• The 3 Biggest Mistakes When Hiring Sales Talent

    steve bWe consistently have clients coming to us for help with fixing their underperforming sales people. Often we can help but sometimes we have to advise that the person concerned is wrong for the role and there is little that can be done to fix the problem. Better, by far, to hire the right people in the first place.

    Over the years we’ve learned some pretty important lessons around interviewing sales people. Here are three common interview pitfalls you should really try to avoid.

    Mistake 1: Interviewing the CV.

    Fast forward to your next interview. It is five minutes before the candidate will be on the phone or in front of you. You say to yourself, who is this guy? You then frantically print out the resume and skim it. You then proceed to interview the CV. “Tell me about the job you had? What was your success there? Why did you leave? Blah, Blah, Blah…”

    I’m sure your process isn’t as bad as this, however, here’s the mistake: you need to know what you are looking for. Define your needs beyond the CV and the clichés. Start with understanding what the key job functions actually are and rank the importance of each one.

    Mistake 2: Placing emphasis on the wrong selling skills.

    You only have a certain amount of time with your candidates. Make sure you know which skills are most important for success. For example, we sometimes hear clients say that they ask a candidate to “do a presentation” during the interview. Having them do a presentation is not a bad idea, however, what’s your process for understanding the candidate’s ability to prospect or question and qualify what the client actually needs? In your world, is that more important than the presentation?

    In the past have you hired people that love to present and then spend their days and nights “chasing” and “following up?” What are the top 10 skills they need to execute to be successful? We often see this list vary however presentation skills are rarely in the top 5.

    Mistake 3: Assuming that because they can do something, they actually will.

    “Will Do” is the hardest thing to judge during an interview. Attitude and motivation can sometimes be faked long enough to get a candidate through an interview. Sales people can have talent but can lose their drive and motivation. Ask yourself the question, especially of sales people in the latter stages of their career – why have they not succeeded in past roles and are now applying for a new job? Sometimes there is a good reason but beware of people with careers that have stalled or are in decline.

    We recommend you use hiring assessments to measure core competencies around:

    • Ambition and drive
    • Takes action
    • Resists stall and objections
    • Accepts responsibility

    Without these assessments, you are relying on likability and gut feel. Your odds of finding an effective candidate will suffer.

    Steve Buiskool

    Steve Buiskool

    Steve Buiskool is Managing Director of Sandler Training in Cheltenham. He works with companies who wish to increase their return on the investment made in their sales team and with local business owners who need to improve their own business development skills. Prior to starting Sandler Cheltenham, Steve had a 25 year sales career including Sales Director positions with CapGemini and Capita. He also specialised in leading major deals in the IT, BPO and consulting markets. Tel: 01242 420750 Mobile: 0750 750 5996

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  • SW3 – Some Will, Some Won’t, So What.

    The situations SME business owners (who are primarily responsible for their business’ sales) and sales professionals face on a day-to-day basis can take a tremendous toll on your emotional and mental well-being. If actively prospecting, you deal with rejections, frustrations, disappointment, and possibly disrespect on a daily basis.

    You probably experience more emotional ups and downs than most other professionals. And, no matter how successful you are, your income is less predictable than that of salaried employees. How you react to these setbacks drives your performance on future deals.

    For example, if your feelings about asking a prospect a difficult question stop you from asking, then you start a downward spiral to nowhere. First, you’re uncomfortable asking, so you don’t ask and end up wasting time with a non-qualified prospect. You then get angry with yourself and/or the prospect for wasting time. All these negative feelings and actions only serve to tear down your emotional and mental well-being.

    When you think about it dispassionately, it makes no sense to allow your emotions to be affected by one deal being lost or one difficult prospect– the world’s best footballer does not score a goal with every shot, the world’s best tennis player does not win every game. The very best sales people will win 50-70% of deals they chase. Not winning a deal is just part of the job. Remember this formula:

    In other words, it is completely normal to win some deals, lose some and as long as you have a process to continually find new and win opportunities it does not matter. If you concentrate on doing the basics right – having a proactive prospecting plan, qualifying hard, following a structured sales process, measuring and analysing results and working on continuous improvement of your professional selling skills – the results will come – guaranteed.

    Remember this formula: 

    SW3 = Some Will, Some Wont – So What

    Steve Buiskool

    Steve Buiskool

    Steve Buiskool is Managing Director of Sandler Training in Cheltenham. He works with companies who wish to increase their return on the investment made in their sales team and with local business owners who need to improve their own business development skills. Prior to starting Sandler Cheltenham, Steve had a 25 year sales career including Sales Director positions with CapGemini and Capita. He also specialised in leading major deals in the IT, BPO and consulting markets. Tel: 01242 420750 Mobile: 0750 750 5996

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  • Managing Behaviours not Results

    All salespeople will hold an annual target. Many will also have additional targets such as number of new accounts opened or mix of business won. All important measures but failure to achieve these targets tends to only become clear at the end of the sales year – too late to change the results. In addition some measures like size of pipeline and number of proposals produced can encourage poor qualification and deal selection.

