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How Hardwired Recruiting Habits Hurt Your Sales Success

The companies I have been talking to since early January seem to have adopted 1 of the 3 following strategies.

1. Holding or downsizing,
2. Re-building back to full strength, and
3. Putting new teams in place to take advantage of opportunities within identified gaps.

The companies covered in points 2. and 3. are the focus of this article because they want to acquire new sales talent and may have a recruiting checklist in place that, in many instances, looks a lot like this –

1. Advertise for candidates.

2. Screen and prioritise CV’s.

3. Interviewing candidates.

4. Personality / behaviour analysis (maybe) and background checks.

5. Job offer or go back to 1.

At a quick glance, this list of activities seems logical and appropriate, but the devil is in the detail and checklists like this are often the cause of an expensive, repetitive cycle that negatively impacts the acquisition of top sales talent.

Predictable outputs from this process can include mismatching candidates with roles, initial expectations that taper into a low performance reality for the company and underlying disappointment for employee and employer.

Let us take a closer look at how the list could be improved upon to provide a reliable process for recruiting high-performing sales talent that hits the ground running.

1. Advertise for candidates.

Sales recruitment external adverts are often a copy and paste of internal job descriptions. Or they are written like a marketing advert for the company. Or they are filled with vague terms like “self-starter”, “highly motivated”, “excellent attention to detail” and “good interpersonal skills” An effective advert must focus on the requisite skillsets and outputs. If you are hiring an Account Manager do you really want a Farmer? What is the difference? Did you know that Hunting is a clearly defined sales competency with its own supporting skill sets and is not a sales personality? click for more

2. Screen and prioritise CV’s.

Screening and prioritising can be emotive and subjective, and matching candidate competences to expected outputs or matching their experience to your job profile can be compared to crystal-ball gazing.

Actual experience in 36 countries shows that early, sales-specific assessment using the sales benchmark – OMG’s Sales Candidate Assessment, a 10x winner of the Top Sales Gold Award which defines the 30 core competences critical to successful selling – is key to a clearer understanding of the current capability and future potential of candidates! Learn more

At this point we also recommend introducing Pre-Screening which includes applicant interaction based on the insights from the OMG assessment that will further support top talent identification.

3. Interview candidates.

Face-to-face interviews go wrong when –

i) The interviewer asks expected questions like ‘what would you do in x situation’ Smart applicants will have rehearsed answers (true or false) to this question and will sound accomplished when answering these hypothetical, generic questions. Instead, identify and explore a real situation related to a current role.

ii) Biases like the HALO EFFECT affect the post interview review – i.e. when an interviewer says, “I like that person”, and confuses “LIKE” with “CAN DO THAT JOB” Being self-aware and conscious of biases will help to reduce the likelihood of this bias as will having a consistent process which is rigorously peer reviewed. Make a list of relevant questions, be planned and stay away from ‘gut-feel’.

iii) Interviewers do all the talking and asking and allow the applicant to ask questions only at the end of the meeting. Interviews are a two-way process in which both parties are trying to find out about each other. The interviewer should do more listening than talking, and when speaking will be asking questions and responding to the applicant’s questions. Interviewers should avoid in-company jargon which could confuse even an experienced salesperson.

4. Personality, Behaviour tests and background checks.

Background and reference checks are the norm around the world. However, reference checks for salespeople should focus on job-related output-specific data that can be compared to current expectations. Personality and behaviour tests at this stage add no value to the selection process, and their results are usually disregarded thanks to CONFIRMATION BIAS where interviewers disregard information that conflicts with prior beliefs and experiences like the preceding interview experience.

5. Job Offer and Onboarding.

Job offers are all too often tied to activities.

In sales, Job Offers should be linked to defined outputs and structured to elicit and reward specific roles like Hunter, Farmer Account manager or Channel Manager all of which require quite different KBI’s and results.

Onboarding often involves linking the sales candidate with a more experienced sales executive. This activity, known as “shadowing”, is quite unstructured and counterproductive for many reasons.

1. The senior salesperson will not comfortably share his knowledge and skill because the newcomer represents risks to his territory allocation and his income.

2. The newcomer cannot “learn’ skills from the senior person due to differences in style, experience, age, personality, and other factors.

Onboarding is an archaic term that has different meanings and implications for most users.

We prefer Integration which is an immersive and structured process, owned and managed by the line manager, and others in matrixed organisations, and which includes discussions on values and guiding principles, personal and company objectives alignment, understood and agreed processes and milestones, clear expectation-setting from both parties and daily sales coaching from managers who have the skills and Will to Coach as strengths.

In conclusion, it is certainly OK to have a checklist to guide the implementation of a process like sales talent recruiting and there is no doubt that the addition of key detail in each step ensures a much more effective process. However, if the checklist is in the wrong order, or if mission-critical elements are absent, it will not matter how well-defined the activities are.

If you would like to know more about optimising Sales Talent Recruitment processes, Pre- Screening tools and techniques, sales and sales management / leadership candidate assessments or Understanding Your Sales Force Click Here

Bruce Franklin, Managing Director, Gap Analysis


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