Successful hiring: You get what you ask for

Matt got what he wanted. Mostly.

After a shaky start in sales, he invested in training, leaned on his work ethic and honed his execution. It paid off with an eye-popping 543 percent increase in sales. He was now the sales manager and part of his new job was hiring new reps to do what he had done.

But it wasn’t going well. He made a couple of hiring errors that cost him time and revenue. The candidates were not living up to their billing — not what he wanted.

During his call, he lamented, “I wish I knew a better way to do it. How do you do it?”

Apart from some of the best hiring systems we’ve implemented over the years, including Brad Smart’s Topgrading and a terrific screening system called Hyrell, it forced a quick and dirty analysis and distillation of some of the questions asked during the sales hiring process.


1. What was the last training program that you, yourself, paid for?


This uncovers a host of desirable qualities and is an excellent bellwether for performance. First, it gives an indication of how driven to self-improvement an individual is. This will be important as the sales person begins to encounter obstacles: Will they seek new information? Are they a willing learner?

Secondly, it demonstrates a certain amount of independence. People who seek performance-based improvement classes of their own volition also demonstrate a high degree of self motivation.

Paying for it themselves indicates they are willing to invest in their own performance — they believe in their own capabilities. It also indicates they value the input of others and this provides a peek into their coachability.

End the interview with any candidate who says, “I’ve never been to anything that the company hasn’t paid for” or “I’ve not really done any of that stuff.”


2. What information sources do you rely on to keep you current with your customers?


This is terribly important because it indicates a customer-centric view of the world. High-performing sales people are locked on to their customers and prospects. They know what is going on in customers’ businesses and how they can help them solve their problems with your products. This is not a question many prepare for, so you’ll get unrehearsed answers that indicate how involved the candidate is in creating a competitive advantage of information.

The right answers will include panoply of sources, including business journals, Google Alerts, trade magazines, etc. Want to up the ante? Ask them how they used what they read to close business. The best will answer this easily.


3. Describe for me an achievement — something you planned, executed and achieved.

Want to quickly unravel a sales team? Litter among them individuals who are looking for life’s lottery — people who wait for success to find them. It breeds disharmony.

The most successful sales people almost always have very clear objectives, plans on how to get there and an ability to push past the pain of work to achieve it. This question will require a specific memory of something they did that was hard. Something that required planning. Something that required persistence. Something that proved to them that they can win. 

Which of those traits do you not want representing your company?

Patrick Morin is the president and COO of BrightHammer LLC, a team of experts that work directly with company leaders nationwide to develop and implement sales strategy, deliver targeted sales training and effect sales-oriented culture changes. Email him here.

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