Larry Lewis will be presenting a half-day program for financial advisors and retirement planning specialists as a part of the Producer Forum hosted by Combined Benefits United on May 11, 2023 at that Doubletree Boston North Shore Hotel in Danvers, MA. The program is exclusively for those that have previously participated in the Client Builder for Financial Advisors sales training program.
Utilizing a Unified Sales Process – Part 2
Your company probably has a system or a process for running every other aspect of its daily operations. Businesses operate according to processes in order to save time, reduce mistakes and maximize effectiveness. The sales department shouldn’t be any different. To save time, reduce mistakes and maximize effectiveness, you and your salespeople should use a process as well.
From a sales manager’s perspective, the best reason for utilizing a unified sales process is that it gives you a common framework around which to coach and develop your salespeople. In other words, it is your playbook. Imagine trying to coach a football team without a playbook. What would you tell your players in the huddle before a play? Would you simply tell the lineman to “Just go hit somebody!” and your running backs to “Try and avoid getting tackled?” Don’t you think they already know that much? Is that kind of instruction really going to help the team score consistently? Probably not.
Yet, sad to say, that is about as much direction as some business owners and sales managers give their salespeople. In essence, they are saying, “just go sell something.” Sometimes the salesperson will get lucky, but more often than not they struggle and fail. A football coach without a playbook wouldn’t last a season. Frankly, a sales manager without a playbook is no different.
An effective, unified sales process increases your salespeople’s odds of reaching a favorable outcome on the deals in their pipelines and generally prevents salespeople from wasting their valuable time on opportunities that are unlikely to close, especially when sales cycles are long. Without a doubt, a powerful sales process with clearly defined steps provides more consistent, predictable and profitable results.
These are the symptoms of companies that lack an effective sales process:
- Inappropriately timed proposals
- Inappropriately timed follow-up
- Targeting procurement too early in the sales cycle
- Conducting demos and/or presentations too early in the process instead of asking enough questions
- Making too many assumptions and not enough probing
- Not identifying the actual budget earlier in the sales process
- Too many put-offs, stalls and excuses being accepted
- Lack of commitments from prospects
- Inappropriately timed presentations
- Sales cycles taking much longer than necessary
- Not reaching the actual decision-makers
While some sales managers are initially threatened by the idea of being compelled to follow a sales process, in the end, most sales managers come to love it. They are threatened because, like their salespeople, the thought of being held accountable to following a sales process is frightening. However, they come to love it when they realize how much more effective their salespeople become and how much more effective they are as sales managers. Instead of simply standing on the sidelines and screaming at their players to sell more they have the ability to teach and grow the salespeople on their team.
Utilizing a Unified Sales Process – Part 1
What would you think of a surgeon who told you after your procedure that he didn’t follow a process for the operation; that he just improvised? How would you feel? The first thing I would do is check to see if he fixed the right organ, joint or limb. Then I would probably lie awake at night wondering if there were going to be complications. If I ever needed additional surgery, you can be certain I would find another surgeon.
Wouldn’t you feel that way about any professional? After all, accountants have systems for completing tax returns. Lawyers have systems for creating contracts and documenting business deals. Financial planners have systems for developing investment strategies and financial plans. I wouldn’t be comfortable using the services of any professional that doesn’t use some kind of system in their professional work.
Systems not only save time for the busy professional, they ensure a consistent level of quality for the client. If respected professionals have a system for what they do, why should it be any different for a professional salesperson or business owner?
If you hope to have any success in sales or business, you need a consistent process for selling that ensures that you do the right things in the right way every time you are in front of a prospect. A selling system is an overall strategy and set of techniques designed to ensure that you handle every buyer-seller interaction in as close to the optimum manner as possible.
Here are the top ten benefits of using a system for selling:
- It saves time.
- You make fewer mistakes.
- You can readily recognize and correct the mistakes you do make.
- You can learn from your mistakes.
- You can work at avoiding these mistakes.
- You can replicate the things you do right.
- You always know where you stand in the process, and have a greater ability to correct course if you get off track.
- It increases your level of competence and confidence.
- You increase your ability to stay focused and on track during the appointment.
- It gives you and your colleagues, a common language with which to share ideas, analyze past sales calls, and strategize upcoming appointments.
