When numerous sales reps aren’t meeting their target numbers, a company’s puzzled leaders may scramble to figure out the cause. But it could be that the genesis of the problem dates back to when those salespeople showed up for a job interview. One major reason sales goals aren’t met is pretty simple to pinpoint: Sales managers are hiring the wrong people to begin with.
A number of factors that can cause this. For example, sometimes sales managers hire someone recommended by a peer or a superior, and disregard their own hiring procedures. In one case we can recall from personal experience, a CEO needed to hire a vice president of sales. One of the company’s board members heavily promoted a favored candidate. There was a hiring process in place, but the CEO felt compelled to short-cut it and jump right to interviewing the candidate. It took 15 minutes to determine that this candidate wasn’t qualified for the job. The CEO hired him anyway.
Six months later, the new VP was gone, but only after costing the company millions of dollars in lost opportunities and damaged relationships with customers and business partners.
Other reasons sales managers make hiring mistakes include:
• They are behind their territory coverage plan and are in panic mode. After a little staff turnover, they may find themselves down five reps out of a team of 20. The instinct is to hire fast and furiously, and that’s the problem.
• They hire based on gut feeling. Many experienced sales managers claim they know a good sales rep when they see one, but unfortunately they don’t. Even the most intuitive sales managers who hire on a gut feeling get it wrong more often than less-experienced managers with a solid set of tools.
• They fall for candidates who sell them during the interview. Salespeople who go from job to job end up gaining a lot of job-interview experience. It may take 10 to 20 interviews for them to land a job. If they change jobs every two years, then after 10 years they have been through 50 to 100 interviews and have become masters at selling themselves.
• They don’t effectively check references. The references listed on a job candidate’s résumé aren’t necessarily the best people to talk to. Instead, contact former managers, customers and peers who aren’t listed. Some companies’ HR departments may have policies that don’t allow blind-reference checks, though.
• They don’t use proven tools available to them. Those could include assessments, background checks, simulations and behavioral interviews, all of which can provide valuable information.
Finally, even with experienced salespeople, past performance doesn’t necessarily equal future performance. They will be doing a different job for a different company. Selling different products to different customers, and against different competitors. Any one of those factors could influence how successful the salesperson will be.
Whether you’re a new salesperson or an experienced sales manager, there’s an AMA sales management training seminar or program to meet your needs.