In my previous blog, we discussed the critical importance of recruiting Sales Reps for your organization and the need for a consistent, continuous plan of action. For long term growth and stability of your business, you should have a pipeline of candidates at all times in the same manner that a Sales Rep has a pipeline of prospects. Create a healthy habit by considering the suggestions that I made previously.
What are the best recruiting sources for Sales Reps?
There are many to consider. Here are a few that are sometimes overlooked. Sales Reps who call on you are an excellent source. You get to see them in action. For instance:
- How well do they think on their feet?
- Are they consultative or product pushers?
- Do they conduct themselves in a professional manner?
- Do they follow-up as promised?
- Would they fit your company culture?
This is a great “live” interview situation. As busy as I have been while in my previous corporate world, I always made time to see Reps who wanted to call on me to determine if they could help me grow my business and make it more profitable, as well as, to see if they belong in my “bullpen”.
Another recruiting source is your competition. You know who those Reps are, the ones who cause you grief. Get to know them. The wise ones will talk with you confidentially over a cup of coffee because they too like to have options no matter how well things are going at that time. Beware of non-competition agreements and the challenges that they can present. Ask your closest customers who they might recommend. It does not have to be someone from within your industry, although it could be.
How many interviews should be conducted with each candidate and by whom?
There are different thoughts on how this process should look. After screening resumes for what appears to be a close fit to your job description, conduct a brief phone interview; usually 20 – 30 minutes is sufficient. Verify what they present on their resume. Often times, the cover letter can provide good insight to their mindset and communication skills. No cover letter? Send it to the “no go” file. If a candidate will not take the time to craft a personalized letter for their employment opportunity, will they take the time to do it for a prospect? Doubtful.
- Ask how their results are specifically measured and how well they have done in attaining their financial goals over the last two years
- Ask how their current and past supervisors would characterize them during a reference call (and you should tell them early on that those calls will happen should they get to that point in the interview process)
- Ask them to describe their ideal sales job, preferred method of compensation and
- Finally, ask them to describe their ideal Sales Manager
Always give them the opportunity to ask their questions. If they are focused on compensation and benefits, treat that as a red flag. Their questions should be about the sales job, the territory, the company and whether you are establishing a new territory or filling a vacancy. If this is a replacement, they have the right to ask why the territory is open. If your instincts tell you that you have uncovered a solid candidate based on the resume, cover letter review and phone discussion, explain to them that the next step is to participate in your pre-hire online assessment program. Ask if they are truly interested in taking that step with you. Ask them to tell you why they feel that this could be a good mutual fit. Listen for clues that they truly have an interest in your specific position and not just any position. Finally, inquire about their desired total compensation range. Is it realistic?
Should they match your Job Profile determined by the pre-hire assessment tool, invite them for their first in-person interview. Caution! If designed correctly, the pre-hire tool will be an excellent indicator of the fit and long term success of the candidate should they join your company. I am very leery of continuing with a candidate who does not meet the Profile. There is a small cost in administering the test. If it says “no”, heed that warning and move on to another candidate, then consider it to be a small investment toward getting the “right” person onboard.
My belief is that three people minimum within the organization should conduct interviews of each screened candidate. I don’t believe in group interviews. Some are proponents of this practice. Interviews are conducted in a quiet, undisturbed area with cell phones turned off and the office or conference room door left open.
What questions should be asked?
The pre-hire assessment tool will provide questions to ask based on areas where clarity is required. Use these questions. In addition, your own questions (very similar to the phone questions, but with more discussion and a deeper dive into the answers) will include:
- How are you measured and held accountable for goal achievement? Be specific
- Tell me about the results you have achieved. Currently YTD, last year, the year before
- What are two of your most memorable sales?
- What were the circumstances?
- How did you achieve success?
- Why did it feel good and what was your reward?
- What are two major frustrations you’ve encountered?
- What could you have done differently?
- What did you learn from these experiences?
- Have you re-encountered this type of frustration since then?
- Why are you in Sales?
- Describe your ideal sales job and preferred method of compensation
- Describe your ideal Sales Manager
- Tell me about the support that you need from your organization to be successful
The second interviewer, should there be mutual agreement to continue, should be briefed on the results and possible concerns from the first interview. Follow up questions, again where greater clarity is needed, can be asked. The second interviewer, preferably from a different department within the company, who will engage with the Rep if hired, can focus on questions of motivation. The third interviewer, from yet another department and probably the ultimate decision maker, can concentrate on determining cultural fit, sharing the company vision and mission. This will also be the time to broach the subject of benefits and compensation. And of course, the candidate should be given sufficient time to ask his or her questions during each interview.
Caution! Only ask questions that pertain to the sales position and the skills and experience needed to be successful in that position. Avoid all questions that can be viewed as personal in nature and unrelated to the position. Consult your HR specialist to steer clear of any discriminatory actions. Be familiar with the EEOC guidelines.
Are reference checks really necessary?
Many companies will not provide information beyond employment dates and compensation for fear of a lawsuit. It is still good to have verified employment information even if that is all you were able to obtain. Another thought is to have your interviewee introduce you by email to a former direct manager for a phone discussion. There should be no resistance to this on the part of your candidate.
Recruiting Sales Reps can be a sizable investment in time and money and is a huge determinant of the future and continuing success of your business. If recruiting is vital to your business’ continued success and not in your sweet spot of skills and experience, give us a call. We have four decades of practical, street-smart experience. We are your Sales Management Specialists.