Welcome to where the magic happens. Every project, class, system and process I have ever implemented started with a blog post RIGHT HERE. So dig in, there is gold in these electrons.
Sales simulations are a KEY tool in discovering the actual skill level of any potential sales hires. Think about it, what tells you more about a person besides how they actually react in a particular situation? And the beauty of the sales simulation is that you can construct it EXACTLY to the experiences you have everyday.
There are a 1o steps that must be adhered to so the simulation will yield the results and information you need to help in your hiring selection. I will detail 9 of them today and the 10th will be in my next post.
That’s it for today. If you have any questions or need any help constructing/conducting a Sales Simulation give me a call at 216-347-6729. Make sure to check back for my next post where I detail out Number 11; How to conduct an effective Critique Session. And believe you me if you thought the Simulation was an eye-opener just wait to see what you will learn by critiquing your candidate’s performance.
“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside themselves was superior to circumstance” Bruce Barton
First let me introduce you to Gauge, he is a member of the BPL: The Best Practice League. His specialty is the hiring and assessment process and he helps us to remember just how important it is to not only ask the right questions but to ask them the right way.
Okay, I promised you the questions to use for a first interview. So below is the link to the document with the questions. But before we get to them, let’s talk about “HOW” to conduct a first in-person interview.
Remember this is an interview not a date. Don’t get swept up in the style of the moment. You are looking for answers that contain facts and figures. The best salespeople know how to make a compelling point . They know how to paint a picture evoking emotion with their words. They also know how to give specifics, facts and details. The less specific an answer is the quicker your @#$%^ detector should be going off.
Make sure you are very clear upfront about what you want from them. You want this to be conversational but you are looking for answers to these questions. If they don’t get to the point don’t let them off the hook. Keep after them a maximum of 3 times on any one question. If they have not answered the question to your satisfaction after 3 tries move on but make sure to notate the miss.
Finally, ALWAYS record your interviews. This kills 3 birds with the proverbial 1 stone. 1) you don’t have to trust your memory or your notes 2) upon reflection you may hear something for better or worse that you missed on the first pass 3) legal protection. Remember, you do have to tell them they will be recorded.
Please feel free to give me a call 216 347 6729 and we can talk through any questions you may have and in the meantime make sure you go to my websites by clicking in the links to the right.
Make sure to check back for the next post when we discuss how to conduct a Sales Simulation and conduct a Critique Session that will give you more insight into a sales hire than you ever thought possible.
Here are your 1st Interview Questions…
It always amazes me to find out how FEW sales managers actually check references. I’m all for trust, but can you really believe everything an interviewee is telling you? What really scares me is that I think it is more about being lazy/busy than trust. I heard a great line the other day, “We never have enough time to do it right, but we always have enough time to go back and fix it.” Let’s start doing it right the first time and eliminating unqualified candidates from ever darkening your office door again.
After completing the phone screen and prior to scheduling the 1st in-person interview, let the applicant know you need their references and that they will be checked before the first interview.
Yes, I said checking references should be done BEFORE the 1st in-person interview. Why you ask… Do you want to waste your time in an interview with somebody who doesn’t have good references? I thought so… Also this has 2 additional benefits 1) It scares away anyone who doesn’t have good references and is either going to manufacture them when needed or hope you forget to ask and check. 2) It also tests the preparation of the applicant — letting you know just how proactive this person is. Either benefit really pays for itself in time investment ten fold in return.
Making the Calls: There is a definitive art to making reference calls. Most people will only give you perfunctory information out of fear of getting sued. Your job is to relax the person you are talking to and make it a conversation, not an interrogation. People like to give their advice so if you ask questions that put them in the role of advisor and not former employer we are more likely to gather the info we need.
Questions You Should Be Asking In No Particular Order (Remember Conversation Not Interrogation)
You’ll rarely get all of the details about a candidate. So before you make the reference call try this tactic. Call their direct line whenever you are sure they won’t be there and leave this message: “____ is applying for a sales position at out firm. Your name has been given to me as a reference. Please call me back if this person was outstanding.” If they do not call back, follow up with an actual reference call during regular hours and ask if they got the message and if there was a reason they did not call you back.
