Hiring the best



Hiring is not a science. No matter how much experience and knowledge you have, you will still make some bad recruitment moves. However, there is some groundwork that can help you make the process as smooth and as successful as possible.


Of course, the starting point to staffing is finding qualified candidates to interview in the first place, and this is no easy task. The biggest secret to finding the best candidates is not to wait until you need someone. If you do, you will feel pressured and often take the first person that comes along, or you will settle for second best.


The key to finding top performers is to ensure you are always on the lookout for people.


Some companies believe that if you find the right candidate on the market, then you should hire that person even though you might not have an available opening at the time. Great salespeople are a rare and valuable commodity. If spotted, the best sales managers will grab that person and somehow find a way to work them into their budget.


Although this may sound extravagant, there can sometimes be a cost saving in not waiting. Think about the expense of employing an ineffective, poor quality salesperson. How much will that cost your organisation? Not only will you have the employee’s wages to pay out, but also consider the possible impact a below-standard salesperson may have with customers. Having a shoddy salesperson calling on your customers may lead to the loss of business.


There is also the complexity as well as the legal issues attached to removing or firing under-performers.


Compare these financial outlays with the cost of hiring a good person, even if you don’t really need them at that particular moment in time.


If you can’t have the ideal candidate there and then, make sure you keep their details on record. When you come across someone who strikes you as a suitable person, make a note of their contact information, and when the time comes you can approach them.


But if there isn’t anyone lined up for the role don’t panic! This is the time to implement your planned recruitment process. It is essential that you take your time during this period. Never rush into making a hiring decision. As top speaker and consultant Brian Tracy says: "Hire in haste, repent at leisure." If you employ the wrong person, you will have to live with the problem for quite a while. By taking time you will reduce the risk of hiring the wrong person.


Getting what you want


Finding the right person for the job comes from clearly defining the role of the sales position you are looking to fill, particularly if it is a new position in the company. Different sales roles will require different types of salespeople.


Some of the questions you will need to answer before you start the recruiting process include: Who do you want new people to target? Who will they be calling on? Will they be focused on large accounts or small accounts? Will they be doing a lot of prospecting or will they spend most of their time managing accounts? Will their role be more transactional or consultative? Each role has different activities and skills sets. A person who is highly successful as a ‘transactional salesperson’ may not be successful in the role of a ‘strategic salesperson’. Many times I’ve seen dealers try to convert a relationship-type of salesperson into a cold caller and it usually doesn’t work. The mindset of a service-oriented salesperson won’t be able to make the transition to the high level of activity required from a transactional role.


A good way to identify what you are looking for is to take a look at your most successful top sellers in a similar role to the one you are looking to fill. Ask yourself what makes them so good at what they do, what skills and abilities do they have, and what are they doing that is different to the average performers?


Use your top performers as a benchmark for your new hires.


Analyse job skills


Once you have decided on the role of the new recruit, it is necessary to determine what will be required to perform this position successfully.


• Knowledge: The information needed to perform the job. For example, product expertise, company knowledge and an understanding of the competition.


• Capabilities: The skills and abilities necessary to be successful in this job. For example, in a sales position, questioning techniques, negotiation tools, presentation strengths.


• Self-Management: The ability to manage oneself positively. For example, attitude, time management and self-confidence.


These three categories are not only important in the initial hiring phase, but are also a good way to monitor job performance over time.


Having identified the actual job, you need to gain a list of potential candidates before starting the process of screening applicants.


1) Use the telephone to screen all candidates prior to interviewing.


Do they meet the job requirements? If they do, you can then set up a face-to-face interview. Screening will ensure you don’t waste time interviewing non-qualified candidates. Another advantage is that you will actually experience how that person communicates over the telephone. The telephone is a tool that all salespeople need to utilise in prospecting and interacting with customers. By talking to the candidate, you will get a glimpse of that person’s ability to communicate and interact over the telephone.


2) Don’t confuse experience with expertise.


Watch out for those sales candidates who have had many previous sales jobs – they are often the ones that jump around from one company to another. There is usually a reason that they have had so many different sales jobs. And a sales background isn’t always an indicator of future success.


I recommend that you look beyond just past work experience and determine if the person has the right attitude and personal motivation.


3) Check References.


Some studies have shown that a high percentage of candidates misrepresent their work history or have inaccuracies on their resumé and job application form about their education. And in today’s world, companies are consulted to only give out limited information about previous employees, such as job title and dates of employment when called for references.


However, I would still recommend that you check references because confirming their employment, job position and education can be valuable. Do you really want someone working for your company who is less than honest on a résumé or job application form?


4) Develop a checklist of observable characteristics.


Consider what image you want your salesperson to present to your customers. Develop a written list of these attributes and rank each candidate against the list. Some of the obvious ones to look for are: appearance (clothing and grooming); energy/enthusiasm; self-confidence; ability to develop rapport; and preparation.


After your initial interview with each candidate, take the time to rank him or her against the checklist of characteristics. Did they present a professional image and exhibit self-confidence? Were they able to communicate effectively? Did they develop rapport with you as an interviewer? Were they prepared for the interview by doing research on your company or by preparing questions?


Hopefully, by now you will have identified the time-wasters from the potential players. The groundwork has been laid and the real work – interviewing – can begin.