Sales recruiters: How to hire top-producing sales people
The Pareto Principle, commonly known as the 80/20 rule, says that 80 percent of any output will be generated by only 20 percent of the total input utilized.
If you’ve ever hired and managed sales people, you know that the principle holds true in sales recruitment. Some 20 percent of the sales people produce 80 percent of the business. They also get the lion’s share of the promotions, job perks, clients, work satisfaction, and of course, the income.
If 20 percent of the sales people produce 80 percent of the business, then the remaining 80 percent of new hires collectively make only 20 percent of the sales. What does that say for sales recruiters? If you do the math, it means the odds are stacked against you.
What are the top seller traits?
When it comes to hiring top talent, the best sales recruiters aim for the top 20 percent. But how exactly do you separate the high achievers from the rest?
The Harvard Business School conducted an in-depth study in this area, and found that the top sellers possessed the following character traits:
- Full acceptance of responsibility for results
- Above-average ambition and desire to succeed
- Above-average willpower and determination (self-discipline is a key)
- Intensely goal-oriented
- High level of customer empathy
- Impeccable honesty
- “Does-not-take-no” personality
- The ability to approach strangers, even when it’s uncomfortable
The challenge you face as a sales recruiter is that these traits are very difficult to ascertain from a job application or an interview. How can you determine whether a smooth talker is a future star performer?
What makes a potential star performer?
Most sales managers require a person to have industry experience as a prerequisite for the job. But product knowledge can be learned; soft skills need to count as well.
You can’t teach employees ambition, however. That comes from the person’s character. So what you’re looking for is a candidate who has a strong work ethic and a burning desire to succeed. You want someone who will make the effort to become a valued, integral part of your work force.
Maybe it’s time sales recruiters drop “experience required” from job listings. Instead, look for motivated people who can’t wait to excel.
Where can you find high sales achievers?
It isn’t difficult to find qualified candidates if you know where to look. Here are a few tips to consider as you start your search:
1. Go to where the high achievers congregate
Interview talk is cheap in candidate interviews. Everyone you interview will tell you that they have a great work ethic. To see it in action, you need to get out of the office. For example, go to your local Chamber of Commerce monthly breakfast meetings. Look around the room. You’ll find yourself surrounded by people who, by their very presence, are demonstrating a personal commitment to self-improvement.
In fact, any sales person who’s attending a 7 a.m. business breakfast for networking is demonstrating that they’re motivated to succeed. The same applies to public seminars on sales topics. When you meet someone who makes a strong first impression, ask for their contact information. This will come in handy later.
2. Ask clients for referrals
Ask your clients regularly if they’ve met any sales people who, through their professionalism and attention to detail, stand out from the crowd. There’s no better measure of a sales person’s performance than the way in which they service their customer base.
3. Build a database of salespeople
All upper sales managers have had “Warm Body Syndrome” — that sense of panic that prompts them to hire the next person who walks through the door. This is an act of desperation born of poor planning. This is where sales recruiting by networking pays big dividends. By “redshirting” — building a database of salespeople that you met when you were not interviewing — you can have a stable full of candidates at the ready for a staffing emergency.
As a sales recruiter or hiring manager, it pays to remember that the company’s sales performance depends on your skills. The best sales people — at least 20 percent of them — will prove it.
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