Frankly, I don’t know how sales manager can do their jobs effectively without one. Without a sales process, you are at the prospect’s mercy. Without a process, whatever sales your salespeople close will be random collision of the prospect’s pain and blind luck. Without a process, they won’t know how to allocate their time and energy. Without a process, your sales force simply won’t be effective in today’s time-starved, highly competitive business climate.
“Selling in the New Economy” will be presented at Pittsburgh Technology Council on November 4th
Attend our Executive Briefing for Business Owners and Executives on: “Selling in the New Economy”
Wednesday, November 4 | 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Let’s face it, selling is harder today.
Many of the selling strategies that were effective just a decade ago no longer work. In order to grow sales today, a business and its salespeople must do more than simply communicate the value of their products and services, they must find ways to add value. Today, how you sell is more important than what you sell. Sales organizations that refuse to change run the risk of becoming obsolete.
Larry Lewis and Dave Lazear of Client Builder Sales & Marketing have designed a powerful new program that addresses how to achieve EPIC improvement in market share, topline sales performance and profitability. Here is an outline of what will be covered in “Selling in the New Economy”:
- How Selling Has Changed (and why the old way of selling is a losing proposition today)
- The 10 Most Common Mistakes Made by Salespeople and Sales Managers Today
- How to Win in the New Economy (learn the four most important steps to improve your team’s sales performance)
- The Power of a Process for Increasing Sales
A company’s compensation plan is usually the cornerstone of its plan to motivate the salespeople to perform. If the plan is too generous, it fosters a culture of complacency. If the plan is too challenging, it can lead to costly turnover. Make sure that your sales compensation plan rewards the right behavior. Money drives behavior for salespeople. Regardless of what the plan is, good salespeople will figure out how maximize the money they can earn under the plan. As Greg Coleman, the President and Chief Revenue Officer at The Huffington Post has said, you need to create a plan that when salespeople “beat the heck out of it, the company is making a ton of money.”
Compensation plans are always evolving, especially with more and more salespeople no longer being primarily motivated by money. This has led to companies to find alternative methods for motivating and compensating their salespeople.
There was a time when most salespeople were paid solely on commission. However for the past two decades the pendulum has been moving away from commission toward higher base salaries and less variable compensation. Our experience has been that top performers prefer a compensation plan that is more heavily weighted towards commission where there is no cap on potential earnings. Your weaker performers want the security of a high base salary and a small bonus. When seeking guidance on what the going rate is for specific types of sales positions, and the balance between base salary and variable compensation the website called Salary.com is a good place to start.
Sales compensation is complicated and we recommend that you talk to colleagues inside your industry or consult an expert when devising your plan from scratch. Nevertheless, there are some fundamental rules to abide by:
- Make it Simple – Make it simple enough so that the salesperson can calculate the commission or bonus they will earn on every sale and be able to track their monthly earnings in a spreadsheet.
- Calculate the Variable Component on Gross Profit – The best way to ensure that salespeople do not discount is to pay their commission as a percentage of gross profit instead of as a percentage of gross revenue. This ensures that when they discount the price they are hurting themselves just as much as it hurts the company. When paying a commission on gross revenue the pain felt from offering a discount is felt more by the company than by the rep themselves. For example, let’s suppose the rep earns 1% on gross revenue. They would earn $250 on a $25,000 deal. If they discount the deal 20% to close it, the company loses $5,000 in profit but the rep only loses $50. Conversely, let’s suppose we assume a gross profit margin of 25% and you pay the rep 4% of gross profit. Gross profit on a $25,000 deal would be $6,250 and their commission would be $250. If they cut the price by $5,000 the gross profit is now only $1,250 and their commission on the deal would only be $50 instead of the $200 when calculated against gross revenue.
- Avoid Changing It. Salespeople always assume that a change in the compensation plan will be detrimental to them and this will have a negative impact on their motivation.
Motivating salespeople is not achieved through some mystical “pump up” system. Instead it involves helping your salespeople see in the present, a projection of the future they want, with the opportunity to act on a plan for its achievement.
Salespeople Sell for their Own Reasons, Not Yours
Salespeople sell for their own reasons, not yours and not the company’s. When managing salespeople, you must help them achieve their personal goals in a way that enables the company to achieve its goals too. You cannot manage salespeople effectively if you don’t know why they show up each day. Moreover, you cannot manage salespeople solely as a group. You must manage salespeople one at a time.
