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The Challenge of Hiring Effective Salespeople

There have been some dismal statistics put forth by firms such as CSO Insights and Sales Benchmark Index about two related subjects: (1) the lack of performance by, and (2) the tenure of, salespeople.  HR Chally has done research in this area as well. The fact is a lot of money is being spent on tools, resources, training and coaching for non-performers, in a attempt to improve the situation.  It’s being spent in the wrong place.

ES Research has put the percentage of sales reps not suited for their job at 25 to 33% depending on the industry.  What does that mean?  When we are engaged to go into a company for the purpose of Interviewingperforming a sales effectiveness audit, among other things, we assess the performance and capabilities of the sales force.  We look at the performance of the sales team and speak with individual sales reps.  No need to drill down here, but the bottom line is these companies with whom we have worked are employing people that can’t get the job done now, and won’t get it done no matter how much training, coaching and support they are provided.

By the way, for most companies, I reject the idea that they should spend any time turning C players into Bs.  Sure, you can accomplish that on an individual basis, here and there.  But for companies running hard, with pressure on all to perform, there is no time for total rehabilitation.

So where should the attention and money be focused to fix the problem?  Hiring.

Once you hire the wrong person, it’s going to cost you between $100 and $750k—maybe more.  There is no way around it.

There is an abundance of good advice out there regarding hiring effectiveness.  Here is a recent piece from BusinessWeek.  I especially like the idea about asking candidates to talk about both sides of an issue they are passionate about.

I’ll continue to write about hiring and the impact that it has on a team’s sales performance.


One Response

  1. You have hit the nail on the head! The key is hiring. The most important thing a Sales Manager ever does is hire, and yet, we spend too little time on improving their hiring skills.

    In business today, we usually hire on past performance and fire on fit. It seems to me that we should only focus on fit during the hiring process. I’ve also heard many recruiters and Sales Managers say that “past results are a predictor of future performance”. It’s a myth!

    In many companies, the hiring process includes a screening interview, a detailed, behavioural-based interview, a meeting with a superior, a reference check and then a decision. Note that each of these steps are centered around talk. The candidate and each reference can prepare for each interview and what to respond to every question.

    In our Outsourced Sales Force business we have, by necessity, had to find another way to increase our hiring effectiveness. Since our economic success is directly linked to the Candidate’s success in the new sales role, we use a performance-based interview that clearly demonstrates the true selling skills and competencies of each candidate. This layers on to the other elements of the hiring process beautifully and enables us to make a much more informed decision.

    Once on board, this gives us a clear indication as to how we will coach, mentor and train the new Rep in order for them to more successful, quicker. This also leads to less attrition.

    We also had to make a commitment to hiring more effectively. We also had to find additional ways to counteract “halo effects” and other natural biases that creep into the interview process.

    The consequences of a hiring mistake can be enormous, including the cost to replace the Rep. Based on your cost estimate above, many companies could benefit by improving the hiring skills of its hiring managers.

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