By Carletta Clyatt, senior VP, The Omnia Group
It’s not entirely clear who first said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” But, it is true that successful salespeople feel that desire to win. They’re competitive, determined and persistent, and they don’t shy away from setting ambitious goals.
At the same time, these men and women possess enough charm and emotional intelligence to persuade potential customers that they hold the key to solving the prospects’ problems, and (most importantly) they’re able to close the deal. They aren’t content to rest on their laurels and are always on the lookout for that next big sale.
Now here’s the big question: When you’re hiring, how can you tell the difference between this brand of salesperson and the kind who just talks a good game but won’t deliver?
Some employers have gotten burned so many times, they’ve taken to requesting copies of W-2s and tax forms, because they’re convinced the only way to distinguish real from fake salespeople is to see, in writing, who’s making the bucks.
That’s one way to separate the real deal from the pretenders, but better hiring practices work, too.
Four steps to hiring a true salesperson
Step 1. Scour the resume. Great salespeople can come from industries other than sales, and someone with a sales background can still be lousy at it. Whatever the applicant’s background, scour the resume for action-oriented words that demonstrate he or she is a can-do person geared toward achieving tangible results.
Step 2. Interview shrewdly. Fake salespeople get hired every day because they’re experts at interviewing. That’s why your objective is to use this time to get beyond the superficial.
Be prepared with pointed questions designed to establish what the candidate has done and how she’s done it. Be that rare interviewer who asks clarifying questions instead of accepting what you hear without further probing. It’s a good way to nab a fabulous hire who, perhaps, isn’t the slickest interviewee, as well as dodge that unsuitable hire who can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk.
Step #3. Check the references. Getting a previous employer to provide a useful reference is difficult because companies are leery of saying anything that could result in legal action, and even when an employee wasn’t the best, most managers don’t want to be responsible for blocking someone from getting a new job.
Still, checking references is basic due diligence. Besides confirming hire and termination dates and job title, verify job responsibilities and scope out any red flags in work habits or worth ethics.
Employers can’t get into trouble for responding to specific questions with facts, so the more specific your questions, the better your chances of getting valuable answers. For example, instead of asking whether an employee was reliable, ask whether the employee has ever been disciplined for poor attendance or lateness.
Step #4. Administer the behavioral assessment. Salespeople are motivated by competition, risk and the opportunity to earn based on their individual successes, which is why commission is such an effective incentive for the true sales personality.
Of course, your next true salesperson also has to be reliable, dependable, organized, skilled at follow through and a fit for your organization. An assessment tool like Omnia’s provides data about a candidate’s traits and preferences that a resume, interview or references can’t, thereby leading to a more informed and successful hiring decision.
Hiring a salesperson who can hit the ground running even while learning your products and services is no small feat. Give yourself every advantage by following the steps outlined here.
Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, brings decades of consulting experience to help companies effectively select, manage and engage their biggest asset: people. The Omnia Group specializes in employee behavioral assessments and can help you develop talent strategically, decrease turnover, increase profitability and manage more effectively.