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FEATURED ARTICLE: 12 Keys To Hiring Sales Reps 

Article by John Chapin


With the current hiring systems companies use, only about 20% of salespeople work out long-term. Even if you’re at 50%, is it really worth all the time, effort, and money that you waste hiring the wrong salespeople? Below are some tips to try to get a 90 to 95% hiring success rate and save thousands of hours, headaches, and, over the long-term, likely hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Key #1: Start with people skills.
If someone lacks people skills, they will never be able to sell effectively.

Key #2: Look for self-esteem, self-confidence, work ethic, integrity, and the right attitude.
After people skills, these are the key character traits. These can’t be trained; people have them or they don’t. You have to look for these and test for them in your hiring process.

Key #3: Be wary of unemployed salespeople.
Unless someone’s company just blew up, or there is some other crazy extenuating circumstance, salespeople typically aren’t unemployed unless they can’t sell and got fired, or lost their cool and quit. People do switch jobs for legitimate reasons, just make sure the reason is a good one and they can back up the stellar sales skills they claim to have.

Key #4: Watch out for people making lateral moves, especially in the same industry.
A salesperson in the same industry looking for the same job elsewhere typically does so because they can’t sell and they’re blaming someone or something other than themselves. Even if someone is coming from another industry, why are they making the lateral move? It happens, just make sure the reasons are solid.

Key #5: A salesperson looking for a big salary is a red flag.
If a salesperson wants a large salary, it’s usually because they know they won’t sell enough to pay the bills. If someone says they need a big salary because they are taking a pay cut coming to work for you, run the other way. Top salespeople don’t take pay cuts.

Key #6: Have a hiring process.
Have several people put their eyes on a potential hire. Do all your testing, check all paperwork, cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s. Don’t take shortcuts, have a process and stick to it like a pilot doing preflight.

Key #7: At some point in your process tell people you don’t think they have what it takes.
When you ask the question, “Why should I hire you?” Whatever answer they give, even if it’s the best you’ve ever heard, your response should be, “I don’t hear it. I don’t think you’re what we’re looking for.” You’d be surprised how many times the conversation will go something like, “You don’t?” “No, I don’t.” “Oh, okay.” The people you want should sell themselves at this point. If they can’t, or they won’t, you don’t want them.

Key #8: Test their sales skills.  
If they’ve been in sales for any length of time, and they’re any good, they can effectively answer objections, know how to compete, have standard closes, and can handle all sales situations. Ask who their primary competition is at their current company and why someone should do business with them versus the competition. In addition, give them some standard objections and ask for their best responses. Ask them for their top closing questions. Ask for their follow-up process. Test them and role-play sales situations with them.

Key #9: Shake up the testing process.
Telling an applicant you are about to hire that they did not get the job, bringing them to an event with an open bar, playing golf with a candidate, or visiting them at their home, are some great ways to find out what people are really like. Use personality tests, in-office interviews, and other standard, accepted hiring practices as your foundation, but realize that most tests can be beaten, and most people can put their best mask on temporarily. To find out what people are really like, move them out of the typical hiring environment.

Key #10: Be skeptical of references, especially personal references, and always background check.
Anyone can find a third cousin twice removed to say the candidate is the best thing since the wheel. Still get references, but be skeptical. If they are that good, the wheel never would have been invented. You should be able to find enough information on social media and elsewhere without paying for a background check. That said, a full background check is not a bad idea.

Key #11: Set expectations upfront.  
Show them a job description upfront which includes: activities they are expected to perform, the number of calls they are expected to make, anything they are expected to learn, the hours you expect them to work, including any weekends and nights, and how they will be evaluated on job performance.  Also, let them know if there will be travel involved, what training looks like, and anything else they can expect to encounter on the job. Get agreement on the expectations upfront.

Key #12: Watch them before, during, and after the hiring process.  
Other than dressing well, showing up on time, communicating well, being pleasant, and the like, do they follow up with you after each step of the interview process and how?  How do they do on any assignments you give them? How do they interact with other people they come into contact with?

It doesn’t help to hire the right people if you bring them into an environment where chronic underperformers, negative people, a lack of support, and other similar issues might exist. Have an effective onboarding and training program along with an atmosphere of professionalism and high standards. Give them a success track to run on that establishes good sales habits. If you do hire the wrong person, let them go quickly.

Have standards and stick to them as if your life depends upon it, because the life of your business does depend upon it. Don’t lower your standards because you “don’t have any good applicants, but you have to fill the position with someone.”

John Chapin is a motivational sales speaker, coach, and trainer. Email: [email protected]

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