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The Hiring Dilemma: Tools and Advice for Sales Leaders

Friday, April 11, 2014
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Blaire, a regional sales director, is struggling with Kirsten, her newest and seemingly most talented account executive. Rob, a director of sales at a large convention hotel, can’t hide his frustration with Sonja, his foundering assistant director, as she emotionally breaks down during their meeting. And Curtis, a veteran financial advisor, has already burned through several salespeople, and his latest addition, Rory, is likely next to exit.

What does this diverse group have in common? They have fallen victim to the hiring dilemma. This phenomenon of modern sales management affects sales managers from all industries, company sizes, and backgrounds. Hiring salespeople can be a difficult and daunting task. The wrong hiring decision can set back your sales organization for months, even years, to come.

In the seminal management tome Good to Great, Jim Collins compared leaders to bus drivers. The leader’s top priority is to choose the right people for the bus. What happens when, despite our best intentions, we have the wrong people on the bus? Or they’re in the wrong seats? As busy sales managers, we tend to fall into common traps:

  • We believe it’s a training issue. Excessive time and capital are wasted on individuals who, despite their commitment, are simply not a fit for our sales position. As any colleague in learning and development will tell you, even the best training programs cannot mold a good salesperson from the wrong raw material.
  • We manage people out, only to use the same faulty hiring process to replace them. Frustrated anew, we tend to blame our salespeople rather than ourselves, making sweeping generalizations about how difficult it is to find good people.
  • We hire people that remind us of ourselves, and don’t even realize it. While those character traits can make us feel comfortable about our decisions, they are not a solid basis for building a sales team.

Much like the other essential competencies for sales leadership, such as mentoring, planning, and coaching, the hiring competency must be practiced and honed to become a useful skill in the sales leader’s arsenal. There are essential traits to look for—and avoid—when identifying salespeople for your organization.
Once the essentials have been found and the inessentials have been avoided, another level of screening begins.

  • Is your potential new hire a great fit for their previous positions, but not necessarily for yours?
  • How will they behave in case-specific future situations?
  • Is it possible that their previous success was largely the product of their last employer’s dominance in a certain market segment? A
  • re you making the right decision in hiring this person?

Hiring salespeople is an inexact science. You cannot be sure you’ve made the right decision until your new team member shows what they can do. But you can certainly raise the odds in your favor by applying clear and sensible tactics in screening, identifying, and interviewing salespeople.
Moreover, if you simply avoid the common mistakes most sales managers make, you’ll be ahead of the game. Your roadmap is laid out in “The Hiring Dilemma.”

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This post is based on content explored in the new ASTD Press release, The Art of Modern Sales Management, which covers everything you need to know to be a top sales manager! 

Sales management has changed dramatically in the past decade. With increasing globalization and many companies adding more virtual workers, the task of managing these diverse sales teams has become increasingly complicated. In a connected and evolving world it is hard to offer a definitive guide, but this book strives to sketch out a blueprint for managing performance in a changing sales landscape. 

Each chapter is written by a sales professional and thought leader, many with experience as both a salesperson and as a sales manager. Learn from their experience and utilize the action plans at the end of each chapter to grow into a better leader for your team, whether they are down the hall or across the world.

About the Author
Joe Anzalone, Global Director, School of Sales for Hilton Worldwide, is a sales and training executive with a 15-year track record of designing and delivering sales training programs.  Prior to joining Hilton Worldwide, Joe was VP, Sales and Training for Asset Marketing Systems (AMS), a financial services and insurance marketing organization.  While at AMS, Joe built a training organization that delivered sales learning to over 3,000 independent advisors across the United States.  Prior to his career in training, Mr. Anzalone was himself an outside sales representative, and has experience telemarketing, cold calling, and working on a sales quota requirement and a “straight commission” compensation plan. An experienced speaker and trainer, Joe has given presentations to groups of marketing, sales and management professionals across the country.  He has also been a featured columnist for Senior Market Advisor and Producers Web on the subjects of marketing, sales, and effective training and public speaking. A native New Englander, Joe graduated Magna Cum Laude from Boston University and has completed the Executive Leadership program at the University of California, San Diego.  
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