Sinking in the Pool

A sales manager from the company we discussed in ‘Retooling the Sales Force’ asked me about a candidate they were considering. He had mixed emotions: on the one hand, this candidate was actually borderline hirable, a rarity for them. On the other hand, the sales manager was frustrated over the lack of recommended candidates. Now that they were assessing candidates prior to interviewing them, he didn’t understand why so many of the candidates were not recommended.

Many companies, after they first realize the advantage of using our assessments, are frustrated by the lack of recommended candidates. Why? Background: The major reason they chose to use an assessment at all was that many of the salespeople they hired failed to become successful. The best were mediocre and the rest often failed. They chose our assessment instead of the others because of our comprehensive sales predictions and unbeatable accuracy. They wouldn’t be making any more hiring mistakes and their new hires would be winners, not losers.

So why are so many of their candidates being eliminated by the assessment? Simple. If they were making hiring mistakes before and they apply our assessment to their existing process, they will come face-to-face with the first of many problems with their existing process: they are attracting the wrong candidates! And the fact of the matter is that the best sales assessment in the world – ours – used on poor to mediocre candidates, will expose those candidates for what they truly are: not hirable.

What should a company do to fix its sales recruiting process? Like so many topics, there is more than one answer and it requires more than one change. The fastest, simplest and most obvious place to start is the ad or posting that the company uses to attract its candidates. This ad must describe a successful candidate rather than the company, opportunity or job. In order to describe a successful candidate the company must truly know what it will take for a salesperson to succeed in their business. Most companies haven’t figured this out yet and often need some help. I’ll provide one example here:

Let’s say that your salespeople need to call on Sr.VP’s and you are considering a candidate that has been a top salesperson at every organization for which he has worked. You hire the candidate and after 8 months (long sell cycle) it is becoming obvious that this new salesperson is failing. You can’t understand why because he interviewed so well and had such a great track record. Upon further investigation you learn that he had never sold to anyone higher in a company than buyers. You learn that he is intimidated by top management, doesn’t know how to speak their language and has been making very unfavorable impressions on his first visits. If calling on a Sr. VP is a requirement for success, then you must find a salesperson who has already experienced success selling to Sr. VP’s.

It is important to identify all the possible failure factors in your business and determine the kinds of success a candidate must have previously experienced. Describe those experiences in your ad and then you’ll see the improvement in the quality of your pool of candidates.