Ask any manager, V.P. or business owner what one of the biggest challenges they face in making their revenue numbers and they’ll tell you it’s in identifying, hiring and retaining good sales reps. If you are familiar with my management philosophy, then you’ve heard me talk about the 80/20 rule in sales, and all you have to do is look at your own company or industry to know it’s still true – 80% of the sales and revenue are made by the Top 20%.
So how do you identify who the Top 20% are BEFORE you spend all that time and money on hiring, training and then hoping they perform? There are many ways to try to identify the characteristics in advance, and in fact a whole industry of profiling and assessment testing has sprouted up to help you make the right choice. I have used some of these tests and have found them to be quite accurate and valuable.
I have also found an easier way to identify who the potential top producers are, and I’ve boiled it down into three “Real Secrets.” If you are responsible for identifying and hiring sales reps in your company, then I recommend you use these techniques to help you find the right sales reps before you spend all that time and energy training, managing and hoping you’ve made the right choice.
Real Secret #1) The best predictor of future behavior and performance is past behavior and performance. This is a well known fact in psychology, and it’s one you can use to predict how a new sales rep is likely to perform for you. The bottom line is that however much your candidate earned in income in their last job, and the job before that, is mostly likely the amount they are going to earn working for you as well.
What you must determine is exactly how much money that was. Ask your candidate to provide you with pay stubs or verification of income for the last 6 months, and, in addition, ask them what they earned in income each of the last three years. Find a way to verify this.
Finally, determine how much of your product or service your candidate would have to sell to generate that kind of income again, and ask yourself if you would be happy with that level of performance – because that’s most likely what you’re going to get.
Real Secret #2) Determine what is really motivating your candidate. What we exposed in the first real secret was your candidate’s comfort zone. We all have comfort zones, and sales reps in particular will always live up to – and most likely down to – their comfort zone especially in terms of income.
So if your candidate is really looking to your company and opportunity to better themselves and earn more money, find out what is driving this need and desire for more money. Have their life circumstances changed? For example, have they recently gotten married, had a child, purchased a home? If so, then they may have a real motivation to work harder, make more money and enlarge their comfort zone.
If their situation hasn’t changed, then you can be pretty sure that they will not be motivated to work harder, learn more skills, and make more sales. In essence, they will continue to live down to their current comfort level and you may once again be hiring another 80% producer.
Real Secret #3) Access their sales skills and previous training. This is one of my favorites. During the interview, I ask my candidates how they think they would do selling my product. They all say, “I’d do great!” I then do two things:
1) I ask them to sell me on the product. What I’m looking for is for them to ask me qualifying questions rather than just start pitching. Those who just dive right in and start pitching reveal themselves as middle to low 80% producers. Top 20% producers, on the other hand, start asking me questions and gathering information. They are the ones I’m interested in.
2) Next I give them a couple of objections and watch and listen to how they handle them. You can immediately tell how much training someone has had, and how successful they were, by listening to them handle age old objections like “The price is too high,” and “I’ll have to talk to someone else first.”
These techniques have saved me hundreds of hours of poor hires, and they have often revealed who the real top producers were. Use them, and you’ll love how they will work for you as well.