Hiring Sales People Made Easier

Question: We have a hard time hiring sales people. Any suggestions on how to hire great sales people?

We receive more complaints and questions about hiring sales people than any other position. Hiring great sales people takes time. Most companies expect when they decide to hire a sales person at that exact same moment in time a great sales person will also be looking and their paths will cross in some magical way. Rarely, if ever, does this happen.

Hiring great sales people is a process, not an event. You should constantly be on the lookout for great sales people. You should be soliciting names from your current sales team, using LinkedIn to identify potential sales people, and asking your customers, “Who are the best sales people calling you?” Then you can start engaging them in very low key ways. For example, ask to meet with them for coffee one morning, send them a request to connect on LinkedIn, or once a month or so send them an email about something exciting happening in your company or industry. Just begin a dialog with them. As you do, you will develop a queue of potential candidates. This doesn’t take a lot of time, maybe an hour a month. This is a small investment for a great sales person.

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I welcome your thoughts and feedback. If you liked this article and found it helpful, please forward it to others.

Brad Remillard



If you’re looking for a job – don’t apply here.

One of the things I've noticed when working with successful business owners and executive leaders in large corporations is that they know who to hire. They look for certain characteristics in the person they put on the team. One of the first things they try to determine (once the skills are out of the way) is whether or not the person is hunting for a job or a position of responsibility.

If the candidate is looking for a job, they don't go any further with the interview. If the candidate indicates that what motivates them and gets them up every day is a position with responsibility for which they are held accountable, then the interview continues in earnest, with success factors and lots of questions. The open ended questions will focus on how to figure out if the candidate takes responsibility for the consequences of her/his decisions. “What was the single biggest failure you've experienced professionally and what did you learn?” “Can you provide an example of  how you made an uniformed decision and then went back to correct it to take the project down a new path?” “Give me an example of how you allowed hard data analysis to override your instinct when making a business decision.” The candidate had better be prepared to give substantial examples that can be verified.

As you might guess, the person asking these questions isn't looking for someone who is simply wanting to come in, do what s/he is told, let others take responsibility and go home at five. Nor is the hiring manager looking for someone who always sees outside forces or internal bureaucracy as getting in the way or causing failure. No, this manager or executive is not hiring someone for a job. Instead, they are looking for a person who takes responsibility; one who analyzes situations and is willing to look at data with fresh eyes. This manager is likely building a team that isn't afraid of admitting mistakes, pointing out areas for improvement, or being the bearer of “bad news.” They are looking for a professional.

Let's look at the other side. If I am a candidate who thrives on being in a position of responsibility, believe in being held accountable, and believe in being “data driven,” then I would want an interview to proceed as outlined above. If the hiring manager isn't asking questions that lead me to believe they are looking for a professional, then I might take the initiative to ask some of the questions myself. I'd be very tempted to ask, “How will you know that the candidate you hire is successful?” What would you expect to be accomplished in the first three months and how will you measure it?” “How would you describe the culture of accountability in your organization?” If the manager fumbles the answers to these questions, this is not a cultural match for me and I may want to move on. That's a very difficult decision, especially in these times. However, to settle for a job when you are looking for responsibility and a career position is going to hurt you in the long run.

Readers of this blog will not find too much surprising in this post. Yet, I see hiring managers make the same mistakes over and over again. I also see senior executives taking jobs in a panic – they have bills to pay and a family to support. Here is where I see the problem manifest most often – hiring a salesperson or sales manager. Sales people have a built in aversion to accepting responsibility for failure. Now before you fill my in-basket with hate mail, let me admit that I have come up through the sales ranks and managed a multi-channel sales team at several companies. I found myself succumbing to the very mindset that I'm suggesting isn't healthy. There's a simple and understandable explanation for this stereotype of the salesperson (apologies for those of you who have figured this out and grown out of it). A salesperson always faces more rejection in the average day than many people face in a year. They have to build up a thick skin. They have to accept the rejection, BELIEVE that it isn't personal, and move on to the next opportunity. That understandable need tends to create a habit of looking outside of our own actions for the reasons for failure. We have to guard against that eventuality and admit that while understandable, it is not acceptable to ALWAYS assume the failure is not ours. As the hiring manager for a high functioning sales team, I found it very challenging to dig down and get to the point of “when are you accountable for the failure of a sales initiative or forecast”; both for my sales team (including myself) and with prospective candidates for the team. It turns out getting there was crucial for a successful hire.

So back to the beginning statement. If you're looking for a job (no responsibility, just put in the time, collect a paycheck and go home), don't apply here – even if the position is for the assembly line. If you're looking to take responsibility for your actions, hold yourself accountable and are willing to grow, then let's get started on what it will take to be successful. Be ready to give examples of how you've made mistakes, accepted the responsibility for them and learned from them. Be ready to demonstrate how you are open to various views of and conclusions derived from the same data. If you're successful, we will be building a highly functional and exciting team. In my book, that's better than a job any day. Even in this horrible market.

