Sales Management Digest

Five Minutes to Better Sales Hires
Selling Power Editors
Seasoned sales leaders know that one poor hiring decision can really take its toll on a sales team.

In fact, Peak Sales Recruiting, a leading executive search firm for sales positions, calculates the costs associated with hiring a bad salesperson as nearly seven times the annual salary for the position. What company can afford such a mistake (much less more than one)?

The good news is that there's a new approach to hiring that allows sales leaders to capture the real story about the behaviors and past performance of potential sales hires directly from those who have worked the closest with them – their references.

It's true that meaningful feedback from references has been elusive in the past. Most sales managers have had the experience of dealing with references who are hard to reach through the phone, and sometimes conversations often reveal little more than prior employment dates.

But the game is changing. With newfound anonymity using Web-driven technology, sales leaders can take five minutes to gather feedback from a candidate's references through a survey that is delivered to the reference over an electronic platform. This platform preserves the confidentiality of the references and releases all parties from liability threats.

As a result, references will report on sales applicants' behaviors and skills in candid detail. More than 85 percent of references respond to a reference request when asked to do so through a confidential electronic survey. In fact, one such system from SkillSurvey has gathered multi-source (managers, peers, direct-reports) reference feedback from thousands of people for the position of sales manager alone. The feedback from these thousands of references (based on an average of 4.7 references per candidate) should reveal which among many sales candidates are prepared to contribute to your sales team's success in the long term.

Ideally, such surveys should ask a reference to rate a potential sales hire on his or her:
  • Ability to consistently meet or exceed sales goals.
  • Persistence when faced with objections or other setbacks.
  • Competencies in managing post-sale relationships.
  • Determination in locating qualified sales opportunities.
  • Ability to leverage technology (like CRM) for productivity.
When the surveys are administered prior to the final interview, the results can help a sales leader ask intelligent questions that will uncover useful and specific insights. Also, the results can be easily reviewed across multiple candidates via a composite view.

With the help of candid and quick feedback from references, you can have all the information you need to better evaluate candidates and determine whether or not it's worth your while to extend that coveted offer to join your team.
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Come on, Johnson - how come every time I ask you a question you give me this blank stare?