The Art of Hiring Sales Staff by Harlan Schafir

Running a PEO is a day-to-day challenge. I speak from experience, as I’ve done this for the past 19 years. As challenging as it may be to run the daily operations of a business like ours, perhaps an even bigger challenge is finding great salespeople to sell this interesting product.

As we build our companies, I believe we all agree that having the best and the brightest staff is a key to our companies’ success. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it?  We all think the people we hire will be successful, but as we all know, it does not always work like that. So, what goes wrong? Is it us or them?

Let me start by asking the questions, “Do you really understand what makes your top salespeople successful?” What characteristics do they have that make them successful?  More directly, what makes them so good, beyond the fact that they sell a lot of deals?  While there is no magical way to figure out who will be a great sales performer, you can significantly increase your odds of selecting and hiring the right person. Let me explain.

The first key is understanding a concept called “jobfit.” Jobfit exists when the job requirements, the core characteristics of the employee and your company culture are all in alignment. When these three things are in sync, employees will significantly outperform their counterparts.  We’ve probably all experienced this, either in our own companies or in client companies. It can be likened to “catching lightning in a bottle.”

So how do you do this, especially with salespeople? If they are good at selling in general, they’re probably very good at selling themselves in an interview.  This means the traditional approach of looking at their work history and how they handle themselves in a typical interview scenario may be lacking.

Start by using a validated employee assessment product to assess all your sales staff (not just top performers) who have been on the job for at least one year. When you look at the results, you will find some common traits all your top performers have.  It may be behavioral traits (assertiveness, outgoing nature, attention to detail), or it may be their ability to learn and process information (cognitive traits).

Next, use this information to build a pattern of success.  Assessment tools allow you to successfully develop a benchmark of the key common traits of your good performers.  All future candidates may be assessed using the same tool.  By comparing them to the benchmark model of success you created, you can now objectively determine which candidates have the cognitive and behavioral characteristics that are similar to your top performers.

Is this foolproof? Of course not.  In fact, Department of Labor (DOL) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines suggest that these assessment results should count for no more than 33% of your hiring decision.  The rest should be based on your existing hiring process approach. However, by using this valid and objective data, you are much more likely to hire new people who are similar to your top performers.  This leads to shorter learning curves, higher sales per employee, more positive feedback from your clients and staff, and better profitability.

As the quote goes, “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got.”  If you are looking to improve your sales team and the sale performance of your company, you must invest the time and energy to get it right.

Happy hunting!