sales candidate

The Key to Finding Sales Talent in Tight Markets

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A sub-4% unemployment rate leads to a difficult sales hiring market.  So what can you do when you need to expand, or upgrade, your existing sales team?  Here is a unique approach to finding the strongest salespeople in the tightest labor markets.

Hire Talent Over Experience

I know, it sounds cliche, but it is fundamental to successful sales hiring in any market. This approach is counter-intuitive to most CROs. The stereotypical approach is to find someone from your industry and hire them away from your competition.  Bad approach.  Sure, there are strong salespeople in your industry, but you won't know, for certain, what makes them successful in their current position.  It may be the company, the culture, the support, the leads...a distinct difference that could preclude them from being successful in your company.

Talent will outperform experience.  Guaranteed.  You can teach them about your "stuff", your market and your solution.  You probably have scores of people who can train them on those previous topics in a relatively short time period.  What you can't teach them quickly is how to sell.  A certain irony exists in sales hiring in that many (most?) CROs hire salespeople without looking at their sales ability.  Industry experience becomes the preeminent criteria for hiring even before sales ability/talent.

Many CROs are unaware that you can measure sales ability.  We have assessments that will tell you about the candidates talent, skills and drive to sell in your role.  If you can withdraw from the intoxicating appeal of experience, you can broaden your talent pool.  This expansive view allows you to look into other industries to find sales talent with transferable skills.

Candidate Question: What Leads to Failure?

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The title of this post is one of my favorite questions to hear from a candidate in an interview, especially in sales.

Monster’s website has a good article on 4 questions for candidates to ask.  I still like the failure question as it is as good a qualifying question any candidate can ask.  The author adds this from a candidate’s perspective:

“This question allows you to get a good feel about the values of the company.

Making sure that the company’s values are aligned with yours is one of the most important elements to check out in the interview process.”

Exactly right.  Candidates should be asking about failures in the role especially if the hire is a replacement.

Here is why – in psychological terms, we know that people are far more accurate in describing themselves in the negative (i.e. what they are not as opposed to what they are).  This principle carries over in this particular interview question.  Asking what led to failure will provide a far more revealing answer than asking what leads to success (though still important to know at some point).

When you are hiring salespeople, the answer to this question should roll off your tongue.  The key is not to focus singularly on the former salesperson who failed, but to take a macro view of the situation.  The rationale for this approach is to provide a less personal and more strategic an answer.

CRO Rule #10 - Use Interviews as Simulations

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CRO Success Rule #10:
Candidate interviews need to be a simulation of the sale you expect them to conduct.

We have arrived at our final CRO Success rule and it is an important one.  Bad sales hiring happens for many reasons, but there are “free moves” you can use to enhance your hiring success.  One of them is the interview.  Too often we see hiring managers who simply want to have a discussion about a candidate’s resume along with telling them about the position, the company, the benefit plan, etc.   Bad move.

The better approach is to mirror your typical sale in the initial interview.  Sales interviews do not need to be comfortable, easy-going discussions.  Instead, match the parameters of your typical sale.  Have multiple people in the interview if they will have to sell to a group.  Be somewhat short and curt with them if your prospects are typically in a hurry and not eager to talk to a salesperson.  Interrupt the candidate, drill down on their answers, ask for deeper clarification…all of these moves are free.  You would be wise to incorporate them into your hiring process so you can see the candidates in action.