Ready, Set,…Hire! Hiring Sales Reps? 5 Steps to Ensure They Hit the Ground Running

January 13, 2015
Ready, Set,…Hire! Hiring Sales Reps? 5 Steps to Ensure They Hit the Ground Running

If you're like many managers, your budget for the next year includes hiring sales reps. There's an associated expense, and possibly even some offsetting revenue.

Have you ever had this go wrong? Maybe you were supposed to hire someone in March, but couldn't find the right person until July. Or your new hire was supposed to start generating revenue in April, but didn't see anything until September. You might be able to absorb the impact of one hire not working out as planned, but what if you hired 8?

Hiring is always a bit of a gamble, and hiring sales reps is especially challenging, but a little extra time and thought put into preparation can have a big payoff when your new hires start. Follow these 5 steps to ensure your newly hired sales reps hit the ground running.

1. Identify the perfect sales hire.

This may seem obvious, but if you get it wrong it's almost impossible to get back on track. As you are building out your job description, focus on 3 key elements: talent, experience, and chemistry. In order of importance:

How smart is the candidate? What is his philosophy of selling? What motivates her? You are looking for someone who stands out.

Does the candidate align with your culture and values? How excited is she to work for you? What are his professional goals? You need to find someone who will be a great fit for your team.

Does the candidate know your industry? Has he sold to prospects like yours? What is her process for success? This is actually the least important category, since you can address any gaps with training, but it's still helpful to start with a solid foundation.

2. Maintain a bench of possible candidates.

You may have identified the ideal candidate, but finding a person who fits the description can be incredibly difficult. If you're working under a deadline, it can be overwhelming, and you may be tempted to compromise in order to get someone in the door.

You can prevent much of this pressure by keeping track of potential candidates even when you're not hiring. Who are the vendors in your industry who impress you? Is there a person working for one of your competitors who you'd love to see on your team? Have you met someone who's not working in sales but has significant potential?

Keep a list of these possible candidates and stay in touch. We have one client who tried for years to hire a top salesperson from a company in his industry. After 7 years, he finally asked at the right time and the salesperson said yes. That salesperson is now the National VP of Sales and has sold more than any other salesperson in the company's history.

3. Ace the interview.

If you look for interviewing tips, there are countless articles giving advice for candidates. Sales candidates may be the most well-trained interviewees ever! Have you ever focused on your own interview technique?

Often, interviews are simply an exploration of a candidate's resume. They're predictable, and sales candidates breeze through them. To prevent that, interviewers now throw in one or two odd-ball questions. “What would you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?” “If you were shrunk down to the size of a pencil and dropped into a blender, how would you escape?” Fun as the answers might be, if there's no purpose to the question it's a silly exercise.

Take the time to plan your questions to specifically target your ideal characteristics. You can include some creative questions, but make sure you have a purpose.

Ensure that everyone who participates in interviews is aligned on the ideal candidate and the interviewing process.

Check out our Interview Scorecard, which provides a structure for interviews and suggested questions for hiring sales reps.

4. Set the table.

As you are moving toward making a decision, spend some time determining if you have everything in place. We've all heard the horror stories of a new hire being given a desk and a phone and told to have fun, but some onboarding plans are really not much better than that.

One exercise I always recommend is to sit in your new hire's desk for a day using only the supplies available. Is there anything you needed?

Another key element to prepare is your new hire's territory. Where is he allowed to prospect? What existing prospects and customers will she be assigned? How will leads be distributed moving forward? Does this impact any existing sales reps?

Finally, assign a salesperson as a peer-level mentor. Don't feel that you have to restrict yourself to one location – your new hire will appreciate getting to know someone from another office.

5. Plan every minute of their first quarter.

I'm exaggerating here, but just a little. You really do need an onboarding plan that spells out – hour by hour – exactly what your new hire will do for at least the first two weeks. Make a list of topics you'll need to cover with every new hire and who is responsible for each of them, then when you are hiring, plot those topics into the new employee's calendar. Include check-ins at the end of the first few days and weeks.

Make sure you get the candidate selling quickly. We often see well-meaning onboarding programs that keep a salesperson out of the field for a month. That's a lot of rust to shake off, and any existing relationships may have gone cold. Instead, schedule time no later than the second week for your new hire to meet accounts, plan prospecting, and reach out to schedule meetings. Make sure to have someone available to go to meetings with your new employee and provide input and coaching.

Beyond the first two weeks, keep a very close eye on your new hire to ensure he or she is tracking to your goals. You want to catch any problems quickly and address them before they become overwhelming.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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