You are in trouble if you hire a salesperson and his first day is his best day. You have been sold. Don’t be surprised. Selling is what salespeople are supposed to do! Here’s how to avoid being sold a low performing salesperson when what you want to buy is a successful sales professional.
Learn from the references.
The best indication of how a salesperson will perform is to learn how he worked before with other customers. Ask for references so you can speak with them. All too often employers will ask for references, get them and then do nothing with them. Don’t do that! You will get valuable information from the references.
Be strategic about the references you ask for. Ask about the salesperson’s sales process. Some customers are simply sold by someone else and managed by the salesperson. That may not be the type of salesperson you’re looking to hire. You need someone who can develop new business if your sales process doesn’t have an inside salesperson developing accounts for outside salespeople. Be sure the references you are given are from a sales process that matches your sales process.
Try to get references who represent a cross section of the salesperson’s business. You want, if possible, references from different industries, various sized accounts and employees with different job titles. You will be able to ask different questions and learn far more with the variety to choose from.
Look for proof of performance.
You’re going to expect that the references will speak highly of the salesperson. It’s a red flag if they don’t. A reference who doesn’t speak highly shows that the salesperson is clueless about his business. Salespeople need to adjust and adapt during their selling and make astute judgments about customer support or opposition to the sale. A clueless salesperson will make poor judgments that will contribute to poor sales performance and sales delays.
You want to learn how your prospective salesperson managed his time. Ask about how your salesperson worked with a small, medium and large account. You are looking to hear differences because the most strategic large account should receive more time than a smaller less strategic account. You might hear differences in the number of meetings held or that the customer contacted the salesperson on the telephone instead of face-to–face. Consider those differences as evidence of someone with a strong sales strategy designed to maximize time, which is a scarce resource.
Have your questions ready before you call so you don’t forget to ask one and can compare answers with each reference. At the end of the conversation always ask, “Is there anything I haven’t asked that I should that will help me learn more about (the candidate)?”
Find out what went wrong.
You often learn a lot about people when they’re under pressure and face challenges. Customers have problems. It’s only a question of when. How did your prospective salesperson handle problems? Was he quick to solve it? Did he solve it the first time? Did he do a good job of avoiding problems? Yes, it’s important to solve problems effectively. You want to hire a sales professional who also thinks strategically and avoids problems as much as possible.
You want to avoid the risk of employing a new hire who is unsuitable for your sales team. Instead of getting sold you can implement an effective buying strategy to hire a great sales professional.