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How To Hire Great Salespeople

Hiring great salespeople can be a challenge.

It starts off well — the salesperson seems good and the references check out, so you make an offer and hope that everything works out. Then, a month goes by and the new salesperson misses an important deadline or starts complaining about the work. You now begin to wonder if hiring this person was a mistake.

Here's what to look for when you hire your next salesperson.

What Can a Bad Hire Cost You?

So, how much is that bad hire costing you? The answer to that is complicated. According to Peoplekeep, "a bad sales hire costs between 50-75% of the hire's annual salary." That means an employee who makes $100,000 annually costs between $55,000 and $75,000 to replace.

Not only that, but bad hires can cost more than just money. They can cost you productivity and staffing fees. In addition, they can cause your company culture and morale to become toxic, and can even result in lost customers.

To prevent a bad hire from causing such chaos, start by clearly defining the role and required skills that a person should have to be successful in the role. Then, align with your team on expectations and stop signs.

Typical Salesperson Hire

When you hire a new salesperson, you'll probably look for someone in your same industry, who has a good track record for selling. You'll also probably want that person to be good with people and relationships, and of course, they must interview well.

But you'll want to look further at your candidates. Just looking at the typical criteria doesn't consider your specific company needs.

Find out if they are a hunter or farmer, consider their company size, determine how they sell value, ask about direct selling or channel, and talk to them about your company culture.

Hunter or Farmer

The two typical roles for salespeople are hunters and farmers, but they have vastly different approaches to selling. So, what does your company need? Do you need a hunter or an account manager, or would you benefit from a hybrid?   

A hunter needs to grab the attention of a new customer. They need to be adept at standing out from the competition and selling their company's value.

On the other hand, a farmer needs to be able to retain and maintain their current customers. They need to show their company's value and communicate to all relevant parties within the customer's organization.

You'll want to know your organization's needs, such as new business from a hunter or relationship building from a farmer. If you are hiring for a specific role, knowing where your candidate's strengths lie will help you determine if they are a great fit or not.

Company Size

When it comes to hiring your salesperson, keep in mind your company size.

If your salesperson came from a larger company, they might have had more opportunities, had to wear fewer hats or had more resources at their disposal. 

Alternatively, if they are from a smaller company, they may be used to doing everything and struggle with giving up control. They also may have had a greater sense of community and been in the same role year after year.

So, knowing what size company your salesperson came from and how your company compares is essential.

Product Value 

There are many ways to sell, from transactional selling to solution selling to social selling. But having the same style isn't the most important thing for selling. What you'll want to focus on with your salesperson is HOW they sold the product or service.

For example, if your salesperson was always discounting and trying to give the "best deal," then selling a product at a premium price may be a challenge for them.

One of the best ways to determine how they sold is to role-play a deal with them.

Channel Sales vs. Direct Sales

The tug-of-war game between channel sales vs. direct sales has been around for a long time, and it's one you should be asking your salesperson about.

There is usually a third party involved in selling the product to the final consumer with channel sales. The third-party could be a distributor hired by the company, a retailer, or a wholesaler.

Direct sales, on the other hand, involve the manufacturer selling directly to the customer.

How your salesperson speaks to the customer or wholesaler about your product will be vastly different.

Culture Fit

Company culture is the character and personality of your organization. It's what makes your business unique and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes.

Defining your company's culture is one thing, but determining whether your salesperson will fit into your company's culture is a whole different story. The dos and don'ts of an organization are the real factors when it comes to fitting in.

Asking questions about expectations can help determine if your salesperson will fit in.

In The End

To prevent another bad hire from creeping into your company, clearly define the role and required skills that a person should have to be successful in the role. Look at their previous company size and responsibilities. Determine how they sell and if they would fit in with your company culture.

If you need help refining your hiring process, defining the roles for your new sales hires, and knowing how to make the best selection for your company we’d love to help. Contact us today.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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