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Hiring New Salespeople (While Keeping Up With Business as Usual)

hiring new salespeople
Manage & Lead

Like most things in life, hiring sales talent is a matter of timing. Especially since the best candidates with strong sales skills are usually snatched up within 10 days.

Unfortunately, you generally need skilled talent more than they need you. Add to that the dramatic pace of business, and it can be very difficult to put the right people in place.

That’s why it’s critical to overcome indecision and move quickly when recruiting sales talent.

In this article, we’re going to help you do just that by showing you 5 ways you can overcome analysis paralysis and get the right talent where and when it’s needed.

Business Moves at the Speed of Light

If you’re in a position to fill a sales role, you’re likely already feeling the pressure, because your revenue targets are built on the assumption that your team is fully staffed.

Essentially, achieving your goals is only possible with a full roster of sales reps who know their territories and are ramped to full productivity. Any empty seats erode your ability to hit those targets.

How are you supposed to juggle filling a role quickly, hiring for the right talent, and completing your day-to-day tasks?

Step 1: Make sure your organization is a place where good talent wants to work. Good talent is less likely to join an organization that isn’t set up for success.

Examine what factors are causing open territories in the first place.

  • Is it unrealistic sales quotas?
  • Is the territory just not capable of achieving that quota? Is compensation too low?
  • Is it a lack of leadership?

These factors can quickly derail a sales team.

Step 2: Make sure your own high standards aren’t getting in the way of your hiring process.

If you’re delayed in making a decision, start by asking yourself why you’re having trouble finding talent.

  • Are you recruiting in the wrong places?
  • Is there a problem with the initial vetting process?
  • Have you properly leveraged employee networks and referrals?

The pace of business only continues to increase, and every day a role goes unfilled, your quotas harder to hit. It’s important to develop a hiring system that helps you speed up decision making so that you get the right people in the right positions quickly.

RELATED: 7 Critical Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE a New Sales Hire

Reframing the Hiring Process

When analysis paralysis is slowing down your hiring process, you need to reframe the way you think about hiring. Let’s look at some do’s and don’ts of how to approach it.

Do:

  • Move quickly to hire sales talent — empty seats mean lost revenue.
  • Establish a new definition of success that incorporates both short-term and long-term viewpoints.
  • Look at experiences, how candidates align to the marketplace of buyers, and how they can evolve with where the marketplace is headed.

Don’t:

  • Let overly high standards get in the way.
  • Aspire to hire only top performers.
  • Waste money on ineffective and unspecialized sales training.
  • Compensate all sales positions in the same way.

Creating a set hiring strategy will help you make decisions faster, and the process will be less overwhelming. Here are five steps to get you started:

1. Look at candidates’ past experiences and abilities to evolve

The buyer landscape changes quickly, so it’s important to hire people who have proven track records of adaptability. That’s something that can’t be taught, but is critical for success in a sales role.

If someone seems like a good culture fit, possesses the ability to evolve, and has a strong background, don’t be afraid to move forward.

However, if the role requires a unique combination of talent, it’s OK to take your time. Some roles don’t work if you have a bad hire. Prioritize those positions to ensure they don’t go unfilled.

It’s useful to leverage the networks of current employees for these types of hires, so make sure you have an excellent referral incentive program in place.

RELATED: A Hiring Scorecard Template For Startups: How To Make Logical Hiring Decisions

2. Implement career development and specialized training

Sales managers often think they should only hire the very top performers for sales roles, but these sales savants only account for one out of every 15 qualified applicants.

Don’t be discouraged. There’s plenty of great, uncultivated talent out there. They likely come at a lower price and are eager to learn, and, in some cases, they may only be lacking industry exposure.

Give some recent graduates with great personalities a chance. It’s relatively easy to offer specialized training during the onboarding process as well as regular career development opportunities. That way, these promising hires can learn the sales skills necessary to become valuable assets to your team.

3. Play to your team’s strengths

You can avoid putting yourself in a problematic hiring position altogether by keeping your top salespeople in the roles where they thrive.

Too often, leaders think it’s a good idea to reassign top salespeople to be account managers. That’s like telling an award-winning hunter that he should tend a cornfield for the rest of his life.

Top salespeople aren’t likely to repeat their successes in other roles because they have such a unique skill set.

Keep your savants where they are most effective. The common recommendation is to keep the top 20% of performers for each role in place.

4. Cultivate latent savantism

Chances are, you have salespeople on your team that you’re not properly using. With a little extra encouragement and training, they might become the top producers you need — which means you won’t have to endure tough hiring decisions.

Start by segmenting your training according to specific roles and specialties.

Instead of providing standard training on how to use personal stories to create emotional connections, for example, you could offer specialized education on recognizing and responding to specific accents, and cultural backgrounds.

This gives your reps a chance to dive deep into their talents, improving their overall sales skills, and leaning into their strengths. Your goal here is to find and cultivate the specific talents of each of your salespeople so that they quickly rise to the top.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Keep Your Sales Machine Efficient While Scaling Headcount

5. Rework your compensation structure

All sales positions are not created equal — nor should they be compensated the same way.

The traditional “hunter” model involves a fixed base rate, a commission based on actual sales, and a bonus based on exceeding quotas.

To keep a hunter from sacrificing long-term relationships for short-term gains, you should compensate based on the initial deal and the ongoing health of the relationship.

To keep farmers (Account Executives) from becoming hunters, compensate your farmers based on customer satisfaction as well as sales. If you want top talent to join your team (and stick around), your compensation plan should be as adaptable as the people you’re hiring.

Build a Strategy That Works for You

Most executives are focused on hitting sales numbers each quarter rather than focusing on hiring for the future of sales. Unfortunately, not hiring for the future means you’ll soon be falling behind, and falling behind makes it harder and harder to hit your numbers.

The speed of the modern sales industry makes it increasingly difficult to recruit the right talent. But by having a set strategy for hiring sales talent, you’ll be empowered to move faster and overcome your hiring paralysis.

Put a plan in place before you begin hiring. By putting yourself in the right headspace, you can move more quickly, make better decisions, and ensure you get the right people in the right roles when hiring.

Growth Play

Tracey Wik is the president of talent and organization effectiveness for GrowthPlay. Tracey has worked with leaders for over 20 years to help them understand that talent is the most important thing they manage from a business perspective. By applying research-based talent analytics and hard facts, Tracey and GrowthPlay help leaders understand the talent they have and how to obtain the talent they need.