By Curt Hensley
Hiring top salespeople is the key to accelerating your ISO's growth, right? We all know this, yet why do so many companies fail to assemble the right sales team? Success in this arena is a combination of art and science, and it requires a real commitment to excellence.
At CSH Consulting, we recently placed our 1,200th payments industry professional. It shouldn't surprise anyone that over 600 of these placements were sales-related. Sales drives the growth and viability of almost every company in the payments space.
According to a recent survey, 53 percent of all sales recruiting efforts lead to hiring mistakes. This figure represents the people who didn't work out at all; it doesn't include the average sales hires who produce only enough to keep the job.
The average category covers another 30 to 35 percent, leaving you 12 to 17 percent who actually produce at a high level. That means if your company does an average job of sales recruiting, you have a 50/50 chance of making a major mistake and at least an 80 percent chance that the hire won't produce enough to really advance your company.
Nowhere is it more costly to make these mistakes than in sales. Companies lose millions on training, support and replacement of these hiring blunders.
Even the average salesperson is taking up a territory, and there's a financial opportunity lost since a real producer would bring the company much more revenue.
With the growth of your company at stake, are you willing to accept these outcomes?
Don't think all is lost. It is possible to avoid these costs, as long as you recognize the potential hazards and work proactively to eliminate them. Here are some rules to help you in your quest for top hires:
Know your job: Start by developing a clear, in-depth job description that fully identifies the primary skills and experience you're looking for, the selling environment, the ideal candidate profile (hunter versus farmer), sales objectives, and key performance metrics for the position.
This sounds simple, but if you skip this step, chances are you'll end up with nothing to match candidates against - and that's a recipe for failure.
Understand top performers' skills and traits: Many sales directors hire sales reps who epitomize the stereotype of a top sales rep. They mistakenly believe that if candidates can sell themselves through the interviewing process, they must be good at sales. This thinking couldn't be more wrong. Here are some specific skills and traits to look for:
Know where to find talent: In this declining economy, placing ads on job boards or in the local paper is not going to attract top sales talent. Why? Because the really productive salespeople are already working, and most of them are not looking for new job opportunities.
The ones who are looking for a change will call their favorite recruiter, who will know of several good openings, or they will call trusted contacts in the payments industry.
If you want to find top sales talent, develop a highly targeted strategy. Start by finding out the names of outstanding sales personnel who are working for your competitors, and approach them directly.
The next step is contacting everyone you know in your industry network (including your customers) to get referrals, since most great hires come from trusted referral sources.
A good headhunter knows exactly how to find superior producers. If your company can afford it, there's no better route than to use an industry-specific recruiting firm. The steps I just laid out are what leading recruiting firms do every day, all day. They research the reputations of hundreds, even thousands, of sales reps and keep a file on each one.
Sell your company: If you want to attract the best, spend time promoting your company's attributes. What's your personal vision for the company? What's unique about your opportunity? What's your strategy to dominate in your market? What sort of personal growth and advancement opportunities do you offer distinguished performers? What makes your company a great place to work? As a sales manager, if you look at these questions and don't get excited, maybe it's time for you to move on.
Develop a rigorous, efficient process: Build the right interview team; train your team on interviewing skills; assign varying topics to team members; and make sure to debrief on each candidate. Teach your team to use behavioral interviewing techniques, rather than ask close-ended questions.
Collect a thorough sales achievement history from all candidates by asking for a breakdown of their annual quotas and actual results for their last two to three positions. Top producers always have this information - underperformers usually don't.
Assign small tasks to applicants at each stage of the interviewing process, and watch closely to see how well candidates follow up - and follow instructions.
Check references intelligently: Discard personal references provided by candidates, and insist on speaking to each applicant's immediate sales supervisors from the last three to four jobs. If these supervisors are not listed, it's a red flag.
Don't forget to ask former supervisors whether they would rehire candidates for their previous positions if they had the opportunity.
An excellent performer would always be welcomed back, and a poor sales producer wouldn't be. You are looking for a very enthusiastic yes to this question.
Anything outside of the past manager wishing this candidate never left probably means the candidate wasn't the cream of the crop.
Hiring highly productive salespeople is not easy, but no task is more important if you're committed to achieving your company's growth objectives. Hiring top performers is the best way for you to climb the corporate ladder, as well.
Curt Hensley is the founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of CSH Consulting, a recruiting firm exclusively focused on the payments industry. He and his leadership team have over 50 years of combined experience recruiting in the merchant acquiring arena. They recently placed their 1,200th payments industry professional since their inception eight years ago. Contact Curt at 480-315-8800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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