Your job in motivating your salespeople to higher performance is not unlike the job of selling prospects on the need to take action. Your prospect’s sense of urgency and willingness to move forward in a selling situation is contingent on the kind of pain you uncover. The same is true when motivating your salespeople. You need to uncover their “pain” as it relates to their sales performance. What problem will their improved performance solve for them or what opportunity will it help them capture? Sometimes the money they will earn is a major factor, and at other times it could be something completely different.
Salespeople Are Motivated By More than Money
We often assume that salespeople are only motivated by money, but they can be motivated by a variety of things:
- Autonomy – Being left free to run, based on a clear understanding of the ground rules. Some need freedom and autonomy to achieve their best results.
- Periodic contests – For those that need continuous challenge and the opportunity to be “king of the mountain.”
- Impressive titles – As long as both freedom and responsibility fit the title.
- Increasing responsibility.
- Leadership opportunities.
- Recognition – Awards, mention in the company newsletter or intranet, extra time spent with the manager.
Assessments can be helpful in ascertaining which of these factors will have the greatest impact. Changing the corporate culture to encourage the setting and sharing of personal goals will go even farther. While this may sound easy, there are many companies whose culture inhibits people from sharing their goals. The most important aspect of motivating a salesperson is your relationship with them and their willingness to share their desires, challenges and opportunities.
Learn What Motivates the Individuals that Work for You
Unfortunately, the salespeople that work for you often don’t know themselves what motivates them. They are simply going through the motions on a daily basis trying to meet their numbers without any meaningful goals. Just as salespeople help prospects discover their pain, it is often up to you, as their manager, to help your salespeople discover their dreams, goals and motivators.
In order to ascertain what motivates your salespeople, you have to be non-judgmental, open-minded and genuinely caring. This is often easier said than done. The problems you face when doing this are conceptual (psychological barriers that prevent you from doing it) as often as they are technical (not knowing how to do it).
Here are the conceptual reasons we often avoid finding out what motivates salespeople:
- You believe it’s none of your business.
- You’re afraid of what you might find and that it will become your problem and you will have to deal with it.
- You don’t like a particular salesperson or don’t want to get to know him.
- You fear that it’s too big a project.
- You are afraid that you will wind up in the role of psychiatrist.
- You don’t have enough time.
- Your plate is full of other distractions.
On the other hand, salespeople are often reluctant to share their true goals and motivations for working. Here’s why:
- They don’t know their vision.
- It’s too personal or they feel they may be embarrassed.
- They don’t think you care.
- They don’t trust you.
- They may think it’s none of your business.
- They are afraid of being held accountable.
- They don’t want help.
- They believe you have an ulterior motive.
With this knowledge in mind, you can lay these issues on the table and begin a dialogue with your salespeople about what motivates them. Once you have laid bare the obstacles and agreed to talk openly and honestly, these are the questions you want to ask your salespeople:
- What would you do if you were financially independent?
- What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
- What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
- In order for you to accomplish your goals, what has to happen?
- What’s going to motivate you?
- Why that?
- What happens if you don’t get it?
- So what?
You need to use every sales tool you have to uncover your salespeople’s pain. Their pain consists of the problems they face or the opportunities they seek that meeting their sales goals will alleviate or capture. You have to show them how to invest their time and energy to overcome these challenges or capture their dream.
Onboarding a New Salesperson
It is important to know how much time is required for new salespeople to begin achieving success. Ramp-up time can be calculated by adding the length of your sales cycle (number of days between a prospect showing interest until that customer pays the invoice), plus the length of your learning curve (how long before a new salesperson can have an intelligent conversation with a prospect) plus 30 additional days.
The first step when it comes to onboarding new salespeople is to educate them about your products or services and why people buy them. Here is the information it is your responsibility to provide to your new sales hires:
- What are all of the problems we solve?
- How many applications are there for our products/services?
- Why are we better?
- How are we different?
- What is our brand promise?
- How do we position ourselves in the marketplace?
- Who are our customers?
- What are their titles?
- How do we get to them?
- Why will they see me?
- What does the first call sound like?
- What is our sales process?
- How do I navigate the process?
- What are the questions I should be asking?
- What kind of resistance should I expect?
- How should I handle the resistance?
- What kind of objections will I hear?
- How do I handle those objections?
- What does our competition say about us?
- How do we sell against our competitors?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- How do they sell against us?
- How do you want me presenting our solutions?
