Why Performance-Based Recruiting Produces Top Sales Performers

Many recruiting ads and job descriptions include "knockout factors" that can actually screen out qualified sales candidates. One example is a requirement that candidates have an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree, or a degree in a specialized field of study such as Engineering. Another example is a requirement that candidates have a minimum number of years of sales experience.

When my customers' recruiting ads and job descriptions include these types of knockout factors, I like to have a little fun with them. I say something like: "(Name), imagine that I have two candidates for your sales job opening. One of them has both the college degree and the five years of sales experience that are listed as minimum requirements in your recruiting ad. The other candidate doesn't have a college degree, and she only has two years of sales experience. But, she has relationships with dozens of C-level executives that are good prospects for your company's products and services. She could easily book fifteen appointments during her first week on the job. Which candidate would you prefer?" As you might expect, my customers always choose the candidate with the relationships. That is when I have to deliver the bad news: "(Name), unfortunately you will never see this candidate, because she is being screened out by your knockout factors!" If you want to improve the overall quality of your sales candidate pool, shift your focus away from education and experience and toward performance-based measures. How will you measure your new salespeople's performance during their first thirty, sixty, ninety, and 180 days? What activities will you expect them to perform? What results will you expect these activities to produce, and in what time frame?

Here is an outline for a recruiting process that focuses on performance-based factors:

  • Write a Performance-Based Recruiting Ad: As you construct your ad, consider the following questions:
    • What kinds of companies or organizations are good prospects for your company's products and services? Your ad should state a preference for job candidates that have existing relationships with these kinds of companies and organizations.
    • Who are the most productive people (job titles) for your salespeople to call on? Your ad should state a preference for candidates that have existing relationships with people that have these titles, and/or a proven ability to prospect successfully to people at similar levels.
    • What specific sales production (such as pipeline dollar volume, sales dollar volume, etc.) do you expect your new salespeople to produce during their first 90 days? Make this expectation crystal clear in your recruiting ad!

  • Scrutinize Resumes for Accomplishments: Smart salespeople know that results sell. When these salespeople prospect, they talk to potential prospects about the results their companies have produced for customers. When they write resumes, they write about the results they have produced and their other accomplishments (awards, recognition, etc.).
  • Conduct Telephone Screening Calls: For candidates that have interesting resumes, schedule a 20-30 minute telephone screening call. This will give you an opportunity to ask performance-based questions related to two critical performance factors: the candidate's relationships and their prospecting activities. Here are sample screening call questions:
    • Who do you know that might be a prospect for our company's products and services?
    • What relationships do you have that could be leveraged for appointments during your first few weeks on the job?
    • What activities do you typically include in your prospecting plan?
    • What percentage of your time do you spend on each activity?
    • What results have these activities produced for you in the past?
    • How long did it take before you started making quota consistently in your current job?

  • Assess Qualified Candidates: For candidates that pass the telephone screen, gather objective information about their talents via specialized sales assessment tests. The most effective sales assessment tests go beyond personality and behavioral traits and examine attributes such as Learning Rate and Reasoning Ability.
  • Conduct In-Person Interviews: Now you are prepared to conduct thorough, performance-based interviews. Why? Look at the information you have collected! For each candidate that you are going to interview, you should have in your hands:
    • A resume that lists key accomplishments
    • Performance-based information collected during a telephone screening call
    • Objective information about talents critical to sales success

    If you ask performance-based questions and clearly outline your expectations for new hire sales performance, you will attract fewer poor candidates, as some will de-select themselves. You will also attract more strong candidates, as they will no longer be screened out by invalid "knockout factors". The end result will be a steady improvement in the overall quality of your sales organization.

    Copyright 2005 -- Alan Rigg

    Sales performance expert Alan Rigg is the author of How to Beat the 80/20 Rule in Selling: Why Most Salespeople Don't Perform and What to Do About It. To learn more about his book and sign up for more FREE sales and sales management tips, visit http://www.8020performance.com.

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