Predicting the Performance of Sales Candidates. Can it be done?

The role of the salesperson is vital to the success of a company. Accordingly, filling a sales vacancy is a critical task in ensuring a company’s success especially given that a superior sales person can be up to six times more productive than a poor one. It is estimated that making a bad hiring decision can cost anywhere from half to two and a half times the annual salary of a sales person, due to wasted hiring costs, training, salary and lost sales. It clearly follows that time and effort invested to identify and attract superior sales performers will reap benefits. In addition, any tools available that will improve the rate of success are well worth considering.

Passive Candidates Represent up to Eighty Percent of Prospective Candidates

Advertising a role reaches an estimated 15% of workers, so the so called active job seekers who are looking for roles. Passive candidates are those who aren’t looking but who will consider an opportunity if approached. Passive candidates outnumber active job seekers by four to one. If you are targeting superior sales personnel (let’s say the top 20%) you need to ask yourself if a hiring strategy based on advertising, which potentially excludes 80% of prospective candidates, is limiting your ability to employ superior performers. The reality is that in today’s competitive environment, where demand for good sales people exceeds their supply you need a proactive recruitment program. You need a means of identifying as many good prospects as you can, approaching them and attracting them to ensure you get the best to suit your sales position.

If your company has a well-known brand, an active social media program, and is known as a great place to work you may have a distinct advantage in attracting great candidates. If on the other hand your company is not well known and geographical location is in a regional or remote location, you may need to develop a particular strategy to attract candidates by outsourcing the process to those with the appropriate resources.

What Makes a Good Salesperson?

Some of the skills required by a superior salesperson are relatively obvious such as good communication, listening, interpersonal and influencing skills. Others are specific to the particular product to be sold, for example knowledge of farming, mechanical aptitude and knowledge of electronics will assist a salesperson to have credibility in the agricultural machinery market.

Some features of a successful sales person are less easily defined. Empathy to enable a person to understand how their customer is feeling and to respond appropriately is a key attribute, together with ego drive, the need to make a sale.

Past Performance is the best Predictor of Future Performance is a widely accepted concept in recruitment.

Behavioural interviewing is designed to acquire knowledge of a person’s past behaviour which will predict their future behaviour. For example, asking the question, “Tell me about an actual situation when you had to demonstrate significant perseverance to make a sale. Describe the situation, the approach you took and the outcome achieved.”

Referee Checks are also a vital tool in predicting future performance based on past performance. Querying a referee on a candidates’ sales style, their ability to generate new business and to meet and exceed sales targets etc, provides valuable insight into a person’s capability.

Psychometric Tests. A wide array of psychometric tests are available (some are online and quite inexpensive) to assess behavioural attributes such as personality, temperament, leadership style, cognitive ability, emotional intelligence and the like. Such tests can not only provide valuable insight into a candidate’s personality but also suggest appropriate questions to ask in an interview to deepen your insight into relevant areas of their capability.

Don’t just give lip service to the importance of filling a sales vacancy. Allocate sufficient time and resources to the recruitment process to maximise your chances of hiring a superior sales performer. If you are time poor or lack the relevant network to do so, don’t hesitate to involve an external provider to ensure you make a quality hire.

If you need some advice on hiring a superior sales performer, contact Brett Price on 02 9223 9944 to discuss.