- How are our prices compared with the competition?
- How do we justify our prices?
In addition, they need to know the following:
- What are the expectations for me during the first week, month, quarter, year?
- How will I be measured?
- How will I be held accountable?
- What if I don’t measure up?
- What if I over achieve?
- What is our organizational structure?
- Who can I go to for help?
- What kind of help can I expect?
- How do I get the help?
The following process outlines twelve stages for bringing new salespeople on board with your company. The process is an on-the-job learning experience that will run from 12 weeks to 12 months, depending on the complexity of problems your salespeople solve, the solutions your clients undertake, and the capabilities of the salesperson.
Although I didn’t develop it myself (and can’t remember who introduced it to me), I think it is very good. The basics of a good onboarding plan start with a format based on experiential learning. Learning by doing is the most effective form of education. A good program should be hands on, sequential in nature, and incorporate a learning process that adds complexity as the salesperson’s knowledge and confidence grows.
The plan should also include scheduled milestones, at least one for each stage, during which salespeople must demonstrate their proficiency before they can move ahead. (Some companies have new salespeople sign personal development agreements before they are hired acknowledging that failure to meet the milestones is grounds for termination.) An important dimension of these milestones is the feedback the learner receives. Learners need to receive objective, consistent and specific feedback.
You must consider the decision to retain a salesperson as separate and distinct from the decision you made to hire him. The decision to hire was based on the information available at the time of the decision. The decision to retain a new hire is a separate decision that will be based on your observations after the individual begins working with you. You should base your decision to retain a new hire on their observed behavior. This will be apparent to you long before you see actual sales results.
At each stage of the onboarding plan a milestone – measurable and objective proof of their learning – should to be achieved. You do not want to advance the learner, unless and until that milestone is met. It’s no different than the 12 grades of elementary and secondary education. You don’t advance students to the next grade until they have provided evidence of having learning the content of their current grade. Passing them prematurely will not cause learning to happen later.
Here are the 12 stages of a generic onboarding program:
|Step 1||What is your company all about?Sales professionals need to know your company’s history, the key people and positions, its market position, its value proposition, as well as the details of employment, such as the compensation plan, expense policies, and so forth.||Two minute, five minute, 10 minute, and 20 minute presentations to colleagues or managers that demonstrate their ability to organize and present information and to give a clear picture of your company and its capabilities to prospective customers.|
|Step 2||Who are the customers you serve?||An explanation of whom your target prospects are.|
|Step 3||How do you manage opportunities?||An internal presentation of a personal time and territory management plan.|
|Step 4||What is your sales process?||An internal, simulated exercise in which the salesperson prepares and engages in a typical first call.|
|Step 5||What is their personal prospecting plan?||A review of their proposed personal prospecting plan, and, on approval, the commitment to meet those goals.|
|Step 6||What are your solutions?||A presentation, along with an internal role-playing simulation in which the salesperson moves from problem diagnosis to solution design.|
|Step 7||Can they now develop new business?||The ability to “get invited in” by new prospects and initiate a constructive first meeting with a prospect.|
|Step 8||Can they diagnose the customer’s situation?||The ability to diagnose symptoms and causes of problems, as well as establish a mutual understanding of the diagnosis with various individuals within the customer’s cast of characters.|
|Step 9||Can they determine the cost of the problem?||The proven ability to move from the diagnosis stage of the sales process into the investment and decision process stage.|
|Step 10||Do your customers perceive them as a creative problem solver?||The ability to help your customer establish the desired outcomes, create an optimal solution, and align their selection criteria with the solution that will be proposed.|
|Step 11||Can they propose an effective solution?||The demonstrated ability to prepare a comprehensive proposal.|
|Step 12||Can they effectively present a proposal?||A concluded sale.|
The onboarding process should conclude with the new hires’ revision of their individual business plan. This plan should now cover the next two quarters and include business and professional development goals; market, territory, and key customer analyses; targeted prospects; performance metrics; and resources needed to help achieve the goals.
It should be a formal document agreed to by the salesperson and you as their sales manager. This business plan serves as a basis for monitoring their performance and delivering ongoing coaching. These reviews should be conducted on a regular basis, weekly at first. As the quality of their performance improves, these meetings can become biweekly, then monthly, and, eventually, once per quarter. Before each review, your salespeople should write a short (one to two-page) summary of what’s working, what’s not working, and what needs to be changed, if anything, to stay on track toward in reaching their goals.
