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Problems with Sales Hiring Featuring Craig Eggleton

Recruiting and hiring have been challenges talked about since the dawn of time it seems. Every time I turn around there’s a new report about how much it costs to lose a salesperson or a sales leader, how much it costs to recruit and hire, and all sorts of opportunity costs when replacement is needed. Yes, these are monumental costs and problems, yet they never really get the attention they deserve. Why is that?

Well that’s the billion dollar question. Sales positions are different than any others in an organization. There’s more clarity around most of the other roles— HR, accounting, finance, etc.  But, when we think about getting the sales hiring right the first time we might want to consider all the factors that contribute to the mess we’ve been in for years.  Here are a few culprits for you to consider:

  • Could it be a selection issue?
  • Could it be an onboarding issue?
  • Could it be a compensation issue?
  • Could it be a leadership issue?
  • Could it be an accountability issue?
  • Could it be an expectations issue?

How to Build a Successful Sales Recruitment Process 

I recently asked Craig Eggleton of Sales Bullpen to weigh in on this highly discussed topic. He’s been in sales leadership and consulting roles for years. He also put together a great resource talking about building a successful sales recruitment process. It starts with an understanding of why businesses fail to hire the right sales talent, and then moves into the best ways to source, interview, and ramp up sales employees. 

Q. Sales hiring has been a problem for years. Is the problem solved and we just don’t know where to look? Or, is the problem too complex for an easy fix? Give us your thoughts.

The answer is there, so start with a goal. For example, as an organization we want to hire stronger salespeople who can perform in the top half of the sales force after year one. How do we solve for this? 

Step 1: Develop ICP (Ideal Candidate Profiles) for each selling role your organization has.

We have a process we refer to as the “tailored fit.” This allows us to look at top and bottom performers to identify what truly sets these folks apart. It’s important to assess each of these buckets since top and bottom performers share several traits in common. We are looking for why people perform in your unique organization. 

Step 2: Assemble your hiring team and build a framework which supports high performance hiring.

Top organizations we work with have a process that looks like this at a minimum:

  • Job specs created to attract ideal candidates (the bait)
  • Identify best places to post open roles, if you are posting
  • Sourcing: If you have a robust internal team in place for sourcing candidates, then you must have KPIs in place to measure their effectiveness
  • Use hiring assessment tools the right way as a critical step in the process
  • Who does what? Who is responsible for the candidate flow, who sets up interviews, who conducts interviews,etc.? The key here is specificity and accountability. For the process to work we need each person on the team to perform.
  • Onboarding: When does it begin and how will we measure success.

Keep in mind what I shared looks very basic. The power is the simplicity and you can add to this. My point is if we have a process in place and we are not getting the outcomes we wish to achieve, we can then look to our process to see where the breakdown is occurring.

Q. How prevalent is “hiring bias” in sales hiring? For instance, how often do hiring managers want to hire someone that is “like me?” 

I’ll give you the politician’s response. It depends.  Does it exist? Absolutely. But if you use the steps I outlined you can help eliminate this. I’d like to take this one in a different direction. Pull up just about any job posting on LinkedIn and look at the requirements. Most will have things like # of years of experience, specific industry experience, college degree, the ability to lift 10 lbs, etc.  When it comes to what we look for in top-performing salespeople, the posting itself is one of the biggest offenders of sales hiring.

Q. Hiring sales leaders is another animal all together. Are the fundamentals still the same when hiring a sales rep vs a sales leader? An example, would we still use a similar process and just change the requirements? 

The process works the same for sales leaders. The only difference is who would be involved in the hiring process.

Q. What are some of the best strategies hiring managers can use to improve their hiring practices today?

First, don’t go it alone.  Use all the resources available to you within your organization. Apply continuous improvement to your process. When it comes to selling, we should continuously be looking for ways to refine our sales process. 

Same thing applies to hiring best practices. For example, what worked in 2019 most likely changed in 2020. If your sales team had not been working remotely in the past, then when you go to hire new salespeople you should be assessing a candidate’s ability to work remotely. Also, reach out to people outside of your organization to see what is working best for them.

q. Is there an optimal process to follow in terms of how many steps are in the interview process for a candidate? How much is too little and too much? Who all should be involved in hiring? 

Let’s go for goldilocks here and aim for just right! The process has to be effective and efficient for the organization and the candidate. Too few steps can be a red flag for a top salesperson.  The process we teach involves 3 interviews. Now, keep in mind we are using automation and predictive assessments on the front-end of the process to ensure we are spending time with recommended candidates. 

As for who should be involved, this will vary by the size of the organization. At a minimum you will have HR and the hiring manager for sales roles. For sales leadership roles the C-Suite better be all hands on deck. One last thing and this is important regardless of who participates in the hiring process; Each person involved in the hiring process must have his/her role clearly defined and have a way to measure their effectiveness.

Ed Porter | Fractional Chief Revenue Officer