The Killer Hiring Process

No, I’m not talking about a process for hiring killers – unless it’s the type of killer that can track down and close a sales opportunity! I’m referring to a killer process for separating the wheat from the chaff when you’re trying to hire that super salesperson all of us want to add to our sales team.

Hiring Salespeople is Different

People who are successful at sales are different in that they require good interpersonal skills, the proper attitude and temperament, and a resilience not found in many other people. Also, selling is a skill and unless you know what to look for it’s difficult to determine whether the person is a super star or a charlatan.

The one thing that sales charlatans do well is sell themselves. In fact, sometimes that’s the only thing they can sell! Because they are very good at selling themselves, it can be a challenge for the human resources person or recruiter to deal with.

It’s important for the sales manager to be involved in the hiring process because most HR folks are very people-oriented and are an easy mark for the sales charlatan who is a master at building rapport, being extremely likeable, and presenting himself in a positive light during the interview.

The Seven-Step Sales Hiring Process

Here’s a seven-step hiring process that I developed and refined over the years. As the candidate progresses through the steps, the interview questions become more challenging and tensions will begin to grow for the candidate. This gives you an opportunity to see how the candidate responds to a reasonable level of social pressure.

Step 1 Telephone Pre-Qualification Interview
Purpose: To assess a potential candidate prior to setting up a face-to-face interview.

This interview lasts about five to ten minutes and is where you review the candidate’s resume and gain your first impression of the candidate. If you don’t feel the person comes across well over the telephone, neither will your customers. The call should contain one or two “knock-out” questions that might potentially disqualify the candidate.

Step 2 Third-Party Sales Assessment Test
Purpose: To get an impartial overview of the candidate.

There are a number of them available but, of course, we want you to use our sales assessment. We recommend doing this type of assessment so you can weed out potential duds and not waste your valuable time interviewing people who are unlikely to be successful in sales.

Step 3 Initial Face-to-Face Interview
Purpose: To uncover more general information about the candidate.

Use standard questions that are easy for the candidate to answer. This will provide the interviewer with insights into who the candidate is, where he worked, where he’s been and where he wants to go. This step of the interview process takes between 20-30 minutes. If you like the answers, you proceed to step four.

Step 4 Second Face-to-Face Interview
Purpose: To find out more of how the candidate goes about his or her selling day.

Use sales-based questions to uncover how the candidate prospects, how he manages his time, what kind of selling style he uses, etc.

Step 5 Mini Competency Quiz
Purpose: To uncover whether or not the candidate actually knows anything about selling.

Can the person identify some popular closing techniques? Does he or she know what a trial close is? Can he or she tell you the three things you absolutely need to know to properly qualify a prospect? You get the idea.

Step 6 Sales Simulation (Role Play)
Purpose: To test the candidate to see if he or she can really sell.

I call it a simulation because salespeople hate role playing. The candidate is given a simple sales scenario and allowed ten minutes to prepare. Then the person goes through a sales call with the interviewer.

I’ve had candidates refuse to do this step, in which case I thank them for coming in and politely send them on their way. In my mind, if a candidate isn’t confident enough to showcase his or her selling abilities, I’m going to assume they don’t exist and move along.

Step 7 Subjective Assessment
Purpose: To capture how you feel about the candidate.

There are always a number of “soft” factors, or personal impressions–such as personal and physical appearance, voice, poise, tact, enthusiasm, communications skills, manners, etc. –that also need to be taken into consideration when evaluating candidates. We’ve identified 14 of these soft factors. How many can you come up with?

Involve the Sales Manager

Because “it takes one to know one” – I recommend that steps five and six be conducted by a sales manager, or a seasoned and trained salesperson, or someone who is familiar with professional selling and who will know what to watch out for in the responses and during the sales simulation.

Winging It

If all this seems like a lot to go through just to hire someone, you’re right. That’s why so many of us just wing it and muddle our way through the process of hiring. Because of this muddling, we often end up with people who don’t perform to our expectations.

If you want to minimize (or eliminate) the muddling, take the time to build a sales hiring process using the above framework. Or consider getting hold of our  Hiring Interview Toolkit which is specifically designed for the sales position.

Either way, instead of winging it for your next hire, plan to do it right and hire right. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Bottom Line

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything. Using this sales hiring process can help you minimize the odds of hiring a dud and increase your chances of hiring a winner.

It’s just possible that this killer hiring process may help you avoid hiring a sales killer, someone who could bring death and destruction to your bottom line.