Beware toxic assets in a depression

By Jason de Luca

Many firms it seems, have become intoxicated with their competitors' unemployed salespeople, resume in hand, coming to their website looking for a job.

Though cheaper than last year and available, in a depression, however, small to mid-sized companies should only hire salespeople who are their competitors' A players (top 10% earners of their firms).

Why? Because B and C players require 3 times more training and management than complete new hires. First, flushing out bad habits; second, flushing out former company’s bad habits; third, filling them up with your best practices.

I am stunned by how some senior management (former salespeople usually) are the biggest suckers for B or C level salespeople of their competitors. Once the candidate drops a few names, uses industry-speak, technological concepts, boasting new business developing skills, this manager gets excited and starts making “how soon can you start?” type statements, never asking for specifics, targets, KPIs or anything else.

A common mistake is thinking that hiring B and C players from your industry “can’t hurt,” as you can easily fire them after a few months if they don’t hit arbitrarily-set targets, keeping all leads after they leave.

A bigger mistake is not knowing that hiring B and C competitors is playing Russian roulette with your operational funds and likely pay-rolling someone to harm your market image. When B and C new hires, carrying your business cards, blanket the market -- your small market -- the same bad habits that got them cut from their previous company will come out, and the resulting setback to your business is much more than hiring a newbie, training them from scratch and holding their hands for 12 months until they can perform.

Don’t agree? Ask your clients how they like spending time with newly hired vendors, who offer no value or insight, getting high-pressure phone calls to meet for a service presentation that sucks, then disappearing a few weeks later.

OK, so what’s my point? My advice is to be lazy when hiring salespeople in a depression. Yes, you read that right, be lazy.

Have an organized interview regime, complete with basic skills checking, role playing, small assignments and research projects that can be done by candidates allowing you to do NOTHING until they have delivered interesting results.

For those of us who are guilty of “drive-by” hires, here is a sample sales interview program, for any industry, to avoid a misfire-hire. For the first stage, ask the sales candidate to:

  1. Do a 5 minute introduction of your company and basic services. (YOUR company, not their previous firm).

  2. Submit research on a few potential target clients based on services/products you offer. Keep the assignment open and don’t lead them too much. (The point is you want to see how they think, find and organize information.)

  3. Have client references/Linkedin referrals ready for submission.

  4. Present a complete sales cycle from start to finish for whatever they sold. Tell them to be as detailed as they like. (Let them impress you with documentation/presentation skills).

  5. Explain what their percentage results of sales targets were and the support structure behind them to deliver services/products.

  6. Participate in a sales call role-play, with your current sales team. Your people should hit them with a few common objections, questions, problems etc, to see how they react (allow your team to be blunt and stay in character!). Candidates will be nervous, and maybe new to your industry, so don’t expect any academy award performances. What is important is footwork, cool-headedness and conceptual understanding, not acting ability.)

A depression will force everyone in a sales organization to work at high-speed, make sure you are not “drive-by” hiring or you’ll be paying for it with more than money.

The writer is managing director of Smart Partners KK, a company that offers sales training, consulting, business strategy and financial planning advice.

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Another article from smart partners with the indispensible advice of "People - Don't suck"

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You can seriously make this 100 times easier for yourself, just give them a sales target tell them if they dont meet it their first month they will be let go or their salary reduced (commission based). Numbers talk, BS walks.

I've met the most stupidest people that know nothing about even the product they are selling yet pull in big accounts because of their people skills.

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I have spent my life in sales and this article makes me laugh. Certainly you want to hire the A list players but hiring sales people is a crapshoot no matter what. My last firm continually hired guys who talked a good game and let's face it that's what sales people do. The only people who should be allowed to interview sales people are other sales people as we can see through the BS. Go Go Go: Spot on, I own my own company now and that's how I do it, although I usually give new guys three months and then it's straight commission or the door.

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You forgot

Ask them if they're B list, or C list. Trick question!
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usaexpat - Thanks for reading and the feedback. Indeed having sales people hire other sales people is great advice. Too bad it doesn't always happen that way.

Concrete- Thanks for reading. Maybe we could do a booklet together titled, "Life is easy, just don't suck" :-) I'm all ears mate!

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