How Do You Build a Talented Sales Team?
Thursday, March 8th, 2012
Perhaps you’ve heard the story about a great college running back who all the experts agreed had the ability to be the best in professional football and as expected he was drafted early during the NFL draft. Unfortunately, he never really performed up to his ability so his coach finally released him in favor of a player with lesser ability. Asked how he could do such a thing, the coach said the decision had been quite simple; “That man has all the ability in the world but the guy I kept has all of the touchdowns.”
Each April, the NFL conducts its annual draft of college football players. This is one of three ways that NFL teams build their organizations (e.g. free-agency, trading players with other teams and the NFL Draft). After developing a comprehensive plan and determining their personnel needs, representatives of each team’s executive management staff select players to strengthen their roster with the ultimate goal of improving their competitive advantage. Each team establishes its own requirements, criteria and selection process and in spite of the intense focus, they still make hiring mistakes.
So how are you doing in building your team? During a period where millions of jobs have been lost, companies are attempting to expand their sales teams in an effort to gain market share, account share and in general, increase profitable revenue. Is it easier or more difficult to find talented sales people during an economic downturn? Some say there are many more choices available but truthfully many of the candidates looking for jobs don’t possess the skills and experience essential to being successful; so how do you select the best talent to improve your team’s performance?
At the outset it is vital that you carefully clarify the responsibilities of the sales position. Frequently companies lack well defined job descriptions and therefore have great difficulty in identifying the skill set, past experience and behavioral competencies they are searching for. Commit to defining the position and prepare a well written job description prior to initiating your search.
Once the job is clearly defined there are three basic assessments that should be addressed when considering candidates.
Do they possess the education, past experience, prior training and successful track record and is it relevant to the industry and market you are recruiting for? Resumes are basically marketing tools that have been prepared to sell a candidate. They focus on presenting the strengths of the candidate and not the weaknesses. You must carefully review the resume and read between the lines. When claims are made about significant successes you’ve got to design a series of questions that will challenge not only what they accomplished but exactly how they accomplished these great feats. Use the resume as a road map to clarify how the candidates education, training and past experience will enable them to make a significant contribution to your company’s future.
Do they possess the essential and desirable behavioral traits that great sales people have? These traits include optimism, takes initiative, self-acceptance, inter-personal skills, outgoing, influencing, desire to self-improve, warmth and empathy, persistence and are they organized and systematic. While at times we believe we can uncover these traits during a face to face interview, truthfully it requires a validated Behavioral Assessment tool to predict future behavior. Carefully selecting an assessment tool designed for a work environment and learning how to interpret the results is essential. With information about the candidates past and predictable behavioral traits uncovered, you are now ready to conduct a worthwhile interview.
The interview provides you the opportunity to examine if a candidate will meet your requirements and expectations. The process must be well thought out and managed efficiently. Team interviews are strongly recommended with each team member assigned the responsibility for specific areas of interest (i.e. education, past experience, business successes and behavioral traits that may inhibit future success). Questions should be carefully constructed to uncover areas of weaknesses as well as strengths. The focus should be on behavioral and situational questions that require that the candidate actually describe in detail how they will actually execute a strategy or tactic.
Building a successful sales team has always been a critical component of building a successful business. However, when companies are carefully managing cash and overhead you can’t afford to make expensive hiring mistakes. Companies focused on growth will be looking for ways to increase revenue, optimize their current sales team as well as searching for new sales talent. The three perspectives we have described, establishing Eligibility, Suitability and the Interview process are crucial components of the business building process. Invest the appropriate time, energy and resources to improve your cost effectiveness. You won’t be sorry.
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If you’re struggling with any of the three areas we’ve discussed and want more information, visit www.peakfocuscoach.com And be on the lookout for our upcoming series on Defining Eligibility, Predicting Suitability and developing your Interview Expertise.
Part 2: "Defining Eligibility for Attracting and Assessing Talent" will be featured next Friday, March 16th.