For sales candidates, treat the interview process as a sales cycle

It’s often said that hiring sales professionals may be the toughest, most abstract hire a company can make.  There are so many intangibles to consider for a sales hire:  will the candidate ramp up on product/service knowledge quickly enough to make an impact?  Will they be motivated by management to pound the pavement?  Will marketing supply enough quality leads?  Will prospects respond to their unique approach in our unique industry?

There are countless online personality profiling assessments available; few sales managers I’ve spoken with over the years have had much success.  It’s a “roll of the dice”, as they often say, and odds are, only 2 out of 10 sales hires will actually stick.

While this might be accurate, and there’s clearly no silver bullet yet available to increase the odds of a successful hire in sales, there are ways you can test a prospective candidate before making an offer.  It starts with how the candidate (and you) manage the interview process.

Think of the interview process as a mock sales cycle.  The flow looks something like this:

  1. Candidate applies (or you receive resume from a recruiter) = Lead
  2. Phone screen scheduled = Demo/Appointment to uncover needs
  3. In-person interview = Second appointment to present solution
  4. Reference check =  Customer reference calls
  5. Offer = Proposal

As you can see, each step of the sales processes maps to a step in the hiring process.

As the hiring manager, flip the responsibilities and try letting your sales candidate drive the process.  This will give you a good indication of how they’ll approach their job selling for you, and help you answer questions like:

  • How is their follow up?
  • How are their writing skills?
  • How do they overcome objections (or do they at all)?
  • Do they ask for the sale (job)?

The best part about this for you as the hiring manager, is that you, like many of our prospects, can be lazy.  Let the candidate drive the process for you.  Have them sell you on why you should hire them.  Let them close you.

Too often, sales managers interview candidates and make offers on a hunch, often to find the candidate not working out after 60-90 days.

Take your time, use this approach with as many candidates as possible, and see if your success/retention rates go up.


Posted in Hiring Managers, Interviews
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