There are literally thousands of factors that can impact your sales revenue, many of which—such as the competitive landscape, technology trends, and the larger national and global economy—are likely to be beyond your realm of influence.
However, there is at least one important factor over which you have total control—the hiring process. The link between your sales team and your bottom line is much more complex than you might think, and it goes far beyond a simple question of skill or experience.
With the right personnel in place, you’ll be well-positioned to provide the kind of cradle-to-grave relationship management that cultivates lasting customer loyalty—as well as the promise of up-sales, cross-sales, and repeat sales. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind the next time you’re auditioning new hires.
Sketch out an interview plan in advance—and stick with it. Salespeople are notoriously difficult to assess objectively in an interview setting. Most in the field are remarkably gifted in terms of people skills and rapport-building. As such, it’s important that you take pains to insert as much objectivity as you can into the process. One way you can do this is by using the same basic interview format with all of the candidates you talk to. This will make it easier to compare the candidates across several categories.
Ask for hard data on past sales performance…but keep it in context. It’s easier to make the right hiring decision if you’ve got some hard-and-fast figures to look at. However, it’s vital that you place each candidate’s sales data in the proper perspective. For example, a candidate whose background is in defense contracts will likely have higher total sales than someone else who got their start in the automotive industry. Ask for percentages and ratios, rather than relying solely on dollar figures.
Draw them out of their comfort zone. Don’t rely too much on the standard question-and-answer interview format—that’s what they’ll be expecting. Good salespeople need to be able to think fast, so throw a few curveballs to keep them on their toes. Describe a few detailed, industry-specific sales scenarios and ask how they would respond in each situation.
Test their depth of knowledge about your firm. In this day and age, research is a non-negotiable part of every successful salesperson’s preparation routine. Find out whether your candidates have done their homework about your organization. This is a good metric for assessing their industry knowledge—and how bad they want to be a part of your team.
What are your hiring criteria when you’re in the market for sales professionals? Which questions or assessment strategies have served you well in the past? Let us know in the comments.