Hiring a critical salesperson who is expected to make a big impact in the business is a serious task and a big investment. Yet, we too often apply weak hiring practices that work for less critical roles where there is a plentiful supply of “job seekers”. Here is a summary of the best practices if you are serious and realistic about attracting very scarce professional sales talent.
Few Not Many Candidate Profile Criteria: Use a short, restricted and very tight candidate profile list – most hirers do the opposite, hoping to expand their options. Use 1-3 high level candidate profile selection criteria, and then a secondary 1-3 set of criteria. Download a proven template here. This avoids profile creep whereby people introduce subjective selection traits that are not materially important.
A Restricted Job Role Description: Critical sales roles have between two and six key responsibilities and duties. In practice, most have 2 i.e. create opportunities and close enough opportunities. Listing a dozen+ tasks and duties will attract a diluted, window-shopping audience who react to a loose word or phrase they connect with such as “liaising with team members”.
One set of – Known – Hiring Stakeholders Upfront: Decide in advance who will partake in the hiring effort, including screening and interviewing. Avoid introducing random people or wildcard interviewers, because it will lead to profile creep and a search for a “holy grail” candidate.
One Main Decider: Two or more people cannot own the ultimate hiring decision. You need someone who can decide what to include and what to ignore. That person is the one with the most to lose if a bad hire is made – usually the person to whom the appointed candidate will report.
Leave Room for the Best Talent: It’s not uncommon that we find the “ideal” candidate but under no circumstances are we prepared to make an adequate offer to attract the talent. Either leave room for an expanded offer, or reduce your expectations. You might get lucky, but generally, beer money doesn’t buy champagne, much as we want or need the champagne.
Stick to a Steady Timeline: Many scarce but capable candidates are lost through tardy timeline management that includes stalling candidates and waiting for 2 or more people’s calendars to sync. Serious professionals won’t stick around because they have already judged you based on the timeline.
Non-Sales Interviewers: Salespeople have to work with many stakeholders, nearly all of them not from the sales world. The non-sales interviewer especially needs to adhere to the top-level objective selection criteria rather than introduce their view of the role of the candidate profile. People generally have very strong and highly subjective reactions to “salespeople” and those reactions need to be put in context by the person who owns the outcomes.