As 2016 winds down and a new year quickly approaches, many sales leaders are coming to grips with the realization they won’t make their annual quotas. In fact, a recent article in Fortune Magazine reported little more than half (54.6%) of the nation’s sales reps hit their marks each year. Now, with 2017 nearing, sales leaders are busy examining their talent bench and trying to improve their selection of high performing salespeople to deliver results in 2017.
I was struck by an article I read recently from Fortune’s “Ask Annie” column, where a disenchanted sales manager is on the verge of missing his/her sales quota, and attributing the miss to hiring two sales team members who aren’t performing. The anonymous sales manager who wrote in expressed guilt and blame for hiring two people so off the mark.
The truth is, this is a common frustration among sales executives and hiring managers. In fact, as the article points out, “relying on instinct, or ‘gut feel’ is one of the most common hiring mistakes sales managers make.”
Which brings up an important question every sales manager must ask themselves. Do you know what success looks like in your sales positions, and the specific skills and competencies that drive high performance in your specific job and organization?
A Science-Backed, Data-Driven Selection Process is the Only Way to Truly Measure Potential Performance
Sales and hiring managers must define the benchmark for what success looks like in each sales position. This includes defining the soft skills (competencies) and problem solving skills that will drive superior performance.
Many organizations use assessment tools that include scientific and validated data to help them define the soft skills and problem solving skills required for success in the job. This benchmark is then used to compare the results of your candidates. There are numerous advantages to using objective, evidence-based data to help define the job, and to establish benchmarks that are based on normed data for your industry and for your specific job.
One of the chief advantages of using an assessment is having empirical and factual data—information that gives hiring managers something other than the candidate’s word or a hiring manager’s human interpretation when judging the top candidates. When you use well-constructed tests, candidates can’t cheat or guess at the answers they think you want for a good job match. Unlike an interview situation, where it’s easy to rely on your gut instincts, the assessment will confirm or contradict what you learn from the candidate interview.
If you aren’t using an assessment tool to benchmark your sales job, here are few strategies to consider:
- Create a team of hiring managers to define the competencies for superior performance in the position.
- List the relevant behaviors associated with each competency.
- Observe current top performers in the job.
- Create interviewing questions for job candidates that focus on behaviors associated with defined competencies.
Inside vs. Outside Sales Matters in the Selection Process
Most organizations overlook or simply fail to consider how their hiring and selection of sales talent also needs to evolve when moving to an inside sales model. There are certainly key competencies that any successful sales professional must possess regardless of whether they sit behind a desk or make outside sales calls. However, high-performing inside sales professionals have specific, and distinct, competencies that will determine and impact their success in the role. There are significant implications if sales executives don’t adjust the selection of talent to meet the unique criteria of inside sales – ranging from disengaged sales staff, skyrocketing turnover to lost revenue and poor sales results.
XBInsight has identified the key competencies to look for when hiring for inside and outside salespeople. To read our findings, check out our Industry Insight.
You Should Always Be Recruiting
Most managers wait until they have an opening to begin recruiting salespeople. This is often a recipe for unnecessary confusion and places urgent demands on everyone involved in the hiring process. More importantly, the easiest and most effective way to build a great sales team is to always be recruiting.
Attracting top-notch talent is essential to your sales success and should be an ongoing part of your business operations. Rather than wait until you have an opening, build your network of candidates and a program for consistently searching for them.
Choosing the right people when growing a high-performing, profitable sales force is a significant challenge. When it’s done well, the gains are considerable, because in our people lie most of our dollars. By selecting employees who have the right competencies and other attributes required for the job, organizations can build a high-performance sales force capable of meeting and exceeding sales quotas for 2017!