Hiring a Sales Person? Avoid These Five Mistakes!

 In 2019

So, you’re looking to hire a sales representative? That’s great news! Unfortunately, with this incredibly tight labor market, finding qualified talent, particularly in sales, is a significant challenge. That’s great news if you’re in sales – you have many more options available to you than in the past. That’s not so great news if you are the hiring manager because hiring salespeople can be tricky and challenging. If you are planning on hiring a sales executive, here are five mistakes to avoid:

1) Start Fresh. Don’t Reuse & Recycle. All too often, employers reuse an old job post, stick it on Indeed.com or LinkedIn and wait for the resumes to come in. It’s not going to work. In this labor market, talent has their choice of job options. They’ll know if your offer is old and tired. Instead, try to think strategically about what you truly need – today and tomorrow. Now is the time to assess what you will need in the future because the right hire can take you there and the wrong hire likely can’t. Most importantly, make sure your posting communicates that strategic vision. The goal of the posting is to get your potential talent excited about your opportunity. Make it shine!

When developing your job posting, make sure it:

• Captures the true interpersonal qualities you are looking for.
• Is creative and catchy – remember, you’re not alone in your recruiting effort so make sure your post stands out!
• Quantifies the responsibilities and requirements of the job. Don’t make candidates guess what you’re looking for. Be explicit.

2) Stop Recruiting. Start Marketing. Certainly, you will need to post your position online. But if that’s all you do, you’ll be lucky to find what you’re looking for. With the unemployment rate at historic lows, most of the talent you’re interested in are currently employed. That means you need to find them and convince them that your opportunity is worth checking out. You have to headhunt. Start mining your connections – both personal and professional. Get your employees and clients and friends in on your search. Structure your headhunting activities. Have your marketing pitch ready for those who express interest in your position. If you’re looking to hire sales professionals, you need to be able to sell them on your opportunity. Cast a wide net. When it comes to recruiting, you must be willing to put a little elbow grease into your search. And market yourself!!!

3) Don’t “go with your gut.” Your gastrointestinal tract is not your best tool for making a hiring decision, particularly when hiring a salesperson who is skilled at persuasion. We recommend making a hiring decision based on the “One-Third Rule” – 1/3 on experience, 1/3 on the interview, and 1/3 on behavioral testing.

Our recruiters are true believers in behavioral testing. The results will give you insight into their behaviors, motivators, and values and much more data with which to evaluate your candidates. How a candidate performs in a personal interview really is only an indication of one thing – how they are at interviewing. Remember, they are sales people – they are trying to sell you too! Don’t be sold, be smart.

4) Be ready for sticker shock. It’s a talent-friendly market. What our recruiters are finding is that if a candidate is actively searching, they typically have multiple offers on the table. If you are actively in the recruiting market, you have to be ready and able to take decisive action on hiring. And be ready for sticker shock. Qualified talent in the market today are expecting 15% – 20% more than they did in recent years.

Here’s a sample of what we’ve seen in our recent recruiting efforts:

• Mid-level HR – $80k
• Experienced Sales – $130k base plus commission
• Entry-level Sales – $60k base plus commission
• Mid-level CSR – $60k

The reason these candidates are asking so much? Because they can get it, if not with you, then with your competitor. And if you want to know how much you’ll need to pay for qualified talent, just conduct a recruiting effort – your candidates will tell you how much they want and that’s the best indication of what the going market rate is for your job.

5) Stop Looking for Unicorns. As recruiters, we never want our clients to settle for inadequate talent. But sometimes, their bullseye for “perfect” talent is impossible to fill. Looking for someone with years of experience, willing to take $35k and living within 30 miles of your remote location? Chances are, after months of searching, if we can’t find that person, they don’t exist. These are the types of difficult conversations we often have to have with our clients:

• Your pay is too low for the experience you’re looking for.
• If you can’t afford experienced talent, you may need to consider less experience.
• If there are only a handful of people within 100 miles of your company and none of them are interested in your position, you may need to consider remote workers.

No one likes to have these conversations, but after screening hundreds of potential candidates and not finding the unicorn, it’s unlikely that hundreds of unicorns will miraculously appear. Revisit your efforts to date. Have you made one of the mistakes listed above? If so, now’s a perfect time to correct, redirect, and start again! And remember stop looking for unicorns if a solid workhorse or stallion will do!

By Claudia St. John, SPHR, SHRM-SCP – President, Affinity HR Group

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