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Hiring The Right Salesperson - Part 1

Knowing Your Red Box

Throughout the year many sales leaders are working hard to fill open positions. While the goal is simple enough — to improve coverage and drive growth — finding these diamonds in the rough isn’t always easy.

Much of the feedback we’re hearing from clients right now sounds like this: “I should’ve already filled this position, but instead I’m staring at 20 resumes. They all meet the requirements of the job description and somehow, they are all the TOP SELLER in their company, have GROWN THEIR TERRITORIES BY 50%, are STRONG RELATIONSHIP-BUILDERS and would describe themselves as ACTION-ORIENTED CLOSERS. Sometimes, I think the biggest sale they make is of themselves to get the job”

Invariably, these comments are followed by the remark, “It all sounds great, but how do I sort through this and get someone who not only produces what their resume promises, but who is also the right fit for our company — so I don’t have to do this all over again in a year? Our organization is very different and not everyone is a good match. We have a complex offering, a very different value message and a unique culture.”

This is no small challenge. During our most recent Pivotal Peak Alliance meeting, sales leaders cited their success rate in hiring someone who truly made a meaningful contribution to the company at about 1 out of 7. Sales people are, after all, some of the most adept interviewers on the planet. They can be warm, articulate and skilled at focusing in on your biggest needs. And it’s no wonder — it’s what they’ve been taught to do for years.

The Red Box

So, how do you find that person who’s going to drive the numbers, enjoy the work and be a solid contributor to your growth engine

A good salesperson isn’t necessarily the RIGHT salesperson. Before you start to look at candidates, know what type of salesperson your organization needs. It’s not always necessary to have someone from your industry: Someone with transferrable skills may work just as well.

The key to hiring the right person lies in clearly identifying the type of seller who will succeed with your products or services. While it may sound straightforward and simple enough, it’s not nearly as easy to execute.

Sales leaders looking to score a trifecta with their next sales rep will benefit from answering the 10 questions below. Go through the exercise now and map out the “red box” your sales role falls into and thus the skills your sales rep will need to be successful:

Image of hunting rifle and old-fashioned plow with the text Hunter or Farmer?
  1. Are you looking for a hunter or a farmer?
    Hunters need to be highly skilled at finding clever ways to get in, creating referral networks and urgency for prospects to act even when they’ve never met. Farmers, on the other hand, utilize current contacts to build deep, credible relationships and create networks within a given account.
    This is just an example of some of the differences in sales positions. As you work through the remaining questions, think about the skills required at each end of the spectrum.
  2. Will the sales rep have to close many transactions or just a few highly complex, larger sales?
  3. Will the sales rep be selling direct or through a distribution channel
  4. Do the salespeople work autonomously or are they tightly managed?
  5. Does the sales team need to be technical or do they have technical support resources behind them?
  6. Is your brand easily recognized by potential buyers or does the salesperson need to introduce you?
  7. Does the sales rep sell individually or are they frequently part of a larger selling team?
  8. Is your value based on low cost or value, or on selling a premium advantage?
  9. Are the salespeople expected to generate their own leads or does marketing create the demand?
  10. How leveraged is the incentive plan — high commissions or significant base salary?

As you can see from the graphic, finding your red box, or even narrowing the search to a general area is critically important to finding someone who will be highly productive in your environment.

Does this sound familiar? What challenges have you faced in hiring the right salesperson? What strategies have been the most effective in meeting those challenges?

Stay tuned for the second installment of this four-part post, where I will discuss what to do once you’ve determined your needs — and how to apply a selection process that will truly unveil the right candidate.

About Mike Braun

Mike is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 30+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Mike has been a guest speaker for many groups such as University of Minnesota, MN Quality Council, and ASTD. If you want to find out more about Mike check out his profile here.
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