In our continuing study of RAINMAKERS, we certainly hear customers highlight great stories of their top performers – what they do, how they think, the opportunities they land, and what makes them unique and at times challenging!
They vary, however, on the steps that are critical in HIRING a superstar. All hiring is an educated gamble, certainly, but with focus you can increase your odds of hiring the a top performer.
So, if you are a sales leader looking to hire your next winner, here are 5 tips that our customers have found help them raise the likelihood of selecting well. And if you are a salesperson in a time of transition, consider these tips to help you plan for your interview with the hiring authority.
1. Have a Targeted Focus – Be very explicit about your “must have” requirements. Our research shows that to be a top performer you do not need to have 100+ skills. Instead, identify those 5-7 behaviors that are most pressing for the position you are trying to fill. If you are building a new territory, Hunter skills become crucial. If you are seeking someone to manage existing business, then Consultant and Influencing skills should dominate your search. Focus on what is most important.
2. Be a Master Behavioral Interviewer – Many sales managers interview candidates for 45 minutes to an hour. They often form quick first impressions and don’t take the time to truly draw out what is really there. The best managers devote at least 2-3 hours per interview. Dig deep for specific methods and actions a candidate used to achieve the results or successes described in their resume. Dig deeper to get to the mindsets in play, to the ego that drives behavior, to the drive that motivates performance.
3. Have them Present – One of the techniques used by savvy sales managers is having the salesperson present. During the second interview, master interviewers provide the salesperson with a copy of a favorite sales book (or article) for them to prepare and present a 5-minute presentation on the key ideas covered. This allows you to see their preparation, creativity, and ability to articulate new ideas persuasively.
4. Have the Candidate Arrange Reference Interviews – Ideally, do not defer reference checks to your human resource professional. There is enormous value in your doing it (and HR may welcome it!). What works is asking the candidate to arrange an interview with one or more of their past employers (the ones that you choose). For the most part, top performers are delighted to do this, as they know past employers will typically speak well on their behalf. Lower performing players often will not. And when you connect with the employer, be explicit in asking them to highlight the candidate’s strengths and to confirm the results the salesperson discussed.
5. Conduct a “Predictive” Assessment – It is important that you obtain objective feedback on the candidate from an external, objective source. While personality assessments can provide insight, they are not powerful in estimating how the candidate will do in a specific sales environment. Instead, use a “predictive” assessment. This type of assessment measures how a candidate compares to an extensive database of successful sales professionals, and it will often identify strengths and weaknesses that did not surface during the interview. The instruments we use come from the Chally Group, a specialist in predictive assessments.
Building a team of top performers requires diligence and dogged determination. Our experience shows that dedication to following these steps will help you make an informed decision. More importantly, the best candidates will be drawn to you as they see it as evidence of the type of sales leader you are and the type of sales team they want to join.