Common Mistakes Managers Make When Hiring Salespeople
1. Not being clear and specific in the sales role!
Not all sales jobs are the same. Trying to hire a sales person without a very clear idea of what the job entails is like the casting director of a film auditioning actors without really thinking about the role to be played. You may see lots of talent but it may not be the appropriate talent. If you are clear in the sales role that is to be performed then you can be very clear in other areas as well. As an example if you were writing an ad to hire "hunters" vs. "farmers" the way that you would word the ad would be different in order to appeal to their differing personalities and associated "hot buttons". As well you would interview them with differing concerns in mind, which would necessitate different questions and a focus on different "red flags". I won't even get into how differently they might be managed if you were hiring one vs. another.
2. Failing to realize that personality traits are like double-edged swords!
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to our personality traits they are like two-edged swords. Many managers seem not to realize this when they are hiring sales people. On their list of attributes of the ideal person for the job they list qualities that just do not exist in the same person. For example, "hunters" are usually independent. If you are hiring this type, how realistic is it to also want that person to follow a lot of rules and procedures? There are many, many examples of these kinds of "conflicting" descriptions. Analytical extroverts do not exist! Nor do independent team players! Figure out what the job requires and then think about the kind of personality one needs to perform the job. Be very conscious of these "conflicting" criteria. Try to think of the "flip side" of the trait that you need as a means of understanding the "down-side" of that trait. As well try to avoid making a "shopping list" of desirable traits. The bigger the list the less likely it is to be realistic.
3. Mistakenly thinking that a sociable applicant is an assertive applicant!
People who are very outgoing and sociable tend to appear to be assertive. Some are and some are not. Very people oriented individuals are in their own arena when being interviewed. The result is that they know what to say and what you want to hear. As an interviewer you are at a serious disadvantage when interviewing this type of person. It may not be that much of an issue if the sales job you are hiring the person for does not require a high level of assertiveness. On the other hand if you are trying to hire a "hunter" type then these highly sociable but non-assertive types can really fool you in the interview. Remember, high sociability is one thing and assertiveness is another, but high sociability looks like assertiveness.
4. Placing too much emphasis on what you see during the interview!
Interviews are tools; as are tests, reference checks and role-plays. They all perform a function directed towards making the hiring decision. Of course they should all be used. I think though, that it is human nature and therefore very common for interviewers to place an inordinate amount of weight on the impressions they get during the job interview. With some applicants "what you see is what you get" so it does not matter and things will work out the way they should anyway. There are a couple of other situations though that you should be attuned to. The first is what we talk about above in point number 3, the highly sociable person. Remember, these are people who are very comfortable in the interview setting and really very good at knowing what you want to hear. The other scenario is when you are interviewing people who are introverted. It is quite likely that your sales positions require extroverts. There are some sales positions; particularly more technical sales roles that are a very good fit for certain more introverted type people (see a previous article "Some of the best salespeople are introverts"). The point is that introverts are out of their arena when being interviewed and, as a result do not come off very well. Some of them though, could be "diamonds in the rough". Take the time to look beyond the interview when interviewing this type.
5. Failing to see things from the applicant's perspective!
This covers a lot of ground. An example might be hiring someone to sell on straight or largely commission who will barely survive for the first several months. Ask yourself if you would do it. Another example might to hire someone who is overqualified for the position. They may have the ability to do the job but if they are overqualified they may see the position as beneath them and therefore not use their abilities to do the job. Other examples would relate to how the person "fits" what the job requires. If the applicant is very independent and the job is very structured you really are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Not a good idea! As a general guideline if you are pretty sure the applicant sees the position as a great opportunity, that is a good thing.
6. Not being consistent with the questions you ask and the tools you use!
It can be difficult to weigh the various strengths and weaknesses of job applicants. Inevitably comparing applicants is like comparing apples to oranges. Don't complicate the task further by being inconsistent with the questions you ask and the tools you use. Try to do the same thing with each job applicant. Create as much consistency in your methods as possible. Whether it is the same questions, tests, role-plays or other tools, just try to do the same with each person. If you can, find 4 or 5 questions that you ask each person and come up with some rating system to use during the interview that you can refer to later on.
7. Doing all the work!
You learn things about the applicant with your eyes and your ears and not when you are doing all the talking! Get the applicant to do the talking and "performing". In addition to the standard questions you should ask of all applicants have them take part in some simple role-plays. Have the applicant sell you the pencil (or stapler, chair etc.). What about having the applicant role play a phone call to you to get an "appointment"? How about getting them to do something after the interview such as an "assignment". Specify a deadline of say 4pm on Friday afternoon. Have each one email you a one pager on why they are the best person for the job. This simple "assignment" will tell you a lot about each. Best of all they are doing all the work!
David Pearce is the President of SalesTestOnline.com. Established in 1986, SalesTestOnline.com is North America's #1 provider of pre employment assessment testing of sales candidates as well as sales profiling tools used to evaluate sales employees for sales competency. SalesTestOnline.com has over 1400 satisfied customers (97% re-order rate) who use our personality sales test to measure sales aptitude when hiring. Our online sales assessment test is customized to your unique criteria, fully automated, instantaneous, extremely accurate and very economical.