Improve Your Sales Hiring with a Shared Selection Process

Monday, November 11, 2013

In hiring frontline sellers, organizations may flounder and fail when hiring practices are left up to a single department. Sales managers frequently take short cuts. Recruiters and HR business partners often miss the mark because it’s challenging for them to assess selling skills. 

Indeed, when selection responsibilities reside with one or the other department, costly mistakes are made. The best solution is a shared selection process. Working together expedites the process, deploys experts appropriately, and yields higher caliber hires. 

Why you need a shared selection process 

For a sales manager, it may seem like selecting sales reps on your own would be easier than using an elaborate system. But a shared selection process helps you to avoid problems, including the following: 

  • Manager cannot come to terms with the top candidate because compensation expectations were not discussed upfront.
  • The new hire is struggling, and questions and doubts surface regarding actual level of experience.
  • The top candidate accepts another job because too much time elapsed between interview and offer.
  • Time constraints cause you to rush and settle for “good enough.”
  • Candidates apply, but have an unfavorable impression of the job or company afterwards.
  • Your team is not diverse in thought, approach, or ideas. 
  • Reps have solid sales experience, but they are not performing at peak levels.  

For a recruiter or HR business partner, it may seem like interviewing and selecting sales reps on your own would be faster than trying to work around a sales manager’s schedule. But a shared selection process is worth the extra effort for several reasons. 

  • Sales managers will do a better job of assessing responses to behavioral interview questions related to selling skills and situations. Their experience gives them insight you don’t have.
  • Candidates are eager to explore fit and comfort level with the person they’ll report to.
  • Two heads are better than one; getting diverse points of view improves selection.
  • You can’t fully answer questions about job role, account list, resources, expectations, goal setting, commission structure, and so on.
  • Better selection processes reduce the actual costs and the lost opportunity costs caused by vacant sales territories and revolving-door sales staffing.    

What a shared selection process looks like 

This sample of a shared selection process details how one organization divided the work. Light shading shows the work completed by HR specialists. the sales manager, working with HR, coordinates and leads items with dark shading.

The HR department begins (in light blue) and ends the selection and hiring process. This helps to ensure consistency and fairness. It also helps to ensure that the organization remains compliant with legal guidelines. With this process, the HR department can also maintain documentation and records. 

For sales managers, a shared selection process minimizes administrative work and pre-qualifies candidates. Hiring managers lead steps two through six (in dark blue).


Getting started

Getting started with a shared process does require some time and effort at the onset. But making this investment of time upfront will save you and your company a great deal of money and time in the long run.

Have a common understanding. Everyone involved in the shared selection process must have a common understanding and agreement about what the job entails and what indicates a strong candidate. Rather than relying on gut feel, expecting experience alone to indicate ability or “winging it” when it comes to selection, sales managers and recruiters/HR partners can work together to build a much stronger and more reliable foundation.   

A good starting place is the ASTD World-Class Sales Competency Model. You won’t find a better-researched, more reliable set of indicators for frontline sellers. You’ll have clarity right from the start about your ideal candidate. The rest of the steps in this partnership will line up nicely when you start with competencies. 

Create partnerships. At the onset, work to create a strong partnership between HR and Sales. By implementing a shared selection process, you’ll soon understand what your partner department needs in order to make the selection process successful and smart for the company. Over time, you’ll begin to anticipate and meet each other’s needs more often and more quickly. 

Strive for universal adoption. Next, work toward universal adoption of this process in your sales department. To be valid and effective, it must be used for all candidates in like jobs. Sales managers and recruiters/HR partners must be able to rely on each other to understand and use competency, behavior and trait-based questions for assessment. Role plays, if you use them, should be executed the same way each time. Without consistency, the objectivity and benefits of the selection process will be diluted. 

Now you’re ready to create your process, get training to fill in knowledge gaps, and launch your new shared selection process. Soon, you’ll be streamlined, systematic, and proficient in your shared selection process. 

A big question remains: What will you do with all the time you used to waste on unproductive hiring practices?

About the Author
Deb Calvert, president of People First Productivity Solutions, is a sales productivity specialist with a background in sales, sales management, training, human resources and operations. Her work as a director with a Fortune 500 company gave her practical experience in bringing together sales and HR functions for the betterment of the company. She is the author of the DISCOVER Questions™ Get You Connected book series, host of CONNECT! Online Radio for Selling Professionals, and a sought after speaker on topics related to sales productivity.    
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