Hiring sales people is difficult for everyone. We just launched our Sales Recruiting Division to help companies with this issue. As the economy turns, good sales people will be harder to find and even harder to identify. CLICK HERE to get a Free Success Factor Snapshot for your sales position.

For more information on hiring top talent, read our best-selling book (0ver 10,000) You're NOT the Person I Hired. CLICK HERE to read reviews.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after business advisor and mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.



Jobless recovery – been there, done that.

There is a lot of talk about the “jobless recovery.” Well, I've been there, done that – back in the 70's. Seems like the glass half-empty versus the glass half-full syndrome to me. Don't get me wrong, if you're in transition or out on your own trying to “drum up business,” this is a very tough economy. Bear with me on this though; even if the real unemployment rate is close to 20% rather than the 9.8% number being bandied about, that means 80% of the people are still employed. And if 3 million people were let go last month, but the unemployment number stayed the same, then that means that 3 million people were hired. Okay, you get where I'm going with this.

If you're in transition and looking for your next great position in the corporate world, what are you to do to make yourself the next person hired? To begin with, if you're reading this post then you're off to a good start because you've found the best blog for researching what you need to do. Between Brad, Barry and their team, the information they post here about how to go about finding your next position will be invaluable. And since I am not an HR, recruiter or retained search person, I will leave all of that to them. However, I can give you a bit of perspective of the hiring manager.

I am very lucky to be able to work with a great set of business owners, company presidents, CEOs and senior executives in a wide variety of businesses. I can tell you what I am observing in the small business world. You can take that information, marry it to what you learn on this blog from the search/recruiting professionals and come up with a plan. Here is what I'm seeing.

Money is tight. Hiring at this point is going to be done at a very slow and deliberate pace. Part time employment or outsourcing work to 1099 independent consultants is what is happening now. Are you able to take advantage of that trend? Can you do some outstanding work as a part time employee or consultant that will make you the lead candidate when full time employment is justified?

My advice to business owners in this economy is to be ruthless in “husbanding your cash.” Do not waste money on bad hires or employee turnover. I advise them to make sure they do hire when the time is right, but to make sure they take their time, define their success factors and are deliberate in finding the right candidate. If you, as a candidate know that many employers are taking that point of view, what can you do to help them reach that goal while at the same time helping yourself? When you are presenting yourself to a prospective employer or on-line or to a search firm are you focused on yourself or on their challenges? Are you appearing confident and results oriented or self-interested and perhaps “desperate for employment”? Clawing our way back to profitability is going to be a very long process for all of us. Employers can't afford to make mistakes. You have to convince yourself and them that you are the right person, understand their challenges and can be successful in resolving those challenges.

On the employer side, have you ever assessed the full and true costs of a bad hire? Few companies take the time to conduct this assessment. I think if could be they are afraid of the results. If you can handle it download our Cost Of A Bad Hire Worksheet. CLICK HERE and be sitting down when you complete the worksheet. A respirator near you is recommended.

LinkedIN is a powerful tool for hiring top talent. Join our Hire and Retain Top Talent Group. There is a wealth of articles and discussions for you there. CLICK HERE to join.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after Business Advisor and Mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.

Loyalty . . . to what?

I'm reminded, from time-to-time, of the inequality of expectations between employees and employers with respect to employment. Especially in the small to mid-sized businesses, the owners are often frustrated with employees who do not seem to put effort into the business. They don't have a sense of “ownership.” Well, that's because they aren't owners, and usually aren't treated as owners.

On the employee side, they feel that it's quite alright for them to give two weeks notice if they get a better offer elsewhere, but at the same time seem to think that as long as they want to stay, they should be able to do so. If the employer lets them go (for whatever reason), they feel that somehow it is unfair. Of course, this is not true of all employees nor do all business owners despair over employees not acting as if the company is their own. However, there does seem to be anecdotal data to back up my perceptions.

This situation first came to my attention many years ago as I worked in the semiconductor industry. We had facilities in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale and San Jose). I often heard managers complaining that employees were more than willing to leave for a slight raise and join another company. It seemed to be easy to do in the valley and it seemed to be true; and it made me wonder. So I started asking some questions of the engineers, marketers and sales people who left our company and those still with us. The picture became a bit clearer. It seems that there was a lot of loyalty – but the loyalty was to a particular product line or architecture rather than a company. So if I considered myself a Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) kind of guy, I would go where all the exciting things were happening in that field. Likewise if I considered myself a Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) person. If I was skilled and excited about one architecture and the company began to emphasize the other, I eventually left to find another employer in line with my talents and passions. This kind of “loyalty to a concept” was even more prevalent in the software and Internet companies.

