Qualify Passive Sales Candidates When a hiring manager meets what appears to be a perennial top producing sales person, there can be an overwhelming temptation to go into full sales mode to get this person hired – especially if this person is working somewhere else which is almost always the case with top performing sales people (we call these passive candidates as they are not actively job seeking). There tends to be a hesitance to ask the tough assessment questions that would be asked of other less accomplished candidates, for fear of turning the great candidate away.

But just because someone has achieved something in the past doesn’t mean that they will in the future, and there is no guarantee that the person will fit with the culture in every sales organization. Therefore, a full assessment is as necessary with someone that looks to be a great sales person as it is with any other sales person that might be considered for hiring.

The Delicate Balance in Courting and Assessing Passive Candidates

While it is true that top sales people and passive candidates make career choices differently than the average job seeker, it is not true that they aren’t open to being assessed. Winners are prepared to be thoroughly assessed when they interview with a new employer because they realize that the most successful companies are very careful about hiring decisions – this is how you recruit the best sales people and this is what attracts more of the best sales people.

There is a balance that must be struck between courting and selling to a passive sales candidate and questioning and qualifying the value of what they offer.  At Peak we find there are several ways to achieve this balance:

Push/Pull – There are times, particularly early in the engagement process, when the hiring manager must aggressively promote the unique benefits of the sales role they are trying to fill, and then there are other times when the candidate must be challenged to prove their worth and earn their way onto the team.

Involve the Sales Manager – Before a passive candidate will give up much information about themselves, they need be interested in the opportunity. Many companies use pre-screening tools and HR departments to handle the preliminary meetings with all candidates, but passive candidates will be more engaged if they can have a brief call with the person that will be hiring them and who can best describe the sales organization and role and answer any questions about the career opportunity.

Honesty – We are up front with candidates about how the process works. Our customers are committed to hiring great people and will make time for meetings, but at the same time they are committed to carefully assessing all potential hires. Candidates are good with this as long as they never feel like they are being taken for granted or that their time is being wasted. They realize that due diligence is good for both themselves as well as the employer.

Be Ready to Hear No – While sales people are opportunistic by nature, the best ones have a history of making good choices, so at any point in time they are more than likely working for a good employer and if this is the case, they may express disinterest in leaving to join a new employer. But if a hiring manager believes they offer a better career opportunity and fit for the sales person, then it pays to keep the lines of communication open. If someone is not ready to make a move now, they may be later on and it doesn’t hurt to get to know them better in the meantime. Urge the person to keep talking.

To your success!

Image courtesy of  jesadaphorn | freedigitalphotos.net


Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

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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