Small businesses hire sales people. Big businesses hire sales forces. There’s a very important distinction there. Given that only 1 in 4 sales people have the competence, the behaviors, the beliefs, and the motivations to be elite in a given organization, hiring a sales force is a numbers game that small businesses can’t afford to play. And yet, everyday we see small businesses doing the same things as their larger counterparts. They throw out a job description, collect resumes, find people with experience and that “sales” personality, and make a hire based on unreliable criteria.
Here’s a good example. These are two real candidates for a sales job for which NewHire recently recruited. The employer needed a business-to-business sales representative to sell software to CEO’s and owners of small and medium-sized businesses. The position required a salesperson to do mostly over-the-phone sales, where some leads would be provided, but the salesperson would have to supplement via their own prospecting. I will refer to two of the candidates in their applicant pool as Candidate A and Candidate B, and describe their sales talents in the same depth that we discovered them:
Candidate A, according to her resume:
- Worked in sales for 8 months before leaving the company and taking a job as a social media marketing manager for a research consulting agency
- Had a 3 month gap in her work history, and not much information on experience beyond that one sales job
- Has a bachelor’s degree from a small liberal arts college
- Describes herself as “talented and results focused”
Candidate B, according to his resume:
- Been in sales for 7 years and has just recently taken a sales management role for a “burgeoning technology company”
- His sales experience was mostly business-to-business with some business-to-consumer experience
- Has a bachelor’s degree from a Big Ten school
- Describes himself as “loyal”
Given the above information, you might take a guess at which candidate is the better sales representative. Candidate B clearly has more experience. He also fits the industry that the employer works in, and has even moved up into sales management, right? If you’re like most companies, you would phone screen Candidate B and toss Candidate A in the resume shredder. Luckily, NewHire didn’t rely on this information alone. When we took a closer look, the picture of each candidate became a lot clearer.
Based on their answers to our careful questioning and an OMG Assessment, here’s what we learned about each candidate.
After further review, Candidate A clearly has the competency, skills, and behaviors that fit the employer’s need and are correlated with sales success. Here’s the deal: given a phone interview and a few in-person conversations, the employer probably never would have hired Candidate B anyway. Despite the attractive resume, they would have uncovered that he was not a fit and moved on — wasting only their valuable time in the process. The problem is not that Candidate B would have been hired… It’s that Candidate A would have never even been interviewed given the contents of her resume alone!
She was the perfect candidate and ended up being a very successful hire for the employer. Had they relied on her resume, she wouldn’t have had a chance at even talking to the employer on the phone. That’s the impact that the average hiring process has on the ability for a small business to hire successful salespeople. In some jobs, you can get by just screening for experience (although I would argue that including behaviors, motivations, and skills in the early stages of any recruitment search is ideal.) In sales, failing to uncover appropriate information about your candidate before ruling them out of the process is the number one way to miss out on your next superstar.
Imagine the impact a salesperson from the top 10% could have on your business this year alone. Can you afford to continue hiring the same, dangerous way just because resume screening is how you’ve always done it? No matter how you do it, a small business in search of a sales superstar must find out about a candidate’s sales behaviors and beliefs before making a yes or no decision on the candidate. Setting up a process that is specific to your company by which you can learn relevant information about a candidate before ruling them out will yield better results every time. There are plenty of tools out there to help save you time in building a custom process, but clearly it must be built. The old guess and check method for hiring salespeople is unsustainable, as the example above shows.
If you’re interested in learning more about the sales behaviors and beliefs that correlate to success in sales in all positions, and finding out which things to look out for that will make a difference for candidates at your company, check out Dave Kurlan’s White Paper on Sales Selection.