Five Great Lessons That Apply to Every Company That Hires Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Nov 02, 2015 @ 09:11 AM

I turned sixty years old today and everyone is asking me how it feels to be sixty.  To be honest, it feels exactly the same as it felt to be fifty-nine - which is essentially the same as it felt to be 40.  Nothing has changed.  And speaking of nothing changing, nothing has changed over at BigBrains where two updates have come my way.  The first came from someone who knows the real identity of BigBrains and suggested that I refer to them as ShitForBrains instead.  She must have met them!

The second update came from the OMG Partner who is working with BigBrains.  His email was a riot and even though he is very frustrated with their inability to make smart decisions, he sees the humor in all of this too. He signed off with, "Some people have to cut off their nose to spite their face. &^%$# amazing!"

There are some really good lessons that are beneficial to all executives and from companies of all sizes and industries. I'll share the top five lessons here:

If you haven't read the prior posts about BigBrains, Benchmarking, our Perfect Fit Analysis, and their reasons for being so stupid, this post has links to each of the other articles.

BigBrains is finally using our Sales Candidate Assessment, and instead of hiring business development reps, the subject of 6 previous posts, they are using it to hire salespeople.  There is still a problem though...  BigBrains is interviewing first (wasting lots of time and money) and assessing later. So of course, when they assess their final candidates, the assessment results are coming back as not recommended and they can't understand why.  

LESSON #1:  You will never be able to determine from an interview whether a candidate possesses enough Desire and Commitment for success in sales, whether their Sales DNA is strong enough to succeed in support this skills, and whether they have the sales capabilities to get the job done.  

LESSON #2: You must assess candidates at the earliest stage of the recruiting process to filter out those who won't succeed in the role and identify those candidates with whom you should spend your time talking.

LESSON #3: Some of the candidates that you choose to not include in the process should be included because their sales capabilities make up for whatever it is that you don't like about their resume.  Some of the candidates that you choose to include in the process should not be because their sales capabilities are not consistent with what you liked about their resume.

LESSON #4: If you interview prior to the assessment, you will fall in love with your candidates and then, if the candidate is not recommended, tend to dismiss the assessment results because they differ from what your heart is telling you.  Assess first and you will only be able to fall in love with quality candidates, and, perhaps of greater importance, be EEOC Compliant.  When using assessments, all candidates must be assessed.

LESSON #5:  Nobody, regardless of how long they have been interviewing and hiring salespeople, is smarter than OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments.  You just can't beat the track record, predictive accuracy and uncanny insights.

Lack of significant change as your age increases is a good thing.  Lack of change when you're attempting to get sales hiring right is not.

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Sales Recruiting Process, hiring sales candidates

Top 10 Keys to an Effective Sales Hiring Process

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Aug 11, 2011 @ 00:08 AM

keys to hiring salespeopleThere are many keys to making the the sales hiring process work effectively yet most companies fail to get these keys right.  Some of them are obvious, while some are more subtle.  And most of all, the integrity, or in this case, the outcome of the process is only as strong as the weakest link.  Ignore or fail to complete any one step the way it is designed and the entire outcome will be in jeopardy, as in, another salesperson that fails to launch, doesn't meet expectations, or succeeds at being utterly mediocre.

Here are some keys and comments:

