The success or failure of your organization literally depends on the success or failure of your sales team. Yet for a position so important, many business owners don’t know where to begin when it comes to hiring quality sales people, the folks who literally butter their company’s proverbial bread?
This question takes on an even greater impact when you consider how much a bad hire—a sales person who leaves your company within three months—actually costs you. One leading sales training firm estimates a bad hire can cost nearly $27,000 in initial hiring expenses and just a few months of a modest salary/commission ($4000 per month) and benefits.
“The actual dollars are probably a fraction of what a bad sales hire can cost,” said Dr. Keith Winfree, founder of Winfree Business Growth Advisors. “The damage to your firm’s reputation may take quite a long time to recover and lost sales can cost a company up to $250,000.”
How to hire sales professionals is one of the areas that Winfree Business Growth Advisors counsels its small business clients on. Adds Winfree, “Most firms employ the same approach in hiring sales reps that they use for other positions. As we all know, sales professionals are a different animal altogether and hiring staff requires a different approach.”
In picking quality sales professionals, Winfree advises:
- Identifying your ideal sales rep – Write down all the qualities and characteristics you’re looking for and set up benchmarks. Look to either best sales reps in your industry or the best one in your company as a model. Make sure you include those qualities and characteristics in any classified ads or job descriptions you post. Document the behavior agreement and stick to it. They don’t do what they said they would do get rid of them. Hire for values and your culture not just sales skills. You need to know what it takes or the formula to close one deal per month.
- Tailor your interview process for the sales rep – A traditional interview goes over previous job experiences, career objectives, etc., but doesn’t do much to identify a high-quality sales candidate. Set up a portion of your interview process for role playing to see how a candidate conducts themselves in a situation similar to one they will face on the job, e.g. approaching a prospect.
- Forget your instincts during the interview – Do not go by “gut” feelings or instincts during the interview process. Go by what you hear and see. You’re not only looking for the qualities you wrote down earlier, but potential weaknesses that might impact their selling skills. That can include such simple, relatively common characteristics like: a need for approval or to be liked; becoming emotional in the “heat of the battle”; or discomfort in discussing money as part of a negotiation
- Buying habits – How the candidate goes about his/her own purchases can greatly determine dealings with prospects; candidates who shop around based on price may be vulnerable to prospects with the same approach.
- Any signs of self-doubt – Self-limiting beliefs can figuratively be death to a salesman. Keep your ears open and read the body language during the interview process for these indicators.
- Make your sales staff part of your recruiting efforts – Offer generous incentives to your employees for referrals who become part of your sales force for six months or more. Involving your employees in recruitment can improve the retention of current staff and the people they refer.
“Perhaps the most important thing you can do is never hire out of need,” said Winfree. “While replacing sales staff that leaves your company is important, you still want to fill openings with people who meet your standards. By consistently recruiting excellent sales professionals—whether there’s an “opening” or not—you can greatly minimize the possibility of bad hires and foster a healthy, competitive environment for your current sales force.”
About Winfree Business Growth Advisors
Located across the United States, Winfree Business Growth Advisors coaching franchises help sales professionals and small business owners maximize growth potential and take their respective businesses to a higher level through cutting-edge sales coaching, business coaching, sales training, and seminars featuring Winfree’s signature Black Belt System™ Five Phases and 12 elements covering everything from initial marketing efforts to customer retention.
Winfree Business Growth Advisors currently runs coaching franchises in California (San Francisco and Los Angeles), Illinois (Chicago), Kentucky (Louisville), Massachusetts (Boston), New York (Manhattan), Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth) and Virginia (Hampton Roads) as well as in Canada (Winnipeg, Manitoba).
In addition to coaching small business owners, Dr. Winfree speaks to many business organizations. Those interested in having Dr. Winfree for speaking engagement can call 800-616-9260. To purchase a copy of Winfree Rules of Surviving the Sales, Marketing and Business World, an e-book which sells for $9.95, visit Winfree Business Growth Advisors Web site at www.winfree.org.