Where Do You Find Really Great Salespeople?

Almost every publisher I speak to right now has a similar challenge.  Where do you find really good salespeople?

Good, proven salespeople are expensive to hire and difficult to coax away from their current company.  Plus, they are often high-risk hires because of their obvious willingness to jump for more money.  Inexperienced salespeople are untested and therefore may or may not work out.  The whole thing can be incredibly frustrating, especially considering that you are hiring people who will directly impact your ability to hit your revenue targets.

Hiring the right person can take some time, so prepare yourself for a marathon, not a sprint. 

First of all, my first recommendation is to take a deep breath.  You are going to get some pretty bad resumes and have some bad interviews.  Stick with your well-defined process.  Attempting to cut corners in this process can cause a lot of damage and possibly set up your future salesperson for failure.  You should have a pretty good idea of the characteristics of a good salesperson for your organization.   By the way, if you don’t have a well-defined process and clear characteristics defined, you should get some help immediately.

Most importantly, they need to fit your organizational culture.  This person will be representing you and your company and a rock star salesperson who fights your culture will result in a net loss.  While good salespeople are often comfortable with working alone, the really good ones also recognize the importance of their team.

The next thing you will be looking for is their personality.  Good salespeople are outgoing, and aren’t easily flustered when they are rejected.  One publisher we work with ends every interview with a salesperson by telling them they aren’t sure they are the right personality for the job.  If the candidate meekly agrees and moves on, they are probably not a good fit.  If they make their case with you, it’s a really good sign.

Experience is another indicator of success, but my favorite salespeople I’ve seen are often undiscovered talent.  This means they probably don’t work for another publisher doing sales.  Instead, you will need to read a little deeper into their resume.  One resume I recently reviewed for a client included experience making phone calls for a timeshare company.  This person didn’t really like the job much, but they were very successful in it.  You are looking for self-driven individuals who have been successful in their career, but might be looking for a change.

Publishers are quick to point out the low unemployment rates as a reason that they aren’t getting good applicants.  While unemployment is low, the pool of people looking for a job is actually pretty high.  A recent Gallup study suggested that 51% of currently employed people in the US are openly looking out for a new opportunity right now.  This means that you are likely going to find candidates who are currently working.  So what is the best way to attract good candidates?

The best candidates can come from within your own organization.

When I am asked how to attract good candidates, I think publishers are looking for the right website or social media to utilize.  However, by far the best place to find good candidates is from a surprise source: your own people.  Make sure that your people know that you are looking for a salesperson.  Be clear about the characteristics of the right type of person and maybe even share some stories about how you found some of your current salespeople.  The benefit of this approach is that your team will want to work with good people so they will look for good people.  You can also extend this approach to trusted partners and even customers.  Again, you will want to be specific about who you are looking to hire.

Sometimes when publishers are struggling to attract good resumes, they blame the applicants.  I turn this around and point out the fact that attracting good candidates is a marketing problem and publishers should be comfortable with marketing problems.  Who is your target market?  Where does your target market hang out?  What message will attract your target market?

Gallup points to thinking about hiring as a marketing problem in their recent 2016 State of the American Workforce.  They point out that potential new employees are able to get more information about your company and specifically what is like to work for you than ever before.  71% of potential new hires will talk to someone who already works for you to see if they would like the job.  This means if the job stinks, the good candidates will smell it from a mile away and they won’t even submit their application.  You need to be a great place to work and you need to highlight that to the public.  Companies who have no trouble retaining talent often have strong internal cultures and aren’t afraid to share that with the rest of the world.  I’m proud to point out that my company received 400 applications for our last job opening!

Take your time to find the right fit.

Needing new salespeople can be stressful, especially as you find yourself wading through poorly written resumes and incompetent interviews.  As you reject people for being a poor fit, just recognize that your hiring process is working.  Take your time to find the right fit.  Make sure the job is attractive.  Get help from your own people and partners to refer you great candidates.  While this may take time, it will ultimately result in a high probability of finding the right person.  But if you don’t find the right person and hire the wrong person, you need to react quickly.  Learn from your mistakes, make adjustments and try again.  In hiring, it is possible that you will do everything right and still miss.

Your team is your company, your product, and your reputation.  Be selective about who you let onto your team.


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Don Harkey

More about Don: Don Harkey is the Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at People Centric Consulting Group. People Centric partners with clients to help them to create and implement high performance cultures through clear direction, effective systems, and engaged employees. Don learned the power of fostering a culture that creates high employee engagement when he was a senior-level corporate engineer overseeing millions of dollars in capital projects.


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