  1. You must identify what experiences the new salespeople must have in order to succeed at your company, in this position, calling into your market.
  2. You have to nail the posting - get it wrong and the wrong people will apply for the position.  When the wrong people apply, you have a pool that's green and unsuitable for diving in.
  3. You must use a customized, sales specific, predictive assessment to identify the candidates who will succeed in your positions and roles.  If the assessment isn't predictive and you can't rely on it, you'll end up wasting your time with the wrong candidates.
  4. You must be able to determine, in less than 5 minutes by phone, which of the recommended candidates have the desired experience, sound great, and should be interviewed.
  5. You must be able to firmly but nicely cross-examine your candidates in a face-to-face interview to determine whether they are the person described on their resume or an imposter, meaning the resume was a work of fiction.
  6. You must have realistic expectations on your timeline.  30-60 days to fill an ordinary territory sales position, 90 days or more to fill a niche sales position, and even longer for the proverbial needle in the haystack.
  7. You must be patient enough to do it all over again if you don't find the candidate(s) that make you happy.  Once you have reached the interview stage, candidates will come in 6 and possibly 12 flavors: 
    • Strong sales skills, perfect background and you like them;
    • Strong sales skills, a background that is close and you like them;
    • Strong sales skills, wrong background and you like them;
    • Strong sales skills, perfect background and you don't like them;
    • Strong sales skills, a background that is close and you don't like them;
    • Strong sales skills, wrong background and you don't like them;
If you compromised on the assessment profile and didn't insist on it recommending only the strongest salespeople, you'll have 6 more flavors like those above, only they will be showing Weak Sales Skills.
You need to select from Strong, perfect or close, and you like them.  Period.  You let the assessment tell you whether they are strong.  You let the interview, not the resume, determine whether they have the right background.  And only then do you decide whether you like them.
If you don't get what you want, you must answer this question:  12 months from now, will you be happy that you took three more months to find the right salesperson, or pissed off that you compromised, wasted a year, and have to begin the process all over again?
8.  After identifying a candidate(s) you wish to hire, you must be able to effectively sell the opportunity to them.
9.  Finally, you must be able to effectively on board the new salesperson(s) so that they go roaring out of the gate
10. You must be willing to coach at least twice per day, while holding the new salesperson accountable to all of the agreed upon startup metrics.

Hiring salespeople is not for the faint of heart, should not be performed without the right tools, and cannot be conducted without the right process.  Most importantly, gut instinct is not a part of this process!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Recruiting Process, sales hiring process, sales candidate assessment

Case History - How Not to Hire Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Apr 02, 2010 @ 11:04 AM

A company wants to hire 5000 salespeople - but why?

2000 drop out before completing training, and another 2000 drop out during the first 90 days in the field. Another 500 drop out during the first 6 months, and at the end of the year they only have 500 of the original 5000 standing.  What would it be worth to them from a cost, time, resources and practicality standpoint for us to simply identify, in advance, the final 500, before anyone is hired?

Can we do that?  Yes.

Are they likely to do that?  No.

Why?  Because that's the way it's always been done in their industry.  The Status Quo prevents improved outcomes and nobody wants to make a change that might not work.  Well what about the way they're doing it now?  Does anybody really believe that it works the way it is?  They do!

Let's take a closer look at why their turnover - at 90% the first year - is so high?  Let's look at how they select salespeople since that's one of the things that we could change.

They use a behavioral styles assessment.  They're OK, but (obviously!!) not predictive of sales success.

This particular assessment is marketed as a sales assessment but it's the same old story.  Behavioral Styles assessment that uses some sales terminology and marketing but under the hood it's a behavioral styles assessment.  Here are some examples:

The Assessment reports "Prospecting Ability" but they can't actually measure that.  They can only measure how extroverted, social and persistent the individual is - in a social context!  It has nothing to do with prospecting ability!

The Assessment reports "Closing Style/Ability" but they can't actually measure that.  They can only measure assertiveness and sensitivity to rejection - in  a social context!  It has nothing to do with closing ability!

The Assessment report "Commitment to Sales" but they can't actually measure that.  They can only measure self-esteem and how favorable the individual is to a sales profession.  It has nothing to do with Commitment to Sales!

And on and on and on it goes...

What would you do?

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, Sales Candidate, Behavioral Styles Test, Sales Recruiting Process, personality test, objective management group

What Makes You Think You Have a Sales or Recruiting Process?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 22, 2010 @ 08:01 AM

It's true.  Executives brag about their processes.  "Oh, yes, we spent the last 15 years developing our process and it's wonderful - wait until you see it!"  It never matters whether they're talking about a recruiting process or a sales process, the common denominator is the pride they take in what they created.

