Putting together a sales team that is greater than the sum of its parts is a challenge. But how you handle interviewing, hiring, training, and the particular blend of skills you want on your team can go a long way toward helping you have a team that achieves great results. Business.com recently spoke with Susan Enns of B2B Sales Connections, Canada's premier niche job board, about putting together a sales team that delivers. Q. Recruiting events can put plenty of qualified, pre-screened candidates in front of you in a short period of time. But attending these events can be expensive. Do you think these events are worth it, say, for a smaller business, or are they a better fit for larger companies?
A. It really depends on what cost per hire you are willing to spend. Larger companies normally go to recruiting events with multiple positions to fill. Therefore, their cost per hire for the event can be a lot lower than a smaller company with only one position to fill. When evaluating your recruiting options, you really have to go with the method that gives you the best value for the time and money you are spending.
Q. Everyone knows that with sales, communication skills are paramount. But what should you look for in terms of research and analytical skills, as well as the technical skills necessary to operate the software and hardware for the job?
A. When recruiting sales people, the question is not, "Can they sell?" but rather, "Can they sell what you want sold?" If your product dictates the sales person to have a certain level of analytical or technical skills to be successful, you then should make that a minimum requirement for all candidates. You either have to ensure they have the skills necessary before you hire them, or you need to add training for those skills in your onboarding process.
Q. It's easy to find tips for how job candidates should approach an interview, but what are some tips for interviewers as far as making applicants comfortable, establishing rapport, and getting the information they need to make good hiring choices.
A. When interviewing candidates for a sales position, it is important to be prepared. As every candidate is different, if you just let the direction of the meeting go wherever the conversation takes you, it will be like comparing apples to oranges when trying to decide whom to hire. Besides, having a chat about the local sports team will not guarantee you make the right hire.
When you first start the interview, let the candidate know that the purpose of the interview is to get to know each other better to see whether the person would be a good fit for you and your organization. In other words, it's important the candidate know that there are no wrong answers so they can relax.
For the interviews themselves, in order to properly compare and evaluate the candidates, you need to ask the same questions of each and every one, and those questions must be scripted ahead of time. I go into great detail on how to do this and other candidate pre-screening and interviewing techniques in my book, Action Plan for Sales Management Success. However, as I mentioned, the key is preparation. To get you started, you can download our free white paper "How To Recruit The Best Sales Professionals," which includes "11 Telephone Interview Questions to Find Top Performers" from our website, www.b2bsalesconnections.com.
Q. Many successful sports coaches take the approach of "Send me the good athletes. I'll teach them to play (basketball, softball, soccer)." Can this approach work when putting together a great sales team?
A. Absolutely! Contrary to popular belief, great sales people and sales managers are not born, they are made. They are the result of hard work, passion, motivation to excellence and most importantly, training. Sales is a learned skill, not a natural gift. If you start with the right people who have the aptitude and personality for sales, you can certainly train them to be successful.
Q. How can your interviewing, hiring, and training practices help reduce "churn" in your sales team?
A. Turnover in your sales team happens when there is no longer a fit between the employer and employee. The relationship is no longer a win-win, and therefore must end because both parties are not achieving their goals. The better you are in your recruiting and hiring practices, the better able you are to assess fit before the relationship starts. Once hired, training maximizes the chance of success as it puts everyone on the same road, further securing the fit between the employee and the organization. The better the fit, the more likely the relationship can be successful in the long term, therefore reducing "churn" in your sales force overall.
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