Last week, I was at the Dallas Vistage International Conference. When I checked into the hotel, there was a group of little girls dressed in performance dance attire. We got onto the elevator together with several of the moms. Now I hate to admit this, but by somewhere between the first floor and their floor, they reminded me of the shows like Dance Moms or Toddlers & Tiaras. I was in the elevator with those kinds of moms and kids. They weren't particularly modeling upright characters.
On Thursday morning, a dance troupe performed as a demonstration of Innovation, one of the categories for which Vistage gives annual member awards. The Silhouettes, a Colorado dance company performing in silhouette format, was simply amazing and received a standing ovation.
That afternoon, I went back to the hotel and ran into a couple of the kids with their Silhouettes-logoed jackets. When they turned around, I realized these were the same people from the elevator. So which was it, those people or the nationally-recognized Silhouettes who'd performed that morning? I made a very quick, yet strong, judgment based on no more than thirty seconds.
This isn’t surprising since research shows how quickly first impressions are formed, but it highlights one reason why sales recruiting so frequently backfires.
Judgment can work both ways. I could have seen the girls in the elevator and thought, “What loving and committed parents. It’s wonderful seeing young girls doing something they love and having fun.”
Salespeople are successful not simply because they're presentable, articulate, engaging and people are comfortable being around them. They're successful because they're highly-skilled listeners, ask great questions, follow a well-defined, structured process, are unburdened by sales-specific weaknesses and receive ongoing behavior-based coaching. Most importantly, they may not be anyone like you or other successful salespeople in your company. This is not to say that you should hire people who don’t share your vision, support the organizational culture nor interact well with employees.
The problem is that we often quickly judge sales candidates based on their presentation and posture. Most successful salespeople are effective in these areas, but this doesn’t mean they have great hunting skills, are capable of engaging in a comprehensive business discussion and are skilled at helping people understand the complexity and importance of the challenges which they face.
Let me illustrate this by way of a question. Have you ever hired a salesperson who had all the right stuff during the interviewing process, yet was not successful once you hired them? The answer is almost always "yes". Why does this so frequently happen to sales managers, executives, human resources and sales operations professionals? My experience is that judgment is a significant factor. Other contributors are lack of testing, using the wrong testing (data gathered in a non-sales context), following poorly-defined sales interviewing process and pressures to hire. Hiring managers must be highly-skilled at seeing past first impressions, avoid emotional attachment with candidates and finally, practiced and trained on behavioral-based interviewing designed specifically for sales recruiting.
How is judgment affecting your sales recruiting success? Does your organization have the right stuff when it comes to hiring salespeople and sales leaders?
Find out how you can improve your sales recruiting.