One of the biggest challenges that middle market companies seem to face is the inability to attract and hire good quality salespeople consistently. Time and again it seems that they have had success with one or two hires but they can’t seem to duplicate their success. I believe it is because they got lucky and then tried to repeat the process of hiring another good one. Since it was luck the first time around that is pretty difficult to duplicate.

The Problem Is Two-Fold: 

1) Attracting the right candidates; and 2) Being able to pick out the ones that will work.

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First, attracting the right salespeople is not that hard, but that doesn’t mean it is effortless. We may have gotten lucky once with a good one stumbling in the door, but to consistently attract the right salespeople requires work. Your messaging has to be on target. Why would someone want to come work for your company? Who is it that makes sense for your business? Characterize those two things when describing the position. Then get busy letting everybody know what you need and the qualities that are necessary to be successful.

Don’t just rely on a single posting on a free job board. You might get lucky, but improve your odds by posting on multiple sites, and change your postings frequently so the position doesn’t get lost. Do some work on LinkedIn searching for those folks that might fit the profile based on their background and experience. Use your own personal network by emailing and posting to your connections on LinkedIn. In theory, attracting the right candidates should be easier than ever if you use the technology and social tools available. If you find that it isn’t working then spend the money and hire a recruiter. The money saved by not using a recruiter will be lost if you can’t find a candidate to generate sales effectively.

I said the problem was two-fold. The second part of the equation is knowing how to pick the right candidate once you have attracted them to your opportunity. Do not rely on your gut instinct. That’s what got you to the place where you haven’t had success. Use a repeatable process with standardized questions. Phone screen to start and don’t waste your time with those that can’t get past the phone screen. Use a predictive, objective sales-specific assessment. We recommended the Objective Management Group battery of assessments (below) for their predictive nature, accuracy and for the breadth of knowledge you learn about the candidate.

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Treat the interview as an audition. See how well the candidate can bond with you. Don’t make it easy for them! You want to see how they will do in an uncomfortable situation, similar to what a sales call might be. Another great resource is the book “Who” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. It is a quick read and will provide you with a repeatable interviewing process.

Solve the first two problems to attract good quality candidates and implement a better process for selecting from that pool of candidates. If you do these two key things, you will have mastered a good portion of the hiring battle. The final hurdle is effective on-boarding. You must establish a repeatable process for on-boarding as well. Read this article for the details: “Systematic Onboarding Programs Predict Success.”

Please join me on Sept 11 at 2:00 pm EDT as I discuss these topics in greater detail with Brian Duffy, VP & Managing Director of Electronic Security, Per Mar Security on a Security Systems News webcast.