An effective sales strategy can make all the difference between having a good year and having a great year. That strategy also includes having the right sales people who understand and create a happy handshake between your product and the consumer needs. According to Harvard Business Review, the annual average employee turnover in sales is only about 25-30% indicating the dearth of high quality sales people across industries. How do you hire sales candidates that give above average performance?
Sales or the Business Development roles aren’t what they used to be 15 years ago. As Matt Gorniak, VP Salesforce says, “ I do believe that the modern sales leader has to be a marketer”. Selling is not just about cold calling or meeting possible future-clients hoping deals will close on their own. It is now about owning the trifecta of:
- Product Story: How does your product break the clutter? What are its features? Does the customer understand its complete functionality? What need is your product addressing for your customer?
- Selling Story: Is it a recurrent-purchase product or a one-time buy? Is it a high-value or a low-value transaction? How complex is the sales process?
- Buyer Story: Whom are you selling to? What do they think of your company?
Are the decision makers mid-management or leadership?
In our observations of the talent market, the skills-pattern that emerged clearly pointed to the following as the Top 5 essential-to-have competencies:
- Demonstrated Selling Skills
Brooks Groups’ Sales Leadership Report 2020, highlights that the No. 1 skill gap that leaders want to plug in their team is prospecting for new accounts. The report also mentions that only 29% of respondents strongly agreed that the sales leaders in their organizations are well equipped to succeed in their roles.
Selling, by nature, requires a hunter’s mind-set, someone who can scope out possible business opportunities from a forest full of competition. When you look at demonstrated success and use Sales Ability Tests that assess candidates in a simulated environment. Does s/he talk about solid facts and figures that point to his/her individual contribution to building business? Additionally, Prospecting skills and Product Knowledge are crucial for assessing achievement orientation and work skills. Onboard candidates who can quickly immerse themselves in your brand philosophy, understand your value proposition and identify the various places where your product finds application.
- Achievement Orientation
Sales & Business Development roles operate on the Pareto Principle. Which means, in nearly all organizations, the top 20% of the sales team brings in 80% of the business. As recruiters, you always want to hire people who fit that 20% bracket.
Enterprise, therefore, is an extremely valuable trait to have. If business development and spending hours prospecting potential leads sounds thrilling and challenging to your candidates, that’s a big bold tick right off the bat. Competitiveness is also a fantastic trait to have if they score high on Teamwork & Work Ethics too; otherwise you might end up hiring someone who is great at his work but has no qualms about treading over others to gain advantage.
Good sales professionals have a personality that is internally motivated, extremely resourceful and are great at proactively networking within and outside the industry. These personality traits can be measure using Aspiring Minds’ personality assessments.
Malleability leads to coachability. If a candidate isn’t malleable, he is, in all probability, not coachable. You can easily find out how flexible an applicant is by asking about their habits. How rigid is their work schedule? How do they take to distractions, diversions and deviations? Put the candidate in a stress situation; ask them to make a pitch to you about the company they are employed in currently, and then frequently interrupt them. Their reaction to these rude interruptions and their ability to smoothly resume their pitch without showing annoyance, anger, frustration or disorientation can reveal a lot about them.
Is the candidate humble enough to take constructive criticism, does he use it to iron out the problem areas, and forge forward with a positive attitude? Assess him/her by giving possible situations where a client has a significant issue with your product, and then ask them options on how they would solve it.
- EI – Emotional Intelligence
Confidence and Likeability are the two wingmen every salesperson needs to do their job properly. A good sales person also utilizes his cognitive skills to understand customer requirements beyond the obvious. He/she makes an effort to understand how this investment will impact the customer’s bottom line or their overall business strategy.
Use Cognitive Ability Tests for thorough assessment of these traits. Additionally, during your Live Interview, pretend you are a potential client and trash talk about his product or service. Does he retain his composure or does his attitude become combative? Does he have an open, willing-to-learn attitude to appreciate other prospecting methods than what he is used to? Is he confident about his ability to adapt to changing business circumstances?
- Customer Insight
Experienced sales professionals can elevate selling to an art form. To them, selling is not about doing business at all; it is about creating lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with their clients. In-depth customer insights come from this understanding of target segments, tracking latest trends, and being extremely persistent. A person who gives up easily will have abysmal conversion numbers, because he wasn’t dogged enough to pursue his leads.
How many of your candidates have a proven record of influencing decisions? Can they hold their own while intelligently conversing with the client’s technical team to infer consumer purchase patterns, their pain points, and desirable product features? Ask your candidate if he ever held sway over a client’s decision to purchase his product.
As Jeff Multz, founder of Emerging Market Technologies says, "You can only have so many clock ticks. If you invest time [in hiring salespeople] and get poor results, it'll kill you. You can never get that time back."
Today, exceptional salespeople are master collaborators. They are “business engineers” with a keen focus on delivering customer value, while also driving business growth. For that reason, hiring high potential sales professionals is like taking out an indemnity against business exigencies; as they continue to climb the ladder, these future leaders will remain committed to best practices in sales and business development. Sales recruiters, therefore, must be able to accurately identify the future ‘oracles’ who will direct the transformation of their business in times to come.