Dana Lewis is the Director of Human Resources at the Tomlinson Group of companies and has almost 20 years of experience as an HR professional, hiring top talent and building high performance teams. We recently had a chance to speak to her about hiring sales people.
Peak: How has hiring sales people changed over your career?
Dana: In the mid-90’s, hiring a new sales person meant calling up the Sales VP and asking for the phone numbers for his friends. You would interview a few people and choose the guy that was the best ‘people person’. Now, there is much more of a science to the process. A good sales person still needs to be likeable, but they need to understand what it means to build a partnership with their customers. It is not just about closing one deal – it is about building a long term relationship. They need to understand requirements of their customers and continual build upon their skills.
Peak: What are some of the biggest challenges in hiring sales people?
Dana: Sales people can usually sell, which means they are also good at interviewing and up-selling themselves. So, I’ve been tricked a couple of times into hiring the best interviewee, opposed to the best candidate. So, the challenge is selecting the best candidate for the role, not the best person at interviewing.
Peak: What are some of the strategies you employ to hire sales people that become consistent contributors at the companies you have worked for?
Dana: I like to get an understanding of their quota achievements, and be able to prove it with actual documentation. I find out about new customer development and how they hold on to their existing customer base. How do they follow the industry trends and what plans do they have to change with these trends.
Peak: What is the role of culture in sales hiring?
Dana: A sales person is a front line representative of your company, they need to be a reflection of what you want your company to represent. So, culture is very important.
Peak: How is hiring sales managers different from hiring sales people?
Dana: Being able to lead and motivate sales people is very different from being able to close a deal.
Peak: The sales organization and the human resource function are under very different pressures and in some companies there is tension between the two organizations. How have you managed to work effectively with sales organizations in your career?
Dana: Sometimes there are cowboy sales people, but ultimately sales people and HR all work towards the same goal – making the company successful. I find that if you try to understand the other person’s perspective and explain your reasoning to them we can usually come to a solution to work together.
Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.
He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.
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