    Studies have shown that salespeople who consistently perform best have a structured activity plan. They have a “cookbook” of specific weekly and monthly activity goals that include prospecting activities, new client meetings, existing client follow up calls etc.

    The top performing sales teams will adopt this good practice into their sales culture. The Sales Director’s role is to:

    • to agree the cookbook of short term activity targets with each sales person
    • implement a structured review process – preferably weekly
    • identify and address failure to deliver against the plan early
    • regularly review the cookbook and update as required

    The most common objection from Sales Directors is “but my sales people would not like being micro managed”. Of course they won’t, but if the approach is universally adopted as a company requirement they have two choices – comply or leave. Harsh, but building a high performance sales team requires significant cultural change in most organisations and not everyone will embrace that change.

    Implementing this approach tends to flush out those sales people who deep down do not have the hunger and will to succeed. The best sales people will see the benefits to themselves and will flourish. New staff introduced can be selected on their suitability for a more structured way of working.

    Steve Buiskool

    Steve Buiskool

    Steve Buiskool is Managing Director of Sandler Training in Cheltenham. He works with companies who wish to increase their return on the investment made in their sales team and with local business owners who need to improve their own business development skills. Prior to starting Sandler Cheltenham, Steve had a 25 year sales career including Sales Director positions with CapGemini and Capita. He also specialised in leading major deals in the IT, BPO and consulting markets. Tel: 01242 420750 Mobile: 0750 750 5996

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  • Ever made a poor hiring decision?

    Is hiring new sales staff the Sales Leaders most important role?

    Have you ever calculated the cost of a failed sales recruitment? Recent studies have calculated the direct cost at between £50k – £150k dependent on industry and level of seniority. Though total cost including management time and wasted sales support time is greater still. For most businesses this is a staggering amount of money.

    With these types of figures at risk you would expect the recruitment process to be highly structured and controlled. The reality, in most cases, is that sales recruitment is a pretty ad hoc process relying more on luck and gut feel than science.

    Gut feel should not be underestimated, every time I have over ridden my gut feel over the years I have later regretted it, but maybe a combination of a structured approach and gut feel is even better.

    We would suggest that a 5 step approach should be adopted:

    1) Preparation – keep a file of possible recruits – people who you meet or who are recommended. Get in the habit of asking for recommendations. Ask for names of competitor’s sales people who beat you on deals. Ask current staff for names of ex colleagues. Not only will your quality of prospective recruits be better you may save money on recruitment agency fees when the time comes to look for new staff.
    2) Hiring Template – Decide what mix of skills and experience you need as minimum and preferred level. Think about the importance of soft issues such as determination and resilience.  Think about whether a less experienced, more hungry salesperson who can be taught is better for you than a more experienced, more conventional hire? What type of personality would fit best within your culture – a team player or a lone wolf? Do you need a hunter or a farmer? Write down the template and use it as your guide for future steps.
    3) Assessment - For a few hundred pounds you can buy tailored assessment tools that give a highly accurate profile of sales strengths and weaknesses. Things like prospecting behavior, qualifying, negotiating, work ethic and much more can be accurately predicted. This combined with structured interviewing techniques and possible a mock sales meeting role play to measure gravitas, personality and communication skills can give a complete picture.
    4) Due Diligence - Make the reference calls yourself. Check for mutual contacts via LinkedIn and call them. Check Facebook and twitter. Find former colleagues of your potential recruit and call them. Too time consuming? HR’s job? No – think of the time you will have to waste on a poor sales person in the team!
    5) Offer – If you have found the right person find a way of making it happen. An additional £5k on a base salary or a higher grade / band on entry is not important in the wider scheme of things. The best people are the hardest to recruit but are normally worth the effort.

    Steve Buiskool

    Steve Buiskool

    Steve Buiskool is Managing Director of Sandler Training in Cheltenham. He works with companies who wish to increase their return on the investment made in their sales team and with local business owners who need to improve their own business development skills. Prior to starting Sandler Cheltenham, Steve had a 25 year sales career including Sales Director positions with CapGemini and Capita. He also specialised in leading major deals in the IT, BPO and consulting markets. Tel: 01242 420750 Mobile: 0750 750 5996

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    Follow Me:
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