Hiring the Best Salespeople

by Chris Young

InterviewEvery day I receive an email from BLR's HR Daily Advisor.  To be totally honest I rarely open or read the HR Daily Advisor as the topics and issues covered by the daily newsletter are generally tactical in nature (HR law, compliance, regulation etc.) and don't necessarily pertain to the more strategic HR approach I take with my consulting practice and clients. 

On occasion however, I do find an interesting topic popping up in the HR Daily Advisor.  This was one of those days... 

With an subject line of "10 Tips to Hiring Great Salespeople" how could I resist opening the email and taking a look?  Afterall, hiring great salespeople is one of the greatest challenges facing organizations that rely on a salesforce to generate business.

The 10 tips I read were interesting to say the least.  They are as follows:

  1. Hire someone who can "sell stuff"
  2. Hire someone who will "jump right in"
  3. Hire someone who is "genuine"
  4. Hire someone who "can build relationships"
  5. Hire someone with "presence"
  6. Hire someone who "knows what people are thinking"
  7. Hire someone who will "try, try, again"
  8. Hire someone who will "ask the tough questions"
  9. Hire someone who can "follow a process"
  10. Hire someone who will "talk to anyone, anytime, anyplace"

Looking over the list, most will agree that the 10 traits listed above are all desirable traits to look for when hiring a new salesperson.  Afterall, who doesn't want a salesperson who is persistent, outgoing, direct, and who has a skill for building relationships with clients?

Here's the problem...  there isn't any mention in this top 10 list as to how one can determine with certainty if a candidate possesses these traits.  If you've ever relied on a job interview to make a hiring decision, especially in sales, you know from experience how hard it is to accurately gauge how good a fit a candidate really is for the job. 

Quite frankly, candidates can be excellent actors in a job interview.  I don't mean to imply that people are being purposely dishonest during the interview process, but in most circumstances who we portray ourselves as during an interview and who we actually are on the job six or twelve months later can be quite different. 

The reason for this is quite simple: during an interview a candidate will, to the best of their ability, embody the characteristics they feel the interviewer is looking for in that position.  It is human nature really and something that is especially prevalent during a "down economy" when jobs are increasingly scarce. 

The worst part of this problem is that it doesn't fully manifest itself until several months after a hiring decision has been made and considerable training resources have been invested in the new hire.  It is at this point that you come to the unfortunate realization Joe Salesguy isn't nearly as outgoing and willing to approach strangers as he appeared to be in the interview process and his ability to "try, try, again" is sorely below what you had hoped.

If you are serious about selecting the best salespeople it is imperative that you mitigate the subjectivity and biases inherent in the typical hiring process.

Consider this... you wouldn't buy a house without having it inspected by a professional first, so why should hiring a salesperson be any different?

If you want to hire the best salesperson possible, you need to "inspect" them first.  An EEOCvalidatedpre-employment personality assessment test is a great way to verify that a candidate you are considering for hire has the behaviors, motivation, and skills that are needed for success in the position.

Awareness of the traits that make for a great salesperson is not enough.  One must use an objective measurement tool in the selection process if you are truly committed to hiring the best salesperson possible.

Sales Personality Aptitude Test Sample Assessment