probe deeply. After 45 minutes to an hour you know you have done your job well if you can properly:
Call me, Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] if you think you want to address a challenge in your business or if you want an executive coach that can help you think differently.