Techniques for Recruiting a Talented Salesperson
Courting Interviewing
The interview process is the beginning of the courting process and the beginning of getting to know your prospective employee. It is in the interview that you will begin to learn how the person thinks, responds and answers your questions. To do an interview successfully successfully, the best approach is to ask open-ended questions which create a dialogue and disposition in which the person interviewed cannot easily block the question or answer yes or no.
Some sample interview open-ended questions/conversation prompts that will help you include:
  1. Tell me a little about yourself.
  2. How did you start your career in sales?
  3. What is the most difficult decision you have made in your sales career?
  4. What is the hardest thing you have ever sold and why was it hard?
  5. Tell me a little about your personal Achilles heel. What do you hope to do to improve?
These are pretty tough interview questions for anyone who is not a sales personality because they force the interviewee to engage in revealing conversation. Some of these questions pose a double threat – in addition to self-revealing, they also invite the candidate to engage in negative talk. Let's face it, interview coaches everywhere train prospective employees to avoid or sidestep everything that could be turned or viewed as a negative.

I once posted a position for my company and asked the applicants to send an email responding to the questions. One of the questions I asked was "What is the one thing that you struggle with when working with your clients?" Several of my applicants completely ignored the question. I promptly ignored them. Another applicant did not answer directly, but rather she answered in a way that showed not only a spirit of excellence, but also a personal humility in her response to me. She won me over to her by the genius of her response.

Your questions are opportunities to flush out the jerks and the misfits for your company. Remember, if you ask a difficult question for an interviewee to answer, then you will receive a response that reflects the person's character. Honesty, humility and modesty are character traits that help even in the most competitive sales environments. Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions; but be sure to listen for what the answer reveals to you.

Personality Tests

A personality test may or may not be necessary for your particular industry or profession. But those employers who implement them have at least a psychological reassurance that they are making the right hiring decision. Don't be afraid to use one if you cannot trust your instincts or if you don't want to rely on the instincts of those you have hired to manage the staff. They are somewhat accurate and reliable and they have been refined over time to better pin point the personality of the person. The most popular is the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.
The value of a temp employee - Testing the waters

Many employers today hire temporary employees to check out the employee before hiring. It is as true for sales as it is for administrative work. The down side is that you pay more for the employee's work for the temporary period than you would during a regular employee work week. But there are so many more positives in taking this approach.

In most temporary agency companies, the temp service tests the employee, checks their background for a criminal clearance and for work history. You know when your new temp walks in the type of worker they have checked out to be. What you don't know is how much of that is a sales pitch from the agency. But that's why the employee is a temp – you get to check them out.

Most of the good temps are snapped up on their first couple of assignments by employers looking for quality people. So, when you call the agency, be sure to tell them that you want one of their new registrants. This will give you a better chance to snap up someone who is top of the pile, but who may have recently relocated to your part of the country or suffered long-term unemployment due to the economy. You will know within a month or so if you have a winner. From there it is a full fledged courting time or a replacement time.

Making your company attractive

In the courting process, one of the things you must accomplish is to make your company attractive for the prospective salesperson. The best way to do this is to demonstrate integrity and authenticity. A genuinely kind and honest person attracts far more than those who work at being kind and honest. Your prospective salespeople know the difference in whether you are the real deal. After all, career salespeople are people's people. They have spent a lifetime studying people. They regularly engage people and study people, their quirks and their "tells".

Aside from never assuming you can hide your own "tells" from a professional salesperson, the next best thing you can do to attract top salespeople is to help them to envision and understand the pay scale, the benefits package and bonus schedule. As they say in sales, "Talk is cheap." or as Tom Cruise once said, "Show me the money." Benefits sell, and you are basically selling your benefits in order to attract the best.
Engagement the last step

The last step to this process is to actually engage a new employee in the hiring process. Sign on the dotted line; execute the contract; or collect the W-9. Before you do, there is one conversation you want to have with your new salesperson. It is the tail end of the interview process, but it determines whether the salesperson gets the offer. It is the "Sell me something difficult" conversation.

You will want the prospective salesperson to know this is an important conversation that you are measuring to determine whether he will receive an offer. Give him 5 minutes in a room alone to think and then ask him to sell you a product [you decide the product] that is difficult to sell or something you may not want to buy.

Be sure to use the open-ended question technique. Here are some sample questions/things to think on:

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Creating an Effective Sales Team course?
  1. How would you sell me this product?
  2. What will you say to me if I am not interested in your product?
  3. What if I have one of these already and I don't really need another one?