It reminds me of the very first house my wife and I lived in nearly 20 years ago.  We had designed and planted gardens and the next project was a large perennial garden we wanted to plant. We were quite proud of what we had already done but were unsure of what plants to include and how to arrange them for a spectacular look.  So we invited a professional landscape designer to come by and his first words were, "Oh yeah, typical homeowner landscaping", loud enough for the entire town to know we were incompetent.  Thanks to my wife's great vision, we've gotten much better at landscape design (read - she designs quite impressively and I can dig holes).  But I try to keep this incident in mind whenever an executive begins to brag about their process(es).

Invariably, these home-grown processes are primitive.  Yes, they can put the process label on them, but only because there is more than one step.  But steps don't make a good or effective process.  Whether it's a recruiting process or a sales process, it should always include a combination of best practices, milestones, steps and stages conducted in the proper sequence, with the proper expectations, in an appropriate time frame.

So what makes you think you have a sales or recruiting process?

Speaking of processes, I'll be featured on a webinar, How Not to Screw up Your Sales Hiring in 2010, hosted by the EcSell Institute on Monday, January 25, at 1 PM ET, when I'll be discussing the Sales Recruiting Processes with founder, Bill Eckstrom. More information and to register.

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales management, Sales Force, Sales Recruiting Process, Selling System

10 Lessons From the Sales Candidate Who Smelled Like He Peed on Himself

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jul 03, 2009 @ 05:07 AM

It was quite the claim.  I remember telling my client that the next candidate we were to interview was the best sounding candidate I had ever spoken with on the phone. Robert, the sales manager, went to the lobby to get the candidate and returned, an ashen look on his face.  Ray, the candidate, followed Robert into the conference room and suddenly, I had the same ashen look on my face.  It seemed that the best candidate I had ever spoken with by phone was, well, a bum!

They say you make an impression in the first 5 seconds and if the first impression was horrible, it was a huge understatement.  Here are just some of the things we noticed:

  • he had a paper bag with a bottle in it
  • his white shirt had yellowed
  • he was completely wrinkled - not a wrinkled face, but a suit that was wrinkled so bad it could only have occurred from sleeping in it - on a park bench - on multiple nights
  • he stunk - not like Yankees stink or Red Sox stink, but as if he had urinated on himself
  • his hair had not been combed - or washed - for days, maybe weeks
  • his clothes didn't fit

The funny thing was that when we began to interview him, if you just closed your eyes, you would have heard the most pleasing, helpful, nurturing, lucid, quick, humorous, effective, competent salesperson you could imagine.  And since this was an inside sales position...

Even that was a beyond a stretch.  You couldn't even support the logic for Ray working from home - away from the other salespeople who could find him offensive because, well, he probably didn't have a home.

So outside of this being a great true story, there are some lessons from it.

  1. It doesn't matter how good the candidate's resume, track record, assessment results and phone interview are.  There is a reason for a face to face interview and that must go well too.
  2. The purpose for a sales recruiting process is to filter candidates out - not the other way around
  3. It doesn't matter how much confidence you have in your interviewing, recruiting, and selection skills.  You will still be wrong about people
  4. Your gut instinct has its place.  Recruiting and selection isn't the place to rely on it.
  5. Your eyes can't be fooled.  Or can they?  What if Ray was just plain ugly instead of repulsive and homeless?  What if he was disabled?  What if he had a disease?
  6. Candidates might not be as good as advertised but rarely will they be better than advertised
  7. There is a reason for sequenced, multiple steps in the process. Never deviate or take short cuts.
  8. Just because the earlier steps in the process did not effectively filter out Ray, you shouldn't assume that the process is flawed because of one miss.  Always practice what works most of the time, not what worked or didn't work once.
  9. Be warned about making compromises.  Would you have hired Ray, a great salesperson, if everything was normal - except for the bottle in the bag (could it have been orange juice?), or except for the hair (just a bad hair day), or except for the shirt (the others were at the cleaners), or except for the size of the clothes (lost a ton of weight and still losing)?
  10. Never hire anyone that smells like he peed on himself.
(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales recruiting, sales candidates, Sales Recruiting Process, sales assessment test, sales selection, personality test, hire salespeople

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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