The resume looked good, the interview went well, and the pre-hire assessment showed this dog can hunt. Your new sales hire begins work and it doesn’t take too long before you see signs that this so-called sales rock star is anything but a rock star.

The excuses roll in, but the revenue doesn’t. These excuses are many and varied:

  • I need more leads. (What? Your assessment shows that you are a hunter.)
  • Our marketing collateral really doesn’t tell our story well. (Okay, so go meet with prospects, anyone, and tell our story.)
  • We need better pricing. (But in the interview, you told me you sell on value, not price.)

You want to be a good leader and are open to suggestions. You spend more money on marketing, redesigning collateral, and revamping pricing strategies. Problem solved, right? Nope. New excuses roll in and you reluctantly have to admit, “I’ve hired another sales dud.”

How did this happen? The candidate’s resume showed a solid record of success. The references checked out to support the track record. You applied behavior-based interviewing skills to make sure that past behavior and success would lead to future success.

Here is the problem: Does your candidate’s previous success transfer to success at your company? This candidate was successful at his last company. He didn’t fudge numbers on the resume. The references were truthful. They weren’t trying to hide anything.

The reality is that each sales organization has its own set of competencies needed for success. And sometimes, what made a top producer successful at his previous company doesn’t work at your company.

Let’s examine three areas of the interview process to make sure your new hire’s previous sales success will transfer to more of the same at your organization. 

Lead Generation

Many salespeople’s resumes make them appear to be great at sourcing and uncovering new opportunities. Their resume shows a 25% increase year over year in sales. But the reason for the increase is because the company had a robust marketing program. This salesperson is good at closing business, once the opportunity is teed up.

They join your company and are now responsible for sourcing their own leads. Your new hire doesn’t even know where to start. Generating an opportunity requires a different set of selling skills and energy. Your new hire has never created a target list of prospects. She doesn’t know how to create and leverage referrals from existing clients or partners. Her previous position didn’t require reaching out and converting contacts to clients.

Design and ask better interview questions to determine if your candidate can and will prospect. “Tell me about your sales at X,Y, Z company. How was the opportunity created? Share your weekly/monthly sales activity plan.” Listen carefully to see if the salesperson or the company generated the lead. Listen for any metrics around lead-generation activities. Avoid hiring an order taker. You need an order maker. 

Need-to-Have vs. Nice-to-Have Product

Your new hire was successful at his previous organization because he sold a need-to-have product such as insurance, telephone systems, or accounting services. He lands in your organization and flounders because your product or service falls into the nice-to-have bucket — i.e., consulting, training, or marketing services.

Selling a nice-to-have product or service involves selling an intangible concept or idea. At your company, the salesperson doesn’t have anything to show or demo. This salesperson has never conducted a consultative, solution-based sales meeting. He is a good presenter, not a good salesperson.

Examine previous positions on your candidate’s resume. Determine if these jobs fall into the need-to-have or nice-to-have product category. Hire based on evidence, not hope. 

Average Transaction Size

Your new hire was highly successful selling products and services that ranged from $25,000 to $50,000. However, your company’s products and services start at $150,000 and go all the way to $1 million. Your new salesperson has difficulty making the leap to selling bigger deals because she’s thinking, “Wow, this is a lot of money.”

In sales meetings, she often defaults to the lowest-priced solution, even when the prospect is willing and able to invest more money. She takes her own wallet into sales meetings, which affects her ability to sell larger projects.

Vet the resume and design better interview questions to uncover this gap in the salesperson’s background. You don’t need to hire one more sales dud, and a successful salesperson doesn’t want or need to be set up for failure. Make sure your new hire’s previous sales success transfers to your sales organization. 

Sometimes, what made a top producer successful at his previous company doesn’t work at your company.”

Colleen Stanley | PRESIDENT AND CHIEF SELLING OFFICER, SALESLEADERSHIP, INC.
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