You have a shortlist of candidates for your next sales leadership position. Choosing between candidates based on a few interview meetings is risky. You need to understand how the candidate’s leadership skills and strategic thinking will apply to your context. The solution is to invite your top 2-5 sales leadership candidates to present a sales plan for the organization.
Three Reasons Why A Sales Plan Presentation Improves The Hiring Process
There are a few reasons adding a sales plan presentation to the process of finding the right VP sales for your organization can help you to make a good hiring decision.
1 You Can See The Candidate In Your Company’s Context
Asking a candidate about their past sales leadership experience is helpful. For example, you can learn about their strategy to coach salespeople. However, each company’s sales situation is different.
For example, your company might have problems retaining skilled salespeople. A Harvard Business Review estimate in 2017 found that the annual turnover of salespeople can reach 27%. If high turnover is a challenge for the sales organization, mention this challenge so that the candidate’s sales plan can consider hiring and retention strategies.
2 See The Candidate In Action
For years, companies have offered free samples to consumers as a marketing strategy. It lets the customer directly experience the product. In a hiring context, some organizations give coding tests to technology professionals. It isn’t easy to simulate a leadership situation with a test. That said, seeing how each candidate thinks about the process gives you insight.
3 Speed Up The Onboarding Process
Ideally, the sales plan presentation should not be a theoretical exercise for the hiring process. Instead, encourage candidates to view the sales plan as a valuable document to help them onboard to the company. Further, the sales plan will help the candidate feel an immediate sense of ownership when they start because they will execute a strategy they have developed.
How To Make The Most Of A Sales Plan Presentation
That said, a sales plan presentation represents a significant amount of effort for the candidates and the hiring company. To make the most of this process, use the following tips to fine-tune your process.
1) Outline Your Sales Plan Expectations
Providing a few simple guidelines to sales leadership job candidates will make the process unfold more smoothly.
- Time Period. Specify the time period the candidate’s sales plan should cover. The time period you suggest should align with your company’s typical sales cycle (e.g., months or years for significant enterprise sales vs. much shorter periods for transactional sales). In addition, help the candidate understand the company’s main strategic goals to prepare accordingly.
- Audience. Tell your candidates who they will be presenting to, such as the VP of marketing and the CEO, so that they can consider those stakeholders appropriately.
- Presentation Format. Tell your candidates how much time they will have to prepare and respond to questions from your hiring panel (e.g., 90 minutes in total).
- Provide Guidance On Growth Goals. The degree of revenue growth you expect to achieve matters. For example, a Fortune 500 with billions in sales might be pleased with growing top-line revenue by a few percentage points. In contrast, a startup might aim to double total revenue in a year. There’s no need to share specific sales quotas, but some level of guidance will help.
- Customer Insight. If your company has publicly available case studies, testimonials, or videos with customers, remind your sales candidates to look at them. This step can be beneficial for candidates coming from a different industry.
- Sales Plan Assumptions. As an outsider, the job candidate will have limited information about the sales capabilities of the organization. Look for them to state the fundamental assumptions they made in preparing their plan (e.g., “I assume 80% of sales reps will meet quota each quarter” and “I assume we will have double the size of the sales team in 12 months to achieve the company’s stated revenue goals). For example, you might ask them to use publicly available sales statistics to ground their assumptions.
2) Limit The Sales Plan Presentation To Your Shortlist
Sales leadership candidates are busy people, so asking them to spend several days on a sales plan presentation is a significant time investment. Asking ten candidates to prepare a sales plan presentation is probably unwise. Instead, we recommend only asking a maximum of three candidates to prepare a sales plan
3) Invite A Few Key Stakeholders
To reduce bias, it is helpful to have three people listen to the sales plan presentations and provide feedback. Specifically, invite stakeholders who are likely to interact with the new sales leader regularly, such as the CEO or President, head of marketing, and customer service. Inviting multiple stakeholders will also help to gauge how the candidate may interact with their future colleagues.
4) Use A 0-10 Scoring System
Rather than relying on highly complex scoring systems, use a simple 0-10 scoring system. Use the following definitions as a starting point:
- Score 0-4: The sale plan has significant errors and mistakes. The candidate’s answers to questions may have been unclear or confusing. A score this low indicates that the candidate probably lacks the skills to develop a sales plan. Hiring this candidate with a weak sales plan could require significant coaching and support.
- Score of 5-6: The sales plan is of reasonable quality and shows some understanding of the company’s goals and target market.
- Score of 7-9: The sales plan is above average, and the candidate has demonstrated excellent strategic thinking skills. The sales plan likely requires only minor adjustments before it is put into effect.
- Score of 10: A score of 10 means the candidate has impressed everyone with an ambitious sales plan grounded in reasonable assumptions. Seriously consider making an offer quickly to this candidate, or you may lose this candidate to another company.
A candidate who has met your other criteria in the hiring process and scores about 7 is well worth pursuing.
Transition To Onboarding
Now that you have selected a sales leader to join your organization use the sales plan document as a resource during onboarding. Provide your new hire with additional sales data like customer lists, sales statistics, and sales representative performance reviews. With this additional data, the new sales leader will be able to fine-tune their sales plan and start to grow revenue.
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