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Hiring successful sales personnel is a challenging process for many companies. As HR departments become ever increasingly involved in the shortlisting and interview processes, it is critical to differentiate between hiring salespeople vs. other roles within the company.

Reviewing sales resumes requires an understanding of the specific language that may be used by candidates as often what may appear attractive on paper does not translate to success in the field.

The following may seem plausible and attractive although upon further scrutiny may prove problematic for your company.

Misconception # 1 – Hire for their connections

Hiring for connections instantly provides a sense of comfort and security for a company. It is perceived to significantly reduce the risk of a bad hire. It is a common belief that a candidates connections will translate into positive sales results. Unfortunately, all this proves is that the salesperson may have worked in the industry for some time and knows the names of key customers within the sector. Upon closer inspection, we can see that this premise does not necessarily support the conclusion for a successful hire. The relationships may account to mere name-dropping or at the very least an association.

In a successful selling situation the company that provides the best business case will win the sales irrespective of standing relationships.

Misconception # 2 – Interviews give an insight into their selling capability.

When you ask a HR manager to assess the performance of interviewees, the general responses may include, nervousness, anxious, or restlessness. These behaviours are common and expected, as many candidates feel enormous pressure during an interview. This cannot be said with salespeople. They are paid communicators and relish the pressure of first appointments and managing people to their end game. During an interview, the questions are often predictable and with a little research they can answer them the way you like to hear it. This performance does not necessarily translate well into the field. In the field the customer has objections, often unpredictable questions whilst they are scrutinising a sales offer.

To overcome the salespersons natural flair with interview performance, the interview should be designed to measure candidate’s ability to answer unscripted and difficult questions that keep them thinking on their feet. The questions should include what a customer may potentially ask and not focus on what the company is seeking answers to.

Misconception #3 – Over reliance on position descriptions

Often the position description is the single most important document relied upon when shortlisting candidates. This reliance does not take into consideration future business needs. Markets and customer composition change and therefore the requirements of the sales personal should be realigned to match this. Often this gap widens over time and eventually may require a complete sales force transformation in order to realign the sales division with market needs.

The avoidance of this practice allows for the opportunity to build a business and evolve the selling model to ensure growth and success into the future.

Misconception #4 – Apples for apples

Often the performance of a salesperson can be directly correlated to the support structure, systems and processes that they operate within. A salesperson that performs extremely well in one environment may fail within another and vice versa.

In order to assess the capability of the salesperson, probing questions must be asked that explore the various support structures that were in place in their previous role. Theses must then be compared against the structures within your organisation.

Misconception #5 – They are self-motivated and work autonomously

Often a headline of a salesperson’s resume will be that they are ‘self-motivated’ and can ‘work autonomously’. This practice may seem appealing although when you are trying to establish or maintain a world-class sales organisation this behaviour often conflicts with what is required. In an effective sales force, the adherence to process and methodology including the proper use of CRM requires personnel to yield to company processes. This behaviour also encourages the sales person to represent the company and its products as they see fit, often producing incongruent messages that are not aligned to the marketing strategy.

To ascertain whether a salesperson will be able to adopt to and follow the companies process requirements, questions relating to the previous use of policy, procedure and reporting mechanisms must be asked during the interview process.  Only after this can a sound judgement be made of the suitability of the application for the role.

Upon avoidance of these five misconceptions the standard and quality of salespeople within your organisation will improve dramatically directly contributing to increased profits and revenue. If your company would like assistance with these matters, an experienced sales recruitment firm can help you with this process.

Adele Crane combines extensive consulting knowledge and hiring capability by providing clients with candidates that can make a lasting impact in your company. For a confidential discussion, please contact our office.

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