Sales Management Challenges: 5 of 6 - Gauging experience as you hire your Team

The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as having said, "The years teach much which the days never know."

In general, I agree. HOWEVER, it depends what kind of education is happening during those years.

I'd like to share the benefits of my 30-year experience in sales and marketing with you. This series of blogs tackles 6 of the top sales challenges with sound advice and a practical 'do today' tip.

Sales Challenge #5: How to measure the experience of your team

10 years experience or 1 year's experience used 10 times?

When I learned to sell, you went to boot camp for two weeks, then another two weeks--and that was just for the basics.

You started off as a rookie trainee sales person, then worked your way through to being a sales manager (usually via new business sales, account management, senior sales, major account sales, and national account management).

ONLY THEN, as an accomplished sales and sales management professional, might you get a promotion to dealer / channel sales.

Often nowadays, many rookie sales folk start in dealer / channel sales with barely any training, except product features and functions (which they are misguidedly told are benefits). They don't really have the experience that the job they have been doing demands but in a buoyant market, with an 'in demand' product or service, they have gotten away with it.

So what am I driving at here?  Well, if you are not careful, it's very easy to hire people who look good on paper but, in reality, don't actually have the experience you are looking for to expertly fill the positions.

Then you are in the trap of what seems to be one of the biggest headaches in recruitment these days--candidates interview well and fail in their roles.

When recruiting or promoting, check on your candidate's or team's real skills and experience:

  • Have they really got 10 years of sales experience, or have they got one year's experience they have used 10 times?

  • Did they really do that big deal on their own or were they "on the team that did the deal"?

The current buoyant employment market means that good people get snapped up quickly. Our need to find employees encourages us to hire quickly, without doing a thorough background check on our candidates. This is compounded by recruiters pushing us to rush into a decision so we don't "miss out on this great salesperson".

Challenging as it may be, we need to find more time to interview / check out our candidates. We need to take references and actually contact them. We can also capitalize on social media--usually, you know someone who knows someone who knows your candidate.

The interview is one of the best opportunities to really get to know the person sitting before you. Make your interview process a rigorous one. For example, build a practical exercise into the process such as a recap of their 1st 90 days as a salesperson or a presentation on your major competitor. If you want an info paper that will give you more tips on how to do that effectively, email or call me.

Keep your #1 goal in mind: you are trying to gauge whether your candidate has 10 years experience or 1 year's experience used 10 times. In other words, you are looking for evidence of their REAL "individual contributor" experience.

Do-today Tip #5: work with HR to develop a rigorous interview process.

Next time, we'll take a look at how to choose the appropriate skill set when you are hiring / building the team.

Read more:
How to Create Clearly Defined Sales Processes and Sales Objectives
How to Build the Right Team
Where are you on the Sales Management Continuum?
Motivating your Team

What measuring tools are you using to assess the experience of your team members? Looking for more info about this issue? Leave me a comment or a question for a personal answer.

Posted in Sales Management. Tagged as fail in role, interviewing, recruiting, sales experience, sales leadership, sales management.

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