Hiring salespeople that will actually succeed can be a tricky business. Most salespeople are good at being likable in an interview but this often hides an inability to sell. It can be hard to see if a salesperson can sell as well as they interview and sadly, the answer is often that they can’t. Many candidates bounce around from opportunity to opportunity, performing poorly each step of the way. Time passes and it’s apparent that they aren’t going to succeed and a lot of time, money, and effort has been wasted. However, there are a few categories that we can identify and attempt to place candidates in as they interview. If we are successful, we can hire a salesperson that sells more than just us on the interview.
The first category is “can’t and won’t”. These are an easy group to pick out. They typically don’t interview well. They present themselves poorly and struggle with their answers. Usually we don’t see many of these people because they leave the sales profession. It’s apparent to everyone, even them, that they aren’t suited for it.
The other group is “can’t but will”. These people don’t act like salespeople but they find ways to succeed. They might not present themselves in a great way and most interviewers would swear they couldn’t sell. We never encourage hiring someone an interviewer doesn’t like on an interview, but sometimes it’s not a personality issue. The interviewer just doesn’t believe they have the ability. Many times the interviewer is wrong and misses a diamond in the rough. This can be a dangerous category because we might pass up a good candidate that we think doesn’t have “the look.” Not having the look is a poor reason to pass up a good candidate and most interviewers wouldn’t do it if they knew the person would sell.
The next category is “can but won’t”. This is the most dangerous category of all. These people present themselves well and bond with the interviewer. They have the look and give off the salesperson vibe. They are perceived as people persons and intelligent. However, when they get into the position, nothing happens. Hidden weaknesses arise which prevent them from performing. These people are the most common mistakes. They seem to have all the pieces but once they start the job we find the pieces don’t work together.
The final category is “can and will”. These are our most frequent good hires. They look and act the part. They sell just as well as they interview and become our sales superstars.
Now that we have defined the categories we need a few techniques to help identify the categories that will sell. One technique is to treat the interview like a sales call. Let them warm us up and see how well they do. Too many times interviewers are overly inviting and are working to sell the candidate on the organization. Hold off on that and see if they can handle a little pressure. It’s rare that our candidate will find an excited prospect who can’t wait to buy. The second strategy is to investigate evaluations. There are objective tests that salespeople can take that shed light on their actual sales ability. These can be an invaluable resource to uncover how well a salesperson actually sells. Gut feels are good to gauge personality and how someone will fit in with the company culture. Often times they are terrible at pinpointing an ability to sell
If we keep in mind what the categories are and implement a few ways to identify the candidate, we can eliminate costly hiring mistakes and grow a superior sales force.
- Jody Williamson
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