The Three-Legged Sales Hiring Tool

If you’re sitting on an office chair at the moment, look down and count the legs (or casters). You’ll most likely see five legs. Ever wonder why? I have. I remember when office chairs had only four casters to roll around with.

I suspect that there must have been a rash of people who fell out of these four-legged office chairs and sued the manufacturers, so they stuck on a fifth leg for better stability.

Some of you might remember the three-legged milking stools that farmers used when milking their cows. How did they ever keep from falling over? Had cow milking technology and automation not advanced as far as it has, we’d probably have five-legged milking stools today. Overkill for sure.

Is there a point to all this, you ask? Well, sort of.

One of the problems that we have with the three-legged stool is that if you happen to lose a leg, you fall over, something that doesn’t happen with the milking stool’s four and five-legged cousins.

I find that a lot of hiring processes fail for a similar reason. One part of the hiring process either fails or more usually is ignored, and the company ends up hiring a square peg that they then try to pound into a round hole.

Why Are We So Bad?

As sales managers or business owners, we have lots and lots of things to occupy our days and hiring is usually way down the list. We may go months, or even years, before we need to exercise whatever hiring skills we might have.

Consequently, those skills, which are marginal at best, become rusty and less effective. The situation is amplified because we have no proven hiring process in place that we can bring into play when needed.

A Good Hiring Process

I’ve hired more than my share of sales duds over the years and watched while some of my sales management consulting clients did the same. In my article titled Luck is Not a Hiring Tool, I talk about how I might as well have flipped a coin and saved myself a lot of wasted interviewing time.

Here’s a simple, three-part sales hiring process that is easy to implement when needed. Remember, this is a three-legged hiring process and if one of the legs isn’t done, or isn’t done properly, you’ll fall of the stool.

Part 1: Have a structured interview format.

This should consist of a series of three, maybe four, sets of interview questions, each intended for a specific purpose:

  • a screening interview to get first impressions,
  • a general interview that delves more into the individual,
  • a third interview that has sales-related questions to help determine if the person knows how to sell,
  • And a last interview with questions around the company and your industry to see how good the fit is.

Part 2: Check references.

Most companies don’t check references and candidates know that. In fact, some count on it. You may dislike doing them, but you leave yourself wide open to problems if you don’t do them. When doing reference checks, don’t only listen to what people say, but be sensitive to what they don’t say as well. One technique I recommend is to call the reference after hours when you know the person won’t be there. Then leave a voice mail message asking them to only call you back if they want to give a reference. The non-call tells you a lot.

Part 3: Use a sales assessment.

There are a lot of good assessments out there. A sales assessment gives you an independent, third-party, unbiased look at the candidate. Are assessments always accurate? No. But they’ll provide more accurate insights into the individual than just reading their resume.

Putting the Pieces Together

Here’s an example of how one of my consulting clients puts this process to work to formalize and replicate hiring success. They are an IT consulting company so they’re looking for salespeople who are knowledgeable of the industry as well as have skills in sales. Here’s what they put in place:

Step 1: Resume Review

Resumes are reviewed for appropriateness for the position as defined in the Position Description. Candidates with the appropriate level of experience move to step two.

Step 2: Initial Screening Interview

Candidates are interviewed by telephone to ascertain first impressions, confirm resume details, income expectations, etc. Successful candidates will be invited to take a sales assessment.

Step 3: Sales Temperament Assessment (STA)

The candidate is asked to complete the STA. Minimum rating is 5 out of10 for Temperament to Succeed and 5 out of10 for Suitability for the Position. The exception is where the candidate’s Temperament to Succeed is 7 or greater, in which case the Suitability for the Position may be disregarded with the understanding that the lower that rating is, the less satisfied the person is likely to be in the position. (Note: the STA was developed by us and was acquired by the Callidus Corporation who now offer it online.)

Step 4: Sales Interview

Candidates are interviewed by the Sales Manager who conducts a thorough sales-based interview to evaluate the candidate’s sales knowledge and abilities.

Step 5: Technical Interview

Candidates are interviewed by the Company President, or assigned technical resource, to evaluate the candidate’s industry and product/service knowledge.

Step 6: Reference Checks

At least three reference checks are completed with the purpose of confirming information, or to resolve any red flags that have been uncovered during the interviews.

The Bottom Line

There you have it – my three-legged milking stool process for hiring salespeople and how one company implemented it. If getting consistent results when hiring salespeople is one of your challenges, put your stool in place and don’t fall off!