Learn the shocking truth about most sales candidates

getting to yes
photo courtesy flickr user Sahaja Meditation

(MoneyWatch) Bad hires cost money, time, and energy, especially in sales. The hiring process for sales talent should not be the same as for other positions, according to Olga Pechnenko, founder and CEO of Revenue Hire.

With the other job descriptions, it's much easier to evaluate a candidate's skills using objective criteria such as a college degree, years of experience, past companies, a particular competency, etc.

With sales people -- it's much trickier. Over the last several years, Olga has determined that 85% of applicants for sales positions don't have what it takes to succeed in the field. In our post today, Olga highlights the process she uses to predictably hire revenue generators. Her company helps to identify those 15% of sales people who can and will sell.

Olga recommends that the process start with the right job description and knowing beforehand what the compensation structure and target earnings will be if your new hire hits the quota. It's important to craft a compelling job ad to attract the attention of the best candidates.

The next step is to create a strategic questionnaire you would like candidates to complete. The questions you ask should be designed to gauge their level of seriousness, interest, and commitment. If they can't or don't complete the questionnaire, move on to the next candidate. This is an excellent way to eliminate sales people who don't follow through.

Olga suggests that these questions be specific to your industry and/or style of sales. For example, a candidate whose experience is in medical device sales might not be good at selling an intangible. About 50% of applicants will drop off at this stage.

If a candidate completes this stage, he or she will qualify for the next level of consideration. Olga recommends a 5-minute phone call where you ask pointed questions about the requirements spelled out in the ad. You're also listening to how they talk, build rapport, and if they ask good questions.

The next level is an in-person interview. Hiring sales people should mimic a sales process itself, where you are a prospect and the candidate is selling him or herself, NOT the other way around. You should talk no more than 25-30% of the time, especially early in the interview process.

This is when you determine if your candidate is selling you the way you want your customers to be sold. Depending on the job description, it is a good idea for the candidate to shadow someone currently in sales who has shown real skill and competency.

In this phase you will want to pick their resume apart, as well as review their compensation for the last several years. This part of the interview is to determine if this candidate really can sell and has successfully sold at the level your company requires. It's not the time to become friends.

The final step is to determine if there is a strong cultural fit. This is a traditional interview and will be the right time to get to know your candidate on a more personal level.

Revenue Hire's "secret sauce" is an assessment tool that Olga says measures the most important competencies necessary for selling. It removes over 90% of subjectivity and focuses instead on whether or not a candidate will actually sell.

"If a candidate still shines after this thorough screening process, you may have found a 15-percent-er." Happy sales to you!

  • Rich Russakoff

    Rich Russakoff is co-founder of Bottom Line Up Enterprises. He is an internationally known CEO coach, speaker and writer. His client base is made up of the top tier of entrepreneurial CEOs including several Ernst & Young Award winners and dozens of Inc.500 qualifiers. He is an expert in bank financing for high growth entrepreneurial companies and has co-authored the book, How To Make Banks Compete To Lend You Money.