If your organization is spending the bulk of your recruiting efforts keeping the sales department full of talented people, you’re not alone. The average annual turnover rate for sales positions is 25-30%, which equates to hiring and training your entire sales department about every four years!
I don’t have to tell you the importance of having a well-trained, fully competent sales team to keep your company growing at a healthy rate – but I will anyway to make the point.
Your overall business strategy should be geared towards high customer satisfaction, and the best way to determine how to get there is through the conversations your salespeople are having with the customers every day. They’re the most up to date on the needs and wants of the people you’re trying to sell to.
Your salespeople are also an early impression of your company culture and brand – how you treat customers, what you stand for and why you sell what you do.
So this is important, but it’s not easy. If it were, that high turnover rate for people in sales positions wouldn’t be so high. Here are four steps you can take to help HR improve recruiting practices and make sure you’re hiring the right salesperson for the role.
Determine specific competencies for the role
There are some overarching competencies needed in a sales role, but they aren’t necessarily tied to someone’s personality. We often think of a salesperson as gregarious, high-energy, quick to act, etc. These traits can be helpful, but they shouldn’t be a requirement for every sales role because that’s not what every sales role needs.
When you first start looking at candidates, you should know the competencies that are most relevant for this specific role. Some candidates may dazzle you, but for them to succeed in the long run, maybe they need to be more data-oriented than people-oriented. Of course they’ll still need empathy and the ability to build relationships, but perhaps their strategic thinking skills are what will be most beneficial in customer interactions.
Think through the tasks and interactions your salespeople have to determine the most important qualifications of a new hire.
Narrow down relevant experience
“Previous experience” is a requirement on the vast majority of sales job postings, but that’s too vague of language to use if you’re looking for the best salesperson for your open position. Frank Cespedes with Harvard Business School says “…because selling effectiveness depends upon a company’s sales tasks, “experience” is an inherently multidimensional attribute.”
Exactly what kind of experience is relevant for the role you’re hiring for? Is it industry-related, product-related, knowledge of your buyer persona’s culture, experience with specific technology, or something else?
Be clear what you’re looking for when listing “experience” needed – this will help you find the right candidates quicker before bringing them in for an interview.
Look at interviews as sales pitches
Every time a salesperson contacts a customer, they are essentially being interviewed. That means that during your interviews with them, you should be able to get a feel for how they would respond to and connect with a potential customer.
Sadhana Smiles recommends multiple interviews with potential new salespeople, since part of their role hinges on how they build relationships. It’s also a good idea to have them introduced and spend a little time talking with others throughout the company (not only the sales department) to see how they communicate with many different personalities.
Hire for attitude
Skills can be taught – hire for attitude and culture!
Easier said than done, right? It can be tempting to hire someone for their knowledge and advanced skills, even if they’re probably not a great fit with your company culture. They may do well for a while, but someone who isn’t a great culture fit or doesn’t have an attitude that builds others up isn’t going to be your company’s best brand representation to the customer.
Remember that distressing statistic at the beginning of this post about turnover in sales positions? A big way to gain and retain top talent is by recognizing that a great attitude is gold, and any skills gaps present can be easily addressed through employee training.
Download this free infographic on the top 10 interview questions that reveal more than a single answer:
Eve Ash discusses how to develop sales skills with expert Sadhana Smiles in her employee training video series, “Influencing & Sales Skills.” In this video, Smiles explains the key ingredients for hiring the right salesperson, developing your salespeople, and managing different skill levels.
Watch a 1-minute preview of “Developing Sales Capabilities” from The BizLibrary Collection here: