With all the talk about inside sales being more of a science than an art these days and with the growth of inside sales hiring vs. outside sales hiring, I’m surprised at how many companies don’t view their hiring process for inside salespeople in a strategic and process-oriented way. Let’s face it, you can have the best Sales 2.0 tools for your team and the best Lead Generation and Marketing Automation programs in place but if you put the wrong butts in the seat, it’s all for naught.
Everybody says that they want to hire A-Player Inside Salespeople but if you really want to improve your hiring success, the first step I recommend is creating a hiring benchmark for your Inside Salespeople.
What is a Hiring Benchmark for Inside Salespeople?
Your hiring benchmark becomes your target. No candidate is perfect but you’ll be striving to find the perfect candidate and if you fall short, you’ll still be doing a great job hiring. The benchmark should contain 10-20 characteristics that are defined and have associated questions to help interviewers assess the candidate. You should have a hiring benchmark for each role within your sales team. They may be similar but they should not be the same.
Do Not Try to Clone Your Top Performer!
Creating a benchmark is not about cloning your top performer. Think about the worst NFL team out there. If they wanted to improve their chances of winning a Super Bowl and then looked to find more talent that was just like the best on their CURRENT team, they’d be doing themselves a disservice. As you’ll see below, your top performers will help you create the benchmark but do not try to clone your top performer.
Begin with the End in Mind
In an ideal world, what characteristics do you want your reps to possess? If the job were to talk to you, what would it tell you it needs to be successful? Here’s a quote from the late Bill Brooks of The Brooks Group in Greensboro, NC:
“If the job could talk, it would clearly define the knowledge, hard skills, people skills, behavior and culture needed for superior performance. “
Brainstorm & Collaborate
So how do you come up with the characteristics? This is actually easier to do than you’d think. Get the following people into a room:
- Your top salespeople
- Account managers that work with your salespeople
- Admins and/or assistants that work with your salespeople
- Sales leadership (Directors, Managers, Supervisors and VPs)
- The CEO if she or he has regular interaction with your salespeople
- People from your recruiting team
If this group is large enough, break them up into two or three groups and then ask each group to come up with 20 characteristics of the ideal salesperson for the role in 20 minutes. Answering the question above “If the job could talk…..”
Then ask each group to narrow the list down to the 10 most critical characteristics in about 10-15 minutes. Then collect the lists from the group.
Now you have a list of 20 characteristics from each group. Get into a room with sales leadership and/or hiring managers and begin to hone and define the characteristics. You’ll find that you’ll get duplicates of course. You’ll also find that some characteristics are similar and can be combined. Then start to define the characteristics that are left standing. What does it mean to be “Organized?” What does it mean to be “Driven?” What does it mean to be “Resourceful?” Define these clearly. This is like setting goals. The clearer they are, the better chance you’ll have of hitting them.
Develop Your Questions
Now start writing down 2-4 behavioral interviewing questions next to each benchmark that you have defined. Remember, behavioral interviewing questions usually begin with “Tell me about a time when…” You’re looking for situations and detailed stories (ideally recent). Stay away from philosophical questions such as “what is your viewpoint on handling objections?” If one of your benchmarks was “competitiveness” you could ask the following questions:
- When was the last time you were competitive? Another time? (Has more than one recent example from work, home, sports)
- Tell me about the most competitive situation you’ve faced at work? How unusual was it for you? (These are regular occurrences and you’re hearing stories about competition with co-workers or competitors over a customer)
- What is the most fun you’ve ever had winning a customer over? (Tell us about enjoying the process of winning over a difficult customer)
You’re done! Now use this tool consistently with each candidate you interview. Remember that this is only the first step but it’s a critical one. And now you’ve set your company a part from 80% of the other companies out there (including your competitors) as you select the best talent for you’re inside sales team. Act now. Put an hour on your calendar for next week to begin the brainstorming process!
Posted by on 07/20 at 11:23 AM
A sales manager in a firm with a large sales force recently said, “my salespeople give me better information about the market than I could ever get from our market research department”. Discuss.
Posted by on 08/11 at 05:54 AM