The Missing Step In The Salesperson Hiring Process

Most people who conduct interviews figure they’re a pretty good judge of character. Many have, unprompted, shared this opinion with me. Then there’s that old Human Resources notion: past performance determines future potential. Combine these two ideas and you have the foundation of most businesses’ hiring practices.

Problem? Both premises are bad.

The stats have long shown that the majority of people hire because they form a split-second liking for a candidate. The resume got the candidate the interview, but the hiring decision was made because of emotion.

Bringing the wrong candidate on board costs more than rehiring. Employers frequently and unknowingly lead candidates into looking and sounding like a good fit with leading questions (“Tell me about a time when you…”, and of course they do! Great story: you’re starting to like this person already!). So the truth is that most hiring managers are not a good judge of best fit.

Now the second premise: past performance determines future potential. Really? What if the candidate was stuck in a poor situation, with no coaching, bad management and an unsupportive or nonexistent sales process? I have met with insurance salespeople who, thanks to Do Not Call legislation, were forced to prospect by calling receptionists of businesses! Are you going to tell me that doesn’t suck? That failure to perform in that situation means this person can’t sell??

I hope you’re with me now, in the contemplation that perhaps resume and interview are an incomplete set of steps in finding the best fit for hiring salespeople. Resume screening seems to eliminate candidates who shouldn’t be in consideration; interviews can elicit deeper answers to specific questions and demonstrate how candidates will react to certain stimuli. What, then, remains? How are we to determine best fit?

A third step, one between resume and interview, can be taken. This is the Assessment step, where the candidate is asked to complete a questionnaire. Depending on the structure of the test, and the quality of the questions, a great deal of information can be uncovered. First, the three most important questions to answer are:

  • Is this person trainable?
  • Is this person coachable?
  • Will this person actually sell?

Yes, assessments do exist that provide reliable answers to these questions. Good assessments will also uncover data such as:

  • The buying cycle preference of the candidate – if the items to be sold are high-value, with a short cycle, and the individual has a long buying process in which he checks out all the particulars of many vendors, it’s not going to be a fit
  • Is this candidate a hunter (goes after new business) or a farmer (manages an existing set of accounts and gradually expands the business you do with them)
  • The stress level the candidate can handle, ranging from entry level up to top executive.

If an individual is a good farmer but a lousy hunter, and your role calls for a hunter, would this knowledge affect your decision? An effective assessment will tell you whether or not the candidate has the experience, skills and supportive beliefs to match your position. Are these factors things you would like to know before you choose to schedule an interview?

Assessment results also change over time. An individual may learn new skills, get different experience. Their belief system may erode or strengthen. Think of an assessment result as a sort of balance sheet for the candidate: how they are at this moment in time. Again, wouldn’t it be good to have an indication that, while a candidate has performed well in the past, the assessment shows that their belief system is in turmoil at the moment? Wouldn’t that lead you to asking some uncovering questions in the interview?

Resume, assessment and interview. These are the three steps of an effective hiring process. If you’d like more information on how assessments can dramatically improve the quality of your salesperson hiring process, send me a note.

Jason Kanigan, EzineArticles.com Basic Author


Cold Calling As You: How To Prospect Naturally

Like most things, the more prospecting you do, the better you’ll feel about and get at it. Day One is tough. Day Fifteen, on the other hand, is natural. Set specific times to do your cold calling, and put them in your calendar. I recommend cold calling for one to two hours at a time, then taking a break. You can’t cold call all day. It’s important to be in an ‘up’ mood (when you feel like a ’10’, as valuable as any top officer out there, but not full of artificial enthusiasm).

Adjust your script in accordance to the feedback you get. Drop reasons that people do business with you that don’t resonate, and include new ones to replace them. As you do the work, certain key phrases will stand out as getting prospects’ attention. Make use of them. Keep your voice natural.

Let’s look at an example of how I go about a cold call, keeping it natural, following a process and being genuine:

Salesperson (S): John?

Prospect (P): Yes. Who’s this?

S: Hi, John, my name’s Jason Kanigan. Am I calling at a bad time?

P: No. What’s this about?

S: Appreciate the question. Let me tell you why I called, and then you can decide whether we should keep talking or not. Does that sound fair?

P: Sure. Go ahead.

S: All right. I’m with XYZ Training in Mytown. Typically we work with technology firms who are serious about steadily raising their top line revenue, and are:

  • Concerned about trouble prospecting consistently and effectively
  • Upset that they hear price too often as a major objection
  • Frustrated with having to constantly chase prospects, and having to keep ‘following up’.

I don’t know if any of these are issues at your company, though…

P: Well, sort of…I mean, doesn’t everybody have those problems?

S: Maybe. Which of those really stands out for you?

P: I guess the ‘following up’ one. We do a lot of quoting that goes nowhere.

