Finding “A” Level Salespeople

I really wasn’t expecting it.  In fact, I really took it for granted.  At DeWalt, we hired off the campuses of major state universities.  We hired for sales positions, but we did it with the idea that the people we hired could become the president of Black and Decker.  That was in the early nineties. Since then, Black and Decker was folded into the Stanley Tool Works and the 400 or so new hires from then, are now executives with other companies.  Thankfully, LinkedIn has allowed us all to keep in contact.

Recruiting, interviewing and hiring that many people in a short window was a huge undertaking and Black and Decker was amazing at it.  The field sales team owned the relationships with the campuses we recruited on, and the process that was built was spectacular.  The team was trained on interviewing, and it was a scientific process that allowed us to use our own style, as we stayed within the guidelines.  

In my consulting, I’ve found that almost all my clients have a recruiting process that is much less structured and rigorous.  It challenges them daily. It leads to turnover and it leads to underperformance. As I work with them, I break finding talented sellers into three areas:

  1. Recruiting “A” level talent
  2. Interviewing process to thoroughly vet the candidates
  3. Hiring the candidates that best fit the needs of the company

We start in the middle with defining a rigorous, behavioral based interviewing process that gives us a fair and equal understanding of each candidate.  Too often the interviews are set with multiple interviewers who don’t have the time to prepare.  The questions they ask are just like the other interviewers.  They end up using resume as a cheat sheet.  This is not only a poor practice; it often leads to failure to truly understand the candidate and it scares away the “A” players.  The interviewers don’t really understand what they are looking for.

The second action we take is to define the skills and values that the company needs for the salesperson to be successful.  This allows the interviewers to know exactly what they are looking for. We use an outcome-based process to define success and translate those inputs into competencies.  We also define the must have values for the individual to work for my client.  Skills can be trained if the salesperson has an aptitude for sales.  Values cannot be trained.  If the values aren’t there, they can’t work for my clients.  It saves a lot of time and pain later.  

Once we have defined the skills and values, we create questions, and assign them to each of the future interviewers and train them on how to ask behavioral interview questions and listen and interpret the answers.  

This doesn’t guarantee that you won’t make mistakes in hiring, but it improves your odds dramatically.  In future articles, we will outline our process for recruiting (Step one in the process) and hiring (Step three).  Please look for “Always Be Looking For Stars”, coming in January 2020.  It’s a little story on how to get big hiring results.  

Jerry Phillips is the President of NineRuns.  He works with manufacturing companies that want to improve their sales and profits.  He is the author of “Always Be Looking For Stars” and speaks on “The three biggest mistakes in hiring”.

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