Here's what you are looking for:

  1. Did she give you a pitch that outlines the product's benefits?
  2. Did he give you reasons to buy?
  3. Did she successfully sell you something you would not have been interested in purchasing? [Hint: To do this successfully, she has to sell benefits.]

If your prospective salesperson passes this part of the interview, then you are ready to turn in the paperwork to your accountant or human resources person. You have yourself a new salesperson!

Selling To The Seller

This section could also be called "the honeymoon". It is in the new employee's probationary period [usually 90 days] that you will want to focus on continuing to sell to them so that you increase the probability of retaining them. The company's selling to the seller will primarily deal with personal, non-tangible, relational elements. It is in this period that you want to nonverbally persuade the new team member that he has made the best choice in joining your company.

An Authentic Self
When a new sales team member joins your company, one of the first things that you need to make sure to communicate is a genuine caring attitude and a sense of authenticity. When your managers manage with an authentic self, the new person on the team immediately feels he has a connection and that he has made the right choice.
Positive Attitude

A positive attitude is not something you or your employees can conjure up at will. It is something that can be acquired and practiced, and it is something that evolves in a company over time. A positive attitude is reflected in your speech and demeanor and most explicitly comes forth from your mouth.

Here are some characteristics of a positive attitude:

  1. The glass is always half full; never half empty.
  2. A happy person is someone with a sunny, upbeat personality.
  3. In the midst of disaster, you find the "silver lining" or the hidden reward.
  4. Praise of a person's character or performance is like breathing; it happens regularly and it sustains life.
  5. The benefit of doubt is always given first and with an open ended comment, allowing the other person to confirm the positive rather than emphasize the negative.
  6. A positive attitude is expressed when explanations are not demanded, but received as they are offered.
  7. Encouraging words are offered daily at no additional charge to the relationship.
  8. A positive person either ignores a negative person's comments or rewords the comment in a positive way and asks for a confirmation of their understanding; whichever the situation requires.
  9. Upbeat, sunny people do not have lunch frequently with the "wet blanket" of the office.
  10. A happy and positive person is someone who is not burdened by or involved in office gossip; she has no interest in hearing it or repeating it.

Terrific salespeople will stay with your company during tough times if the workplace is charged with the energy of positive people. When a top salesperson joins your team, make sure she can feel the hope and ambitions of the individuals and the group. A positive attitude is contagious; it is also fragile and can be destroyed by mean spirited people, so work to maintain it because it brings many rewards including a happy sales team.

Benefit of Doubt and Grace
Even among experienced salespeople there is a learning curve when joining a new company. As the manager or employer, you should not set out to make this learning curve any more difficult than it is. If your product or services require technical compliance with federal laws [such as financial planning, insurance, etc.], then you will take the initial weeks of employment to train the new salespeople so that your company does not inadvertently violate those laws and land the new employees or you in prison.
Short of the need for training to prevent federal or state violations, you will simply need to give your new sales staff members a fair amount of learning room. Giving the benefit of doubt and a dose of grace and quick/easy forgiveness to your new employee is a great way to make him feel at home, like he belongs. Remember, part of the honeymoon phase of selling the seller is to help the new person feel like she made the right choice and like she is part of the team. Grace and forgiveness quickly make a person feel like he counts; these practices help to make a person feel as if he is working for a company that values him as a person. She will give more and produce more if she feels that her best efforts will not be condemned with heavy criticism, but rather corrected with compassion, forgiveness and a firm instruction.

One of the most effective tools an employer can use to bring the new salesperson up to speed with the rest of the team is to assign them an experienced person for an in-house mentor. Mentor programs are common in highly professional industries, such as financial planning, because there are an abundance of details and compliance laws that must be learned and practiced. Even if your industry is not a highly detailed one, consider a mentor program to bring new sales reps up to speed and to help them fit into your company's culture. The mentor will naturally function as a go-to person to answer important and detailed questions in between your company's training sessions.
End of the Honeymoon

The honeymoon does eventually end and your new person will transition to the daily business of your business. Sometimes the honeymoon goes on and on past the probationary period; sometimes it ends with the probationary period; sometimes it ends when you and your new person unexpectedly disagree over a matter with seemingly little significance – it's okay. When you have a top performer, you will be inclined to extend the honeymoon by virtue of your appreciation for excellent sales figures. There is nothing wrong with this if it happens; after all, some people are hot shots, performance junkies who get a rush off of being the top salesperson. Remember, the top seller should always receive extra kudos and rewards.