Have you ever been stumped by a bad hire?
The resume looked good, the interview was solid, and the references checked out. You hired the salesperson with high hopes, only to discover six months later that this “dog don’t hunt.”
What went wrong? The problem could be that what made this salesperson successful in previous positions are not the same success factors needed at your company.
But how can you know that before you make the hire? There are five important factors to consider when judging whether the past success of a sales hire can translate into future success for your company.
1. Branded or Non-Branded? Did the applicant previously work for a well-known company? If so, the company or market awareness may have opened more doors and created more opportunities than the salesperson. This salesperson can do great things once the door is opened — and that door opens a lot easier for companies with huge branding and marketing spends. However, the same salesperson may not do as well getting an initial meeting if your company doesn’t have that level of brand or market awareness.
Brand awareness also helps win deals in a close sales race. There’s an old saying, “No one ever got fired for hiring IBM.” The brand actually closed the business, rather than the particular skills of the salesperson.
2. ‘Need to Have’ vs. ‘Nice to Have.’ The salesperson selling “need to have” products (i.e., insurance, websites, telephone services) doesn’t have to work at creating a sense of need, because the need is already there. The prospect is going to choose a vendor; it’s just a matter of which vendor.
“Nice to have” services such as consulting, marketing, or IT solutions require a salesperson who’s good at selling intangibles, and who is generally strong in ideation and can take abstract concepts down to concrete solutions.
If your product or service is a “nice to have,” it’s best to hire a salesperson who has demonstrated an ability to create a need. Because, in the “nice to have” world, many prospects don’t even realize they have a problem. In the sales training world, this is called “undiscovered pain.”
So, think carefully about what you’re selling, and what skills sets and abilities are required for your specific position.
3. Life Cycle of Your Company. What stage of growth is your company at? A mistake many entrepreneurs make is hiring a salesperson from the Fortune 500 world. The hope is that this salesperson will bring a high level expertise to the company. And some of these big sales guns do contribute. However, many flounder in smaller companies because they’re not used to working without the many resources found in large sales organizations.
Entrepreneurial companies often do better hiring a “scrappy” salesperson. This is the individual who looks under rocks to find opportunities, and who is capable of “making stuff up” when a system or process is lacking. This type of salesperson tends to be very resourceful and can figure out how to get a job done without demanding more marketing materials, internal support and/or technology.
4. Economy or Ability. The ’90s and the dot-com era were a great time to be in sales. Many sales professionals made lots of money without possessing any real ability. So, when interviewing a candidate, make sure he or she can pass the “marriage test.” Has this salesperson sold in good times and bad times? Can you attribute previous success to a flush economy? Persistence and creativity may be lacking in salespeople who begin their selling careers in good times. The only selling skill required was the ability to pick up the phone, answer and take an order.
5. Average Deal Size. Are your deals 1 million in size or $1,000 in size? The salesperson who has succeeded in smaller account sales may struggle with major account sales for two reasons. The first is the sheer size of the deal. The salesperson may wrestle with sticker shock, thinking, “Do prospects really spend this much money for this service?” As a result of their own concept of what is a lot of money, they continue to sell smaller deals versus large deals. It has nothing to do with the prospect’s budget; it has everything to do with the salesperson’s mindset.
The second area of struggle occurs in the decision step of the sales process. The salesperson used to small account sales is not skilled in figuring out how to set meetings with all the buying influences, and too often settles for meetings with the easy, non-check writing buyer.
Colleen Stanley is President of SalesLeadership, a sales training and consulting firm. She is author of Growing Great Sales Teams, and writes a bi-monthly column for business journals across the country. For more information, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-303-708-1128.