If you are growing your sales team, you need a repeatable recruiting process. And it’s never too early to start. Even if you are just about to go recruit your first real salesperson, you can start with a theoretical “best practices” process that you then tweak and build upon as you get your feet under you with some actual new hires.
As you grow beyond a few salespeople, this repeatable process will save you time and mistakes. No matter your size, the cost of a bad-fit hire is immense, and when you are small, every sales rep matters even more. There are culture, revenue and morale ramifications, not to mention the hard cost of salary. The cost of a bad hire is pretty ugly:
- Peak Sales Recruiting has a calculation that estimates a bad sales hire can cost upwards of $697,000. Yep.
- And HR Daily Advisor ran an article estimating the true cost of a bad hire can be as much as $2,000,000. That’s not a typo.
- On the low end of the cost spectrum, it’s estimated that losing an employee costs the same amount as six to 9 months of that employee’s salary.
- …according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the price of a bad hire is at least 30 percent of the employee’s first-year earnings. For a small company, a five-figure investment in the wrong person is a threat to the business.
Want to see for yourself? Here’s a fantastic sales cost calculator.
I don’t want to scare you with these numbers, but I have to, because this is serious business. Having made some bad hires myself, I never quantified it like this and I am glad I didn’t. I would have lost my mind. But, in those early days of hiring missteps, even though I didn’t lose my mind, I did lose time, momentum, and credibility with myself and my team.
Once I figured out how to recruit, and how to build a process around that, I learned that sales recruiting could be a lot more objective than I realized. If you don’t have a lot of experience hiring sales reps, here are some steps to help you get going.
- Identify the characteristics, experience and skills your “perfect” sales rep will have. Include the “must haves” versus “nice to haves”. Consider what type of experience will be a good fit for your company. What values and skills will be important to succeed in your company, and succeed with your buyers?
- Create a candidate scoring worksheet to objectively measure these things. Rate each candidate on a wide variety of things including their experience, how they conduct themselves during the interview, how they answer certain key questions. You may think you’ve got a mental tally that you can use to assess candidates, but let me assure you that you can’t. Hiring is emotional and fraught with bias. That candidate you love might just score poorly. And vice versa. Use a scoring matrix and you will be surprised at how helpful it is to compare and contrast the candidates.
- Create a list of interview questions that you will at each stage of the interview process, and ask every single candidate those questions. Of course, you can go off script, but make sure you are using the same base set of questions for each potential hire. This gives you a more accurate baseline when comparing afterward, particularly for your scoring criteria. Similar to your scoring sheet, you should probably have some pass/fail questions to help make recruiting even more quantifiable.
- Decide on your interview process. A typical process includes a phone screen, then an in-person interview, then a second interview, then the offer. But for sales recruiting, particularly if you are new to it, you will want some additional steps, like a role play conversation, or a mock demo call. You can also interview the way your buyers buy.
- Consider using a recruiter and/or 3rd party skill or aptitude assessments. Full disclosure, I did use a sales recruiter a couple of times, with pretty poor (and costly) results. And I never used a 3rd party assessment tool when I was leading my sales team. But both are viable ways to get some outside help when you are learning how to recruit qualified sales candidates, so I feel that I would be omitting a viable path if I didn’t mention these things. Just because recruiters weren’t effective for me, doesn’t mean they won’t be for you. And I always wanted to try a skills-based screening assessment, I just never got around to trying it until I was helping my clients build their sales teams.
There are no guarantees in sales recruiting. Some sales hires will knock it out of the park, some will fall on their face. You will make some hiring mistakes. Even the experts do (as I learned after working with a couple of experienced sales recruiters). But building and maintaining a repeatable sales hiring process will help improve your chances of success. You can start now, even if you are a small team. Just evolve & adapt your repeatable hiring process as you learn and grow as a sales leader.