One of the most common questions I get from my clients is, “how do you hire excellent salespeople?”
This, as you may know, can be easier said than done! Traditional recruitment and interview methods can work well in some cases, but we have all hired an individual this way and have been utterly disappointed by the results. While there is no surefire way to ensure your newly hired salesperson is going to be a winner, I have developed a series of hiring techniques that have helped me immensely over the years.
From placing a strong recruitment listing to creating an interview process that works for your company, these are just some of the strategies that can be used. It is important that you craft and hone these suggestions to fit your business—but as a basic template, this is a great place to start.
Crafting a job ad for results
When I perused ads on different sites I noticed that companies are confusing job ads with job descriptions. An ad is to sell the applicant. A description is used internally to describe their responsibilities.
Keep the ad short:
• Title that catches the attention of the applicant
• Intro: Paragraph that summarizes most interesting points of position
• Company Name
Try placing this statement at the bottom of your ad. You will be amazed how quickly you weed out applicants that are not qualified.
“Tell us why you are the perfect candidate for this position and leave your phone number for us to call you back.”
To ensure visibility, you'll want to repost the ad weekly.
“Remember—while there are many different personality types, no one is ‘superior’ to any other. They are all equal, yet different—but this does also mean that some personality types are better suited to different careers than others.”
Personality tests – Learning about your candidate
As a part of our recruitment process, we ask our candidates to take a short series of standardized personality tests prior to the first interview, including the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator Personality. This test assigns people into 16 different categories based on their answers to a series of questions.
While these tests are by no means a foolproof indication of exactly what your candidate will be like when on the job, they can give you some valuable information. Remember—while there are many different personality types, no one is ‘superior’ to any other. They are all equal, yet different—but this does also mean that some personality types are better suited to different careers than others.
It has been theorized that the ENFP and ENFJ types are more naturally inclined toward empathy, listening, communication, and teamwork. These traits can make them excellent salespeople, and so we are always on the lookout for individuals who fall into these categories.
During the interview
Now that you have narrowed your candidate list down to those who are best suited to your position, it is time to schedule interviews. As an employer, you should prepare for the interview just as vigorously as you would expect your candidate to do so. Carefully select targeted questions, and consider crafting a role playing scenario.
Ask the right questions – and look for the right answers
Asking a candidate the seemingly simple question, “how did you prepare for this interview today?” can reap a wealth of information about their work ethic. Do they seem caught off by this question, or are they composed and prepared? Ideally, you are looking for an individual who has a polished and well thought-out answer.
While some people might tell you about their personal care regime (I ate healthfully, slept well, and carefully chose my attire), others might blank and look panicked. This will tell you a lot about how they deal under pressure when a client asks them an unexpected question.
A truly gifted salesperson will tell you that they have prepared for your interview by researching your company. They will be able to give you a brief history of your business, highlight your achievements, and mention any awards or honors the business has received in the past. By showing you that they have done their homework, they are telling you that they value your time and are serious about the opportunity to work for your company.
This is exactly the kind of impression that you want a top salesperson to make on your clients. A sales professional that comes to meetings well prepared, listens carefully to questions, and then demonstrates their knowledge with a thoughtful answer is who you want out there in the world, representing your brand.
Role-playing can test your candidate’s mettle
Sometimes the best way to assess your candidate’s abilities is to actually watch them in action. I have our employees pose as disgruntled clients during a salesperson interview. First, they pretend to demand to see me, and when I allow them access to the meeting they express a few pointed concerns.
I then ask the candidate to field the concerns and intervene, as if they are already in the position. They are not pre-warned about this exercise—I truly want to see them on their toes and in an unexpected situation that they could not have planned for in advance.
Not only do I get to see how well my candidate does under fire, this exercise shows them that working for my company will be a dynamic and exciting experience. No two days are ever the same, and that is why I don’t simply want someone who is adept at answering stock interview questions. I want to know that they are a creative and exciting thinker who can handle a sticky client situation and turn it around quickly and professionally.
If they break down, fumble too much with their words, completely ‘blank’ out or otherwise fail this test, you can rest assured that they will not be able to handle the complexities of an event when the time comes. Remember: even the best plans can fail, and when a client emergency occurs you need someone who can appease the situation, save the sale and make your company look good.
Click on the link if you want to watch the unexpected candidate response I received via role playing when my company, Feastivities, was featured on The Fairy Job Mother.
Meryl Snow is the author of Booked It! and is a senior consultant for Certified Catering Consultants.