Interviewing Sales Candidates – The Five Best Questions to Ask
1. Tell me about a time when you built a territory from scratch for a company with little or no name recognition…
This will tell you a lot about the sales person’s resourcefulness, behavioral style, and ability to prospect. A strong sales professional can articulate exactly how he did it and has the numbers and timelines to back it up.
Simply put, prospecting is easier when working for a company with high name recognition such as Dell or Microsoft. Often the name alone of a well-branded company is enough to induce a prospect to say yes to a meeting, and the sales professional who has sold only for such companies may not be able to make the leap and hunt effectively for a small- to medium- sized company. The sales person who can build enough rapport, generate interest, and employ multiple prospecting strategies without the benefit of a strong brand has the skill set, scrappiness and tenacity that are found in top sales professionals. These characteristics will transcend a lack of industry experience and will serve him well in almost any sales position.
2. Could you break down the percentages of your sales last year that were from existing accounts vs. new accounts?
Without a doubt, the ability to hunt effectively and consistently is the number one requirement for most companies. It is also an elusive quality, and impressive revenue numbers on a resume are not enough to convince me that the candidate can do the job. Determining whether the numbers that I see on a resume are from existing accounts or new accounts, tells me how this candidate spends most of his time. Account management activities are quite different from hunting activities and big numbers don’t always translate into fierce hunting. When hiring, employers must be clear on whether account management or new account acquisition is the primary job objective and screen accordingly.
3. In your industry, how often is it necessary to negotiate pricing to win a deal?
The wording of the question is critical. When asking this question, referencing the industry standard will likely get a more candid answer. If the question is asked, “How often do you have to negotiate pricing to win a deal?” a sales pro is smart enough to give you the answer you want to hear, instead of one that reflects reality. When the answer is 20% or greater, either the professional regularly has to work with purchasing/procurement departments or simply does not know how to sell value. The latter is of great concern. Top sales professionals know how to create unique value during the sale that differentiates them and their companies from competitors. Less skilled sales people who can’t create unique value are defenseless against money objections and must rely on one thing to close deals – price. Another possibility is that the sales person doesn’t know how to effectively discuss money with the prospect during the sales conversation. When money isn’t discussed until the proposal is presented, the buyer often asks for a discount, and the unskilled sales person caves in.
4. If you were to get this opportunity, what would be your activity plan to ramp up sales in the first 60-90 days?
This question will reveal what prospecting strategies a sales person uses most often as well as how seasoned he is. The prospecting plan should have multiple activities with clear metrics. It isn’t unusual for this question to be followed with a momentary, stunned silence. If the candidate is a brand new college grad, such a response is understandable, and you may be willing to mentor and develop the candidate if your company has a strong on-boarding process.
Otherwise, pass on the candidate. Beyond the silence, candidates will often answer the question with “I would call my existing relationships and attend networking and association events.” This answer also gives me concern. This is not enough activity to predict success.
Excellent sales professionals can tell you in great detail what they’ve done in the past and articulate a decent plan of attack.
5. Tell me about the one that got away…
This provides volumes of information about a candidate. I want the candidate to tell me in rich detail about the opportunity that he worked on diligently, was certain would close, and then didn’t. Good candidates become very animated, usually telling the story with a mixture of humor, bewilderment and pain. They will describe in detail their sales process (which is good information in itself) and you get insights into their story telling ability, sense of humor, competitiveness and resilience. At the conclusion of the story, always ask, “In hindsight, is there anything you could have done differently?” Good candidates will have an answer with one or two possibilities because they have already mentally debriefed it. They will also take responsibility for any failings on their part. Poor candidates will say “There is nothing I could have done differently.” Sometimes they will blame the prospect. This raises red flags about self-responsibility, willingness to admit mistakes, and ability to learn.
Interviewing Sales Candidates – Who Sells Whom in the Job Interview?
In today’s economy there is a lot of available talent. Yet it seems to be getting harder and harder to find good salespeople. When screening sales candidates there are a couple of things you can to do to ensure that you hire the right person.
Utilize an initial phone interview to determine if the candidate can build rapport over the phone. If the answer is no, there is no reason to go forward with a face-to-face interview. During the initial phone interview, c lose the interview by thanking the candidate for his time and intentionally avoid providing clear next steps about the rest of the selection process. If the candidate does not close you for next steps and a clear time frame, you should eliminate the candidate immediately. This tells everything you need to know about his ability to close effectively for business.
