Interview: What to look for when Recruiting Salespeople

What to Look for When Hiring Salespeople: An Interview with Tommy Sim

What should you look for when recruiting salespeople? According to Tommy Sim, using traditional criteria like industry experience is not all it seems!

www.beyondhrc.com.au

www.inject.com.au

What to look for when recruiting salespeople transcript:

Ben Lai 

Hey guys. It’s Ben Lai from Sales Ethos. I’ve got a special guest with me, Tommy Sim who is the founder of Inject and the Managing Director of Beyond HR. So welcome Tommy! Would you like to just give our audience a quick intro to what you do?

Tommy Sim 

Yeah! Essentially, we work with small to medium businesses and help them build high performing teams. So Injected is about hiring the right talent, Beyond HR is about creating an environment for success.

Ben Lai 

Fantastic, and the reason that I’ve got Tommy with us today is because he’s had extensive experience with recruiting salespeople and managing them. He gives a lot of advice to sales leaders as to how to go about managing their teams better. So my question for you today, Tommy is “What should sales managers look for when they are hiring salespeople?”

Tommy Sim 

Okay, well, I think there are three key things that they should be doing when they are hiring. So first thing is they need to define the role clearly. Second of all, they need to have the right assessment methods, and third of all to really be planned with their workforce.

Ben Lai 

Fantastic, and let’s expand on each of those. The first one is defining the role clearly. What does that involve exactly?

1st criteria for recruiting salespeople: Look for work ethic

Tommy Sim

People often think, “Okay, we want a salesperson. We want a good salesperson.” and there’s this generic description of it. But you’ve got to look at it and say… Okay, if you got someone, who looks at mostly managing existing accounts, they may have throwaway lines like “it’d be great if that can bring on new accounts.” Whilst that’s good, you might have someone who’s excellent at managing existing accounts. By having that criteria, and they’re winning new business, might screen out people who are good at the job.

If you do really need it, then you want to make sure that that’s in the criteria. So the other thing is that people will talk about industry experience. This is something that I come across quite a lot, where people say “Our industry is different. You need to be from the industry to be successful.” There’s often a mental model people have, that’s not accurate. In some cases, it is required. But for the most part, if you have a really good salesperson with the right behaviours, attitudes and aptitude, they’re going to learn the products. They’re going to learn the industry. They’re going to gain that respect and credibility over a period of time far greater than someone who just has industry experience.

Ben Lai 

Yeah, and I absolutely agree with that. I’ve seen firsthand a person brand new to our company right back when I was employed, and he had no experience in the industry that we were in. But he was a go getter. He was willing to do all of the necessary sales activities. He looked at the big picture when he was selling. Therefore he was able to close sales within a very short amount of time. So he was just brilliant in his role. But let’s move on to the next point, which is setting up the right assessments and figuring it out. So can you expand on that?

2nd criteria for recruiting salespeople: Look for culture fit

Tommy Sim 

So everyone will be conducting interviews, of course, and it’s about conducting the right type of interview. So when you’re looking at a salesperson, and you’re looking at their career history, there can be a lot of red herrings in there that can make you think this person is a great salesperson. But perhaps they’re not quite as good as what their resume looks like.

Ben Lai 

And what are some of the examples of the indicators that you should look for?

Tommy Sim 

Yeah, so funnily enough, actually, someone who has excellent results may not be a great salesperson. It’s a view that the numbers speak for themselves, right? Often, they don’t! Say, if you think about someone who has taken over existing clients who the previous person was actually a top performer. They have got the momentum from those accounts or those opportunities. That could be the case. Or it could be that the person was very lucky that I answered the phone, and the biggest deal in their life came through. Then, that was won by a group of people, and that smashed their target. And that’s all they did all year. So you gotta dig deeper than just the results.

Ben Lai 

Aah, exactly right. So thinking about things like their… As you mentioned before, the attitudes, their personality, the work ethic, whether they mesh with the team, and that’s a really important factor as well, isn’t it?

Tommy Sim 

Yeah, definitely. The idea that you can have a really good salesperson who wins visits externally, but creates chaos internally…

That’s going out the window, and now you can’t have that person… They need to be as good selling internally, as they are externally, because the internal team is… They’re the people who get the job done. So that kind of mindset of not getting along with the team? That’s old hat.

Ben Lai 

Yeah, that’s a lone wolf mentality, isn’t it? And what was the third criteria?

3rd criteria for hiring salespeople: Plan ahead

Tommy Sim 

Well the third one is around your workforce planning. A lot of what happens… a lot of mistakes around hiring come from being in a rush to bring someone on. So what happens is, the person just say someone leaves – they resigned. We go to quickly fill that position. And so what happens is, people will scurry around and see someone who’s got a good resume, who’s from the industry, they think that they have good sales results. And they’re there. The issue is that, then they’re in a hurry, and they bring them on.

Coupled with not having the right performance management processes, that takes them a long time to figure out they made a hiring mistake. Then there’s the cycle, whereas if you can actually plan your workforce, so you can be hiring ahead of the curve, and to know… Well, actually, if it takes us three months to hire a good salesperson, and if it takes us three months to train them… That’s a six month gap. So at what point do we need that salesperson? Which means six months prior, we start the hiring process. Also, in larger teams, we look at the level of turnover If you can track that, hey, we might lose one salesperson a year, then you got to add another process on top of that for hiring that replacement. So if you can get into that habit, then you’re not chasing your tail so much.

Ben Lai 

Yeah, absolutely. There’s some great advice that I’ve heard that you need to hire slow and fire fast! (laughter)

Tommy Sim 

Yeah. And whilst that can sound a bit harsh, it’s pretty it’s a good approach. And that requires a lot of lot of discipline. The hiring slow is you’ve got that person and they’re near enough and people start saying things. People laugh because they say the same thing We start talking about probationary period. If you start justifying why this person or finding ways this person could work those issues that you see at that point, they almost always rear their head. And you end up hiring someone, wasting three months, six months longer on that person. When you could actually have still been finding the right person, investing in that person.

Recruiting salespeople conclusion

Ben Lai 

And that’s a pretty much the value proposition that I see in getting the job done right at the very beginning, because it’s not just the expense of putting up the job advertising and the cost of recruitment, but it’s also the opportunity costs of that mistake. You know the amount of time that it took to get a new person on board, they could have been making sales if you’ve got the right person in the first place. So I think that’s a really good value proposition that beyond HR and Inject provide.

Speaking of which, we’re going to leave some links below for Tommy’s and his team’s website so that you can check them out and see if they’re a good fit for your company to help you to recruit the right sales people. Keep an eye out for future interviews with Tommy, I’ll be asking him some trickier questions to do with  how to motivate salespeople and commission and things like that. But thanks again, Tommy for your time.

Tommy Sim 

Thanks, Ben!

Ben Lai 

And look forward to seeing you next time. And what do you think? What do you think are the best criteria to use when recruiting salespeople? Leave a comment below and click like don’t forget to subscribe. And remember that integrity plus skills equals success!

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Sales Ethos helps companies increase revenue through sales training in Melbourne. We achieve results through sales coaching, customer service training, sales management training, and sales process consulting. Ben Lai is a sales trainer and business coach in Melbourne, and offers public sales training courses in Melbourne.

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