S: Oh, that surprises me. I figured it would be the price issue. Well, tell me about having to follow up. How many quotes a month do you think you do?

P: Around forty…

And it continues from there.

Note the differences from slavishly following a script, and pumping your talk full of false enthusiasm. First, you’re having a real conversation. That means you’ve gotten over some of the trust hurdle. Second, you’re talking about true pain the prospect is experiencing. This isn’t something you’ve pushed in their face: it’s real because they’re saying it. Third, you’re able to find out if what you have to offer is potentially a fit for their problems, because they are telling you facts about their situation. This makes for a much smoother and more likely continuation along the sales process.

Picking up the phone with the goal of having genuine conversations with other people, to try and find out whether what you have to offer is a fit to solve their problems, is the key to natural and low-stress prospecting. Cold calling with a script to guide you and with a natural voice will make you calm and well-received.

If you’d like to talk about your specific cold calling and prospecting issues, send me an email and let’s set up a time to speak.


Don’t Get Fired Up: The Art and Science of Natural Cold Calling

“Here’s your cold calling script—get fired up! Start ‘Dialing for Dollars.’ I want to hear enthusiasm!”

Oh no.

Ever notice how the people who tell you that this is the way to go about cold calling are almost never the people who actually have to do it?

Following a cold calling script to the letter plus injecting blatantly fake enthusiasm are two common things that broadcast the unmistakable message of “Here Comes A Sales Person.”
Prospecting is both art and science. The science part is derived from having a consistent process. This includes knowing several typical reasons why people do business with you. A script is an outline. Know it, have the facts ready, use the process—but don’t rattle it off like a recording.

I’ve discussed how enthusiasm is your enemy in previous articles. Exclaiming the meaningless and overdone “How are you today?!” instantly informs the person on the other end of the line that This Is A Cold Call. A much better way of prospecting is to follow a process, and be yourself. People react to genuineness with authenticity. This is the art part of natural cold calling.

How do you feel when a poorly-trained salesperson enthusiastically tries to shove a solution down your throat? Have they even considered whether this solution is right for you? Your first objective in cold calling is to find out whether your solution is even potentially a suitable fit for this prospect. The art in prospecting is to keep being natural. Being a little unsure, sounding like you, will result in prospects reaching out a bit more, wanting to learn more. You want your cold call to sound like a normal conversation, which is the goal–not a sales pitch.

Let me give you some instruction about what to expect as a result of your calls. First, you cannot control what happens on the other end of the line. Whether they talk to you or not, whether they’re having a bad day or not, if they are truly a potential fit or not, all these things are not up to you. Nothing you can do will change the result.

What you can control is whether you pick up the phone and call.

You can also control how the call sounds, and the manner in which it is carried out.

Some days you’ll make the calls, and everyone will pick up and speak with you. Other days, while you put in the effort, it’ll be a pack of voicemails. You can’t control that. So don’t get stressed out about it. Keep putting in the effort, day in and day out. That you can control.


Beating the Prospecting Blues, Steps Three to Six

Third, repeat after me: “Not wanting to talk with me right now is not Rejection. It just means they don’t want to talk to me right now.”
Write this on a sticky note and thumb it up somewhere you’ll see it every day. Especially while prospecting.

Fourth, do a little research on the company you’re calling. Not too much: I don’t want you getting over-awed by whomever you’re about to call. Remember, Vice Presidents and CEOs put their pants on the same way you do. They may have insulating layers of people between them and you and deal with numbers with more zeros on the end—but (and these are the stats of inside sales pros, not just mine) one out of every four times, the Big Cheese will pick up the phone, completely unprotected by a well-meaning gatekeeper. That goes for everybody from the owner of a 3-person company all the way to the Chairman of IBM.

However, it is important to know something about the organization you’re calling. Corporate or Non-Profit structure? Distribution or Marketing field? Accounting or Information Technology department?

Fifth, and very importantly, Pick Up The Phone.
Yep, this is tough. It’s what you get paid for, remember? If it was so easy, everyone would do it…but just about everyone, from company presidents on down, doesn’t want to. Usually the basic problem is that they’re viewing prospecting as “Dialing for Dollars”, and figuring they have to slavishly follow a script as they do it, worrying that they’re sounding wooden as they do it. Reverse these things. When the call is over, don’t spend too much time thinking about it. Start the next call right away.

Add this to your sticky note: “I am the best at prospecting around here.”

Because you are. Nobody else is reading articles, trying to improve their craft, putting in the effort to become a top salesperson. Prospecting means genuinely reaching out and discovering if there’s a way you can help the person on the other end of the line. If you cannot, it’s not rejection. What it happens to be is Not A Fit. And that’s okay. Knowing this, having the skills and right intention, and the laugh-it-off it’s-no-big-deal calmness to pick up the phone and call the next person is what will drive away those Prospecting Blues.