If the candidate passes the phone screen and you decide to give the candidate a face-to-face interview, my best advice is this: Don’t “blue-sky” the job. When it comes to hiring good salespeople it is a buyer’s market. This puts you in the position of feeling like you have to sell candidates on the job. During job interviews we often spend more time trying to convince applicants to work for us than we do in finding out their true sales grit. Don’t do this.
Not only should you not blue-sky the job, I want you to let the applicants know how tough it’s going to be. Ask them how they plan to start working the territory. Only candidates who talk about making cold calls will actually make them. For every answer you get ask three more tough questions behind it. When they tell they are good at some aspect of selling, ask for specific examples and descriptions of situations as to what they actually did. It’s easy to say that you built a million dollar territory from scratch, it’s not as easy to explain how you did it.
Uncover enough details to ascertain if there is truth and reality behind their initial answer. By putting pressure on the sales candidates in the interview process, you can determine if they will roll over or actually assert themselves when face-to-face or on the phone with a prospect.
When challenging sales candidates, take note of whether they stay in control or whether they let you dictate the process. Good salespeople will have an agenda and will take you through a qualifying process similar to what they would do with a prospect. At the same time they will make you feel as if your agenda is being met.
Open your interview by telling the candidate that you have about an hour of work to do and only 20 minutes to get it done. Start by asking them to tell you about yourself and they want the position. Here is a list of some of the best questions you can ask throughout the interview process.
Regarding Their Sales Experience:
- The ad said you needed to be ________. How do I know you are? (Challenge them.)
- How do I know that’s true?
Regarding Their Technical Experience:
- What is your experience in ________? (Technical or product experience.)
- Ask a technical question based on their knowledge level.
Regarding How They Make Decisions (Only decisive people can get others to make decisions):
- At the end of the interview today, if I offered you the position, would you be able to say yes or no, assuming you knew all there is to know about the job?
- What was your last major purchase (except auto or home)? Can you explain to me how you made your final decision to buy? Why did you do it that way?
Uncovering Their Level of Commitment:
- How have you overcome major obstacles in your life in the past?
- What changes did you need to make to accomplish that?
Uncovering Their Goal Orientation:
- What are some of your life goals? Why that goal?
- How are you doing in terms of achieving it?
- What kinds of rewards are most satisfying to you?
Uncovering Their Competitiveness:
- Give me an example of when it was necessary to reach a goal in a short period of time and how you were able to achieve it.
- How smart are you compared to your peers?
- What has been your highest and lowest rankings in your current / last sales position compared to the rest of the sales force?
Uncovering Their Resiliency:
- How do you handle objections?
- Tell me about a time when all seemed lost in an important sale. What did you do to weather the crisis?
- Tell me about your most crushing failure.
- Give me a specific example of a time you were rejected and how you handled it.
- All of us have failed to meet a quota at one point or another. When you don’t meet your goals, how do you handle it?
Uncovering their Expectations Concerning Monetary Rewards:
- What was the most money you ever made in one year? When was that?
- What about last year?
- What is expected this year? What is an average year?
- How comfortable are you with that? (You are watching how they handle the questions and if they are in your income range.)
Regarding their feelings about Prospecting:
- How do you plan to establish or build a strong territory/client base?
- Aren’t there any better ways than that?
- What else would you do?
- Anything else? (Look for creativity and things that match your business.)
- What special skills or techniques are necessary to be successful over the telephone?
- When getting through to a sales prospect for the first time on the phone, what roadblocks can you expect the clerical staff to put in your way and how do you handle them?
- How do you go about gathering names of new contacts on the telephone?
- What will you do in the first 30 – 60 – 90 days if I were to hire you?
Uncovering Their Sales Maturity:
- Why do people “buy” a product or service?
- What steps are involved in selling your product?
- How long does it typically take you from initial contact to close the sale?
- How do you turn an occasional buyer into a regular buyer?
- How large a client base do you need to maintain to keep sales on an even keel?
- Describe a typical day.
- How do you plan your day? Why is it important to prioritize?
- How much time do you spend doing paperwork and other non-selling activities?
- What kind of people do you like to sell to?
- What do you dislike about most sales?
Uncovering Their Closing Ability:
- How do I know you could close a sale?