So managers needed to change the context in which they interpreted the content of their experience with respect to “loyal employees.” If an engineer or sales person believed in a certain product or architecture and we began to de-emphasize that particular product, then we could expect to see folks leave for greener pastures. On the other hand, if we kept pushing the envelope and introduced new products and improvements to existing products, then our employees were “loyal” and mostly content.

Discovering this different view of loyalty led to some insights that served some divisions very well. As long as they were able to stay at the leading edge of product development, they kept the best employees. They found that salary and other monetary rewards were not the biggest motivators. They had to be competitive, but by and large, it was an exciting environment in product development that the employees appreciated and which kept them happy and inspired.

So as we work our way out of this recession and employees begin feeling as though employment changes are possible, how will you hold on to your key players? Do you know what your employees are loyal to? Since they don't own the company, it likely isn't the company itself that inspires them. They may be grateful for the company and the employment it provides, but what are they really passionate about?

Is your culture one of team work and does everyone in your company agree? Have them take our Company Cultural Assessment. CLICK HERE to download your assessment.

Is  your hiring methodology designed to attract top talent and weed out those candidates that embellish? You can download our 8 Point Hiring Methodology Assessment Scorecard and find out. CLICK HERE to download.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after Business Advisor and Mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.

In search of benefits . . .

You have to wonder what the insurance companies were thinking. Many, maybe most, small businesses are struggling with cash flow issues; and we all know that. One might expect the insurance executives to be sending out the word to agents and brokers that in light of the “predatory government regulatory atmosphere,” there shall be no premium increases for small business clients. Apparently that hasn’t happened. Instead, monumental premium increases are hitting small businesses.

One small business owner I know, a staunch conservative and very pro business, was adamantly against ANY government intervention in health care. The only thing she felt was useful was to have government remove the interstate barriers to competition among insurance companies. Then the bill came to renew the insurance benefits for her employees. The increase was 32%. She is now all for some kind of intervention, not just more competition; maybe not too much public option, but something to help drive down costs. Many small businesses are finding that they cannot afford to be in the insurance benefit program.

On the other hand, you might think that in light of the administration's goals of putting in place more regulations and also initiating a “public option” for insurance, that they would try and keep any perceptions about government interference with health care out of the headlines. Again, the word hasn’t gotten to the committees making recommendations on women’s health. And so we get the news that one of the more effective programs for breast cancer screening is to be deemphasized. The public, helped by the media, interprets this new recommendation as proving that indeed big government wants to get between you and your doctor.

In similar fashion to the business woman above, another woman with whom I have had conversations around the health care issues was pretty much convinced that a public option was the only sensible way to contain health care costs. Otherwise, the insurance companies will continue to reap huge profits at the expense of policy holders. And, she claimed, the government isn’t really who we need to worry about. It’s the insurance companies who hang us out to dry with fine print and denial of coverage due to trumped up pre-existing condition claims. Needless to say, she’s having second thoughts now based on the mammogram flap.

So neither side on this argument seems to be paying attention to the public sentiment or the “customer's issues.” Arrogance is a word that comes to mind.

The major reason that companies are in the benefit business is to have something other than salary on which to compete for good employees. With the increasing cost of drugs, medical insurance and other mandated insurance such as worker’s compensation now going through the ceiling, it may be time to look for some other kind of benefits with which to attract employees. I know this is heresy, and I’m sure I’ll get a bunch of “hate mail,” but I’m thinking it’s time to hope that the government does take the health insurance monkey off the backs of our businesses and we can go find other benefits to supply our employees. It’s a chance to maybe level the field again – if costs are really reduced for employees.

The “big boys” will be able to afford the usual benefits for employees. If small businesses can’t, then they won’t be able to attract top notch employees; unless they can offer something else. One idea has surfaced in a new book called the Dream Manager. I’m sure we could come up with other ideas, including paying higher salaries so our employees can take care of their own insurance (if effective, low cost insurance becomes available). Wellness programs are much needed. The trick will be to greatly reduce the amounts spent on employee health insurance by business and use the savings to fund other innovative benefits.

How about you? What will you do about employee benefits? Are your health insurance premiums sky-rocketing? Will you have to cut back on benefits this year? Do you have other benefits, or plans for new benefits?

Each company offers its own benefits to employees, but there is one thing in common, as all the companies should work in accordance with Labour Laws. If you want to be covered under your state and federal compliance laws, click here to check out labor law poster.

Download a Cost Of Hire Calculator to help you know the true cost. CLICK HERE to get it.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after Business Advisor and Mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising of Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.