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How Smart Sales Managers Hire

A few months ago Josiane Feigon asked if I would read through the manuscript for her upcoming new book and lend an endorsement. I had high expectations for Smart Sales Manager and Josiane certainly didn’t disappoint me. I strongly recommend the book.

One of the subjects she covers in the book is very important to me as followers of this blog already know. That subject is hiring.

At ESR we know that no sales performance improvement initiative will achieve its full potential unless the right people are in each and every sales and sales management role.

With that in mind, I asked Josiane if she would be willing to have me interview her for this blog on the subject of hiring. Here it is:

Dave Stein: Hiring is often ranked as one of the top sales initiatives for many executives, yet many sales organizations’ hiring and retention efforts are struggling. Why is that?

Josian Feigon: The talent pool is shrinking today as companies continue to grow and improve their sales organizations. Everybody wants to find and keep good inside sales talent, but it’s tough for three good reasons—the role has changed, the talent has changed, and the traditional recruitment practices don’t work anymore:

  • The role of inside sales has changed from what it was just a few years ago. It’s not just being great on the phone or in the field, which is what a lot old-school managers have been trained to look for. Today the skills are more complex—more technically, socially, and virtually robust. In order to hire and retain good inside sales talent, managers must structure well-defined roles and responsibilities and create clear performance expectations.
  • The seasoned talent—the ones who have 15 or more years of sales experience—are not only expensive, but their approach is a dated. Their sales techniques are not 2.0-centric, they resist trying new tactics, and they don’t have the prospecting mojo they used to have. On the other end of the scale, the younger talent is less expensive, tech-savvy, and socially networked, but they are mostly young college grads with zero to three years in the field. They have little knowledge of basic sales skills and require more ramp-up time.
  • Traditional just-in-time recruitment, screening, and hiring practices no longer provide results. It’s important to be in “always-be-recruiting” mood. And it’s not just about vetting the talent, you have to remember that the talent is also going to be vetting you. Is it a fun place to work? Are there opportunities for career advancement?

DS: You write about establishing an “always be- recruiting” ecosystem. What does this mean in practice?

JF: Inside sales organizations often invest in building the structure but they don’t have a consistent recruiting and hiring strategy for bringing in new talent. The costs of a mis-hire can be catastrophic. According to one report, every $10,000 you pay a salesperson who doesn’t work out can cost your business $30K to $40K in loss that doesn’t even show up on the P&L.

Managers are under the gun to produce, and they usually approach hiring more reactively, based on immediate need. Unfortunately, as everyone knows, once these managers get approval on open headcount, they are already feeling the pressure: they don’t take time to determine the role requirements for the job functions. Instead, they end of writing empty ads and posting them on sites with thousands of other ads, where they immediately get lost. They screen out too many candidates, they interview too few, and they end up deciding on the wrong ones, who soon leave an empty seat that needs to be filled again.

Smart managers figure out where to source good talent, and they establish a referral network to always get the word out that they have a great, fun workplace where talent can shine. They build relationships with pre-qualified candidates before they are ready to hire. They establish a “multicareer” workplace that entices talent who are ambitious, which automatically attracts the sales superheroes. They don’t just post an ad; they create strong messaging that supports the roles they want to hire. Their sales staff gets used to this “always-be-recruiting” environment as normal behavior, so it becomes self-perpetuating.

DS: When managers are hiring salespeople, they usually go through multiple rounds of interviews. Yet after all that, the salesperson who gets hired doesn’t work out. What happened?

JF:Their interview process and questions need updating. Many managers bring in a panel for this interview, including reps and other managers or peers from other departments. Usually, everyone asks the candidates the same questions and there isn’t any depth or breadth in the responses. Salespeople become masters at answering the basic or generic questions—like learning how to pass a test without knowing the material.

The way to find the real stars is to ask behavioral questions that take a deep dive into the candidate’s character.

Here is a link to download the 25 behavioral questions that are aligned to the inside sales superhero qualities.

Josiane Feigon is President of TeleSmart Communications and author of the business bestseller, Smart Selling on the Phone and Online. To read an excerpt from her latest book, Smart Sales Managerclick here.