- I’m still not convinced.
- Do you have any questions for me? (Look to see whether (s)he takes control at this point and asks for the job or what the next step is.)
The things you are looking for in salespeople are:
- Successful track record.
- Willing to commit for long term.
- Willing to invest in themselves.
- Stable personal life.
- Coachable attitude.
The things you must be willing to do to make salespeople successful are:
- Invest in them.
- Share the vision.
- Don’t ask them to do anything you haven’t done yourself.
- Get to know their personal goals and their families.
- Don’t make it too easy (stretch them), but find a way to make them win.
If you reach the point where you are considering making an offer, ask the candidate about their total compensation needs. Historical information about the amount the candidate earned from base salary vs. commissions is important. I would even request a copy of the candidate’s last W-2. This is often quite revealing.
Using Psychometric Testing Prior to Hiring Salespeople
Too often business owners and sales executives find that newly hired salespeople fail to live up to their expectations even when these salespeople endured a rigorous interview process, and in many cases, they receive specific skills training after they begin their jobs. They know what they are supposed to do, but they can’t seem to pull it off; at least not to the level at they were expected to.
So why do they fail? It’s often because they lack the crucial elements for success. Or it’s because they lack the specific mental abilities, beliefs and habits needed to execute the skills they have been taught. And why doesn’t this come out in the interview process? It’s because experienced salespeople know the right answers to an interviewers questions and they are able to charm someone into liking them. Even the best interviewer finds it difficult to uncover the hidden weaknesses that will impede a salesperson’s performance. The solution is to test a sales candidate prior to hiring using a rigorous, scientifically proven, psychometric instrument that is directly connected to a candidate’s specific job profile.
First, you need to understand what a psychometric test is and is not. It is not a personality test, such as DISC, the Meyers-Briggs assessment or Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). Although these assessments can be helpful in terms of understanding how an employee is likely to behave in specific situations and how well they will work with their fellow employees, they are not predictive of whether a person can and will sell.
A psychometric test used in the context of hiring must be predictive. When a well-developed, validated psychometric assessment is integrated into the sales hiring process, it provides an objective decision-making tool and the likelihood of finding a good sales candidate increases dramatically. The right sales candidate assessment can calculate a candidate’s fitness for a particular role far better than any subjective assessment or interview ever will.
The test must be scientifically sound and sales-specific. There are many firms that offer this type of testing, but very few that have the predictive validity and proven results for hiring salespeople. Salespeople are different. Choose a firm that has partnered with statisticians and psychologists to develop reliable assessments that are specific to the sales arena. Reputable firms also will ensure that their tests fully comply with Equal Employment Opportunity laws and case precedents.
In addition, make sure that the assessment is tailored to fit the position you are hoping to fill. An assessment developed for an inside sales position will differ from one created for a strategic account manager or for a business development specialist.
Traits versus Skills
When implementing psychometric testing in a sales hiring process, it’s important to understand the differences between traits and skills. Traits are innate capabilities or strengths that make up a salesperson’s DNA. While skills can be improved through training, traits require more than training. Traits require a concentrated effort over an extended period of time. Sometimes it takes a life-altering event to get someone to change.
For example, almost everyone would agree that a salesperson must be motivated enough to accomplish the objectives set forth in his or her job profile. However, a person’s level of motivation is not a skill that can be trained. An individual’s motivation level is an inherent trait that already exists in varying degrees from person-to-person. An organization or sales manager’s ability to influence this trait is limited.
This is why the job profile must deal in traits, and it must be wholly different from the job description or the list of job skills necessary for the role. Hire for traits, and train for skills. It is very important to understand that salespeople with the right mix of traits or strengths but few skills will always outperform salespeople with good skills but a limited number of strengths.
The psychometric assessment you use must measure the traits that are required to execute a specific job profile. The question is not so much whether a candidate has the requisite skills but whether they can execute these skills when performing the duties required by the job.
Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly
How often do sales managers discover that their new hires are inadequate only after months of training? Psychometric testing helps eliminate these costly mistakes. Sales managers should hire slowly and fire quickly. Unfortunately, most sales managers do the opposite. They hire quickly and spend a multitude of resources attempting to train people who lack the traits needed for their roles. Consider the costs of training versus the costs of using a psychometric test. If you haven’t made a hiring mistake without one you are either clairvoyant or you just got lucky. It will happen to eventually.