Recruiting high achieving sales professionals onto your sales team is no simple task for a few simple reasons:
- They are rare,
- They are employed, not looking for a new job, and are constantly receiving offers from competing employers.
Overcoming these challenges takes significant effort and commitment, but the investment is justified by the superior results that top sales talent delivers.
Leading employers understand the value of attracting great salespeople and leverage many tactics to tilt the odds in their favor.
Here are the Top 10 Factors for a Successful Sales Recruitment Project:
1. Ensure Decision Maker Alignment:
Before approaching and engaging candidates, it is critical that your hiring team is aligned on the hiring criteria that all candidate’s must possess in order to be considered for the role.
It is imperative that the decision makers involved in the hiring process be united around:
- The key performance metrics and success criteria associated with the role and;
- What the long term expectations for the new salesperson will be.
Having a concrete understanding of these requirements from the start enables the hiring team to be more efficient and results in engaging the right salespeople, faster.
2. Create an Ideal Candidate Profile:
Once you and the rest of your hiring team are 100% aligned on the role’s KPIs, working to construct the ‘ideal candidate profile’ becomes one of the most important factors that will determine the success of your recruiting project. This profile, which paints a picture of the perfect candidate and breaks down the required competencies into 3 sections (skills, experience, and DNA), should direct not only where you look for candidates but also influence how you evaluate them.
3. Properly Articulate the Opportunity:
In order to attract the best, you must be able to present the opportunity as just that — an opportunity for the candidate to advance their career and achieve their financial objective. Many job descriptions include both a list of duties and qualifications, however Peak endorses job descriptions that are focused on key metrics, goals, and quantifiable objectives (for an example, check out our Job Description of an Account Executive).
We strongly advise, however, that you don’t let your opportunity profile (we don’t support the use of the word ‘job description’) speak entirely for the role. Instead, have direct managers and senior company leadership speak to candidate about what makes this an exciting role that a candidate cannot pass on.
Identify the opportunity for professional and personal growth that can take place, and if your company isn’t a name brand, articulate how it is disrupting the marketplace and working to become one of the world’s top companies. As Aaron Ross correctly states, “ignoring softer but more powerful forms of rewards such as respect, appreciation, and fun,” represents one of the fatal mistakes CEOs, Sales VPs, and HR executives make when hiring new talent.
For more information on what attract companies need to do to attract top sales talent. Read this article.
4. Be open to different backgrounds:
We often find that job descriptions are created that require candidates to have certain qualifications. Experience tells us that the typical hiring requirements of most firms have little to do with sales success. In fact, some of these “need to have” conditions adversely limit the pool of candidates and reduce the chances of making a great sales hire.
Put your focus on the exact profile that determines success within your selling environment and set aside unnecessary metrics or qualifications that might allow under-qualified candidates to enter your hiring process. And remember that the right sales DNA — character and behavioral traits — often outsell the right career credentials, so be open to salespeople who can achieve or exceed your targets vs. the ones with the right resume.
You can read more about what great sales DNA is here.
5. Have a Strong Sense of Urgency:
Since top salespeople get a lot of attention from potential employers, they will quickly lose interest in an employer that doesn’t fight for their attention. You risk compromising your chances of hooking the best sales people if you act like they are lucky to be in contact with you.
Do court the candidate. Do not fail to proactively express positive interest, cancel interviews (or not show up at all), not follow-up after the interviews, provide little or no positive feedback, make the candidate wait a considerable time before meeting them, and/or anything that says that making a great hire or hiring them is not a priority.
Here’s our eBook on the top sales hiring mistakes we consistently see companies make.
6. Practice Patience:
Great salespeople are actively and gainfully employed and aren’t typically looking for new opportunities. It takes time to not only find the best, but convincing them that making a career move would be in their interest is a difficult task in and of itself. Not to mention the time it takes to further assess them to ensure they fit with your selling environment. Unfortunately, there is no quick way around this, but the return on your investment is considerable so it literally pays to be patient.
7. Embrace Regular Communication:
Regular and open communication with your internal and/or external recruiters about changes in hiring requirements, the quality of candidates you are seeing, or even about things such as your availability to interview candidates can make or break your sales hiring efforts. When communication is made a priority in your recruiting plan, necessary changes can be made in real time and solutions to challenges can be actively developed and deployed.
8. Embrace a Structured Interview Process:
Most interviewers prepare for interviews in the moments right before an interview takes place. This introduces the risk that lack of preparation, mood, and other emotional or irrational, non-related factors will compromise an objective assessment of the candidate. By having a set interview process that asks strong sales specific questions, you mitigate the risk that arises from an unstructured, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants interview process.
9. Provide Above Market Compensation:
While financial compensation is not the only factor when top salespeople consider a change of employment, it is certainly a major factor and often the most significant. Enticing a top performer to leave an employer to join your company will often require paying at or above market. Ensuring that your team has agreed upon a compensation package that is inline with the market (and not overly complicated) makes it easier to land ‘A’ level talent while saving you time and effort.
Need instant help ensuring your sales comp plan is mistake free? See – Why Sales Compensation Plans Fail
10. Set up New Hires to be Successful:
World class employers understand that the best salespeople will only work for them if they are able to articulate how the salesperson will be set up for success. This means being able to demonstrate:
- How other reps achieve targets and how they have performed against their sales targets to date;
- A structured on-boarding process that establishes key accomplishments to be met over the first 30,60, and 90 days;
- Mapping out what new hire development and support activities will be undertaken to ensure the rep becomes productive as quickly as possible;
- Providing training on your organization, products, the market, sales systems, branding and marketing strategy, tools and support.
Take these factors into consideration prior to engaging in your sales recruiting project and commit to not cutting corners, and your chances of success will increase tenfold.
To your sales hiring success!
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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