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9.25.19 – SSN – Chris Peterson

There are several reasons that can explain a low success rate in hiring salespeople; however, one reason that often gets overlooked is that companies get fooled during the interview process. Think about it – the job of a salesperson is to impact a company to buy something. During an interview process, they’re selling themselves. Even bad salespeople usually perform well in front of an audience; they typically fail for other reasons.

So, how can companies increase their probability of hiring the right salespeople? By implementing a proper due diligence program. Many companies trust their gut after an interview process and move forward with a candidate without any due diligence. Sure, some will conduct reference calls, but these calls typically act as a rubber stamp instead of digging for validation.

Below is a list of actions that every business leader should take before making the final decision of hiring a new salesperson. Although this process takes time, it’s a lot less laborious than trying to replace salespeople every year.
Create a due diligence checklist. Sales leaders are extremely busy and when the pressure is high, they’ll trust their interviewing instincts and move forward without conducting proper due diligence.

Conduct a background check. I’ve heard good things about Good Hire and Hire Right, but a quick online search will provide many options.
Position your reference calls properly. Most references are listed because they’ll have a positive opinion of the candidate, and the phone call is usually made to be too easy.
Preface the conversation. For example, “we like Jennifer, but I want to make sure that she is a fit for the position and that we’re a fit for her. The last thing I want to do is hire Jennifer and find out later that it wasn’t a good fit – that’s not good for either of us.” This helps the conversation to be consultative and the reference will feel more compelled to be transparent.

Ask thought-provoking questions. Don’t just ask the close-ended or leading questions that will validate a positive decision and make this process brief. Ask questions that will reveal the character of the candidate. A few examples and ideas are:
•    Tell me about Jennifer.
•    What type of salesperson is she? Do not indicate the type of sales role you have. You’ll get a ton of info on this question – especially if you ask for examples.
•    If you were asked to use two or three adjectives to describe Jennifer, what would those be?
•    Is there a story that sticks out about Jennifer?
•    Ask questions that confirm stories shared during the interview process. Don’t be overly critical of differences in details of stories – memories and perspectives can give varying stories. However, if there is a blatant lack of consistency (e.g. Jennifer didn’t work the Citibank account), then there is an issue.

Conduct a social media review. Check Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other social media sites to detect any indicators of behavior inconsistent with the values of your company or the candidate’s poor judgment.
Calibrate your expectations. Be aware that your reference calls will not be as glossy or as positive as you’re used to because of your new techniques. Do not judge these calls against your previous experience or you might become overly critical of strong candidates. You want to ensure that your favorable opinion can be justified, not confirm that your candidate is superhuman.

Chris Peterson is president of the Vector Firm, a leader in helping security companies improve their sales and digital marketing performance.