The best thing you can do for your organization is to avoid the experience trap when you’re hiring new sales professionals. Let me explain. There’s a dangerous trend with team leaders and recruiters who get stuck on resumes and look for a long history in sales before they’ll bring a candidate in for an interview. The trouble is that you can’t measure a candidate’s confidence, joy, or courage (the qualities you need on your team) from a resume. As tempting as it is to consider the people who will require minimal training to get started, that is a short-sighted approach. The key is to hire the right person (rather than the right skills) because skills can be taught. The “it” factor, on the other hand, cannot be taught.
Follow these steps to find the right person for long-term success:
Tip One: Hold group interviews.
My personal favorite reason for holding group interviews is that they allow you to identify great communication skills. Again, this is something you certainly can’t see on a resume. Pose questions that require candidates to take a position and defend it. See who rises to the top as a leader. For example, ask something like, “What’s currently the most important trend in the industry?” Look for those who can handle conflict and eliminate the people who don’t say anything or shy away from the battle. Here’s a hint: The answers themselves don’t matter. Look for the swagger.
Tip Two: Role-play.
Effective salespeople have to be able to think on their feet. Have them “sell” a pen (or a salt shaker) to you. It’s an oldie, but a goodie because it allows you to see what kind of sales skills, energy and charisma they bring to the table.
Tip Three: Force Conflict.
When a prospect rises to the top, call them back and throw a curve ball. Say something like, “You did a great job in the group interview and I was impressed with the way you handled the role-play, but I’m afraid we’ve filled the position. We will keep your resume on file and let you know if there’s an opening.” Most prospects will thank you for your time, hang up, and look for their next interview. But a few (probably no more than 20%) will fight back. Those fighters? Those are the ones that you want to move forward with. It may seem risky to test your potential team members at this level, but it’s actually riskier not to. The majority of customers are going to say they have to sleep on it/pray on it/wait a few months before they make a decision, etc. They will say no easier than they will say yes. You need to know if your candidate’s automatic response is to give in or to fight for it.
To hire to win, keep your long-term strategy in focus and remember that if you have the right people, you can train any skill. Hire the person: Train the skill.