It’s 5 a.m. and a sales manager, Jason, turns off the alarm as he rolls out of bed, hits the floor, and moves through the darkness for the bathroom.  A typical start to a day.  In the gym by 6:00.  At the office by 7:30.

It’s the end of the month and the sales team is 85% of quota.  Two open sales positions and lost sales revenue glare out from a sales board located in his office.  Jason’s quarterly bonus money is in jeopardy – perhaps his job.  He looks at yesterday’s sales numbers and then opens a recruiting folder and pulls out one old resume.  It’s poorly written with several misspelled words and shows a working history of five jobs with short tenure – none of them sales-related.  He sighs.

During the day, Jason places an ad in the local newspaper.  He also employs a local recruiting firm and over the next week he begins to receive candidate resumes.  Jason’s assistant screens out some of the resumes and schedules interviews with those that answer their phone.

Jason’s interview questions vary from candidate to candidate.  He relies on his gut and sales instinct with each person.  He looks for someone who seems self confident – and then someone whom he can “sell” on the job and the career.

In walks John – right smile, right age, right resume, good answers, very attentive – eager.  Jason shifts gears into his best presentation and explanation of the opportunity.  At the right moment honed by years sales experience, he ends the interview and asks John when he is available for employment.  “Within one week,” he replies.  Jason and he agree on his starting day and recruiting for the first position is over.  In the next week, John hires his second new salesperson – one with ten years of experience selling high-end men’s suits for a reputable company in the area.  Both last three months before it becomes evident that neither can sell.

Where does incompetency begin in Jason’s recruiting process?

Jason does not know what to look for when recruiting a salesperson.  He, along with most sales managers and entrepreneurs in America, does not know the competencies for his sales position and does not know the top six (6) personality traits that are necessary for natural sales ability in his industry.  As a result,  resumes cannot be screened well.  Managers do not use structured questions in their interviews.  Personality profiles are purchased, but sales managers do not trust their validation, do not know where they are used in a process, and no one provides training on their use.  And, no one uses a recruiting system with a process, tools, and skills all focused on uncovering necessary competencies and personality traits of a great salesperson.

Most sales managers are unconscious incompetents at recruiting the best candidates for sales positions.  They do not know what they do poorly when recruiting.  They do not know that they do not follow the standards of a best practice recruiting system.  The result – turnover is high.  Retention is low.  First year sales for new recruits is also low.  Overall sales team production is lower than budget.  Morale is low.  Pressure to hire is high.

In some companies where turnover is high, upper management controls the pressure for continuous recruitment.  The intensity is kept at such a high level that upper management has even stopped talking about hiring quality candidates.  Hire them – try them – and keep the few that make it.  That’s the poor underlying value placed on retention and a recruiting system.

Other companies have tools – interview forms, profiles, online applications, etc., but no one follows a process, uses the tools, etc.  No one coaches and manages the managers to accountability within a recruiting system – one that truly gets results from best practices – higher retention and production.  More importantly, recruiting does not follow a single-minded process to match candidate competencies and personality traits with those required in the position.  Finally, sales managers do not realize they do not understand or follow a best practice science of selection. They are unconscious of their incompetence at recruiting.

I want to give all the Jasons out there hope.  You CAN identify and recruit for the top competencies and personality traits necessary for your sales position.  You can learn to use a best practice recruiting system with its process, tools, and skills. You can hire great salespeople.  You can get first year production of new reps to reach an excellent standard.  You can improve ramp up time to minimum production.  You can learn to recruit well.  And, when you do all stakeholders will benefit from your improved skills and attitude.  Lance.

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