Remember to either record or take detailed notes about the call. You may get a sterling recommendation, but that is not the overall goal of the call. You are determining if this person will be a Sales Superstar. Test what the reference said about the candidate. Incorporate specific questions and simulations, based on a references answers, into your interview process.
You never know what might be the one factoid that trips up a phony. One detail that saves you and your company thousands of dollars, hundreds of manhours and lost customers just because somebody “interviewed well” and you didn’t have time to check their references.
Okay on to the first interview. The next post we will be discussing the setup and how to incorporate what you have learned so far into the questions that are needed to assure you of hiring of a Sales Superstar!
Part 5: The Telephone Interview
After getting your position contract, hiring dashboard and other preparation work done it is time to dig in and to get people into the process. Remember, hiring is just like sales the more prospects you have in the pipeline the better chance you have of finding an A-Player. The best hires I have made over the years have been from the average ratio of 1 out of 68 applicants. The average time time they have been with their company is 8.2 years. They also have performed remarkably, the average quota attainment for my hires is 121%. The process works but you have to use it, so let’s start defining the steps so you can see these results too!
Tools: 3 basic questions and the ability to listen discerningly. The 3 questions need to be simple, direct and must give you insight to the applicant’s selling style and attitude (I will be posting a sample of questions with a link).
Methodology: Your calling sessions should always be between 7pm amd 9pm. Why in the evening you ask? Simple, when is the best time to reach somebody, during the workday or at home? When do you think that they will have their guard down and you will be able to get the “truest” answers from them? When will give you the best chance to really “hear” who they are? All have the same answer in THE EVENING!
* Now the call itself, first introduce yourself, let them know who you are and why you are calling. Ask if they are familar with your company then listen to their response. You are looking for someone who took the time to research your company and not just blasted out 1000+ resumes’.
* Next, explain what you will doing in this call. You have a few questions to ask, and they probably have a few questions (always make sure they have the time, this interview should last 15 to no longer than 30 minutes at the absolute outside). If they say yes then give them a chance to ask their questions. Go into some measure of detail but stay away from phone interview taboos like salary. Also, if the questions they ask are all about vacation, benefits, parking and start/end times (8-5, 9-6 etc.) these should be your first warning signs. You want to hear questions about the market, customers, typical sales day etc., these are good initial indicators of a salesperson.
* After they have exhausted their questions or time is running a bit long it is your turn. Ask the questions you have prepared and give them a chance to respond to each in full. Remember you are looking for clear, intelligent and thought provoking answers and you won’t hear them if you are talking over their responses. One of my steadfast guidlines is to never paraphrase an answer from an applicant. Always either audio tape or write EXACTLY what they said in response to your question. Never let your ASSUMPTIONS come in the way of their answers and actual intent.
* If their answers are to your satisfaction close the interview by asking if they have any other questions. To a “good” sales applicant they will recognize this as the opportunity to try and close you for an in-person interview. If they do not try and close you it is a judgement call as to whether you ask them for an in-person. In case you were wondering, 90% of the time I will not invite them for an in-person unless they tried to close me first.
*Wrap it up by scheduling a first in-person interview and making sure you get their references because you need to check them in before the in-person.
There are, obviously, many areas of open interpretation here. Please feel free to call or email with any questions you may have.
Next post we’ll discuss how to conduct the reference check and why to do it BEFORE the first in-person interview!
Part 4: Measuring Your Results
Hiring needs to be a trackable, multiple step process or as the saying goes “measure twice, cut once”. We simply can not afford the cost of our time, effort and potential loss of customers or revenue because of a bad hire. So today we are digging into the setup of your new hiring system
First, before you start using the system you MUST create a “hiring dashboard”. Usually its a spread sheet or project document that allows you track each candidate as to where they are in the process and how they are performing at each step. This is a crucial tool that will help you to not only keep up to date with your candidates but it will also help you to see where and what steps need to be improved in your system (I will be posting a sample of this at the end of the week). This document can also be an excellent communication tool. It should be posted on a shared resource drive so all members of the hiring team can update the dashboard as needed as well as check on the progress of all candidates in the pipeline at any time.
Next you need to establish a scoring or rating system for each step of the system. My rule of thumb is KISS (keep it simple stupid). I generally have 3 possible scores, 1) acceptable 2) not acceptable 3) above average. This methodology allows the actual “math” to be relatively easy. You total the 3 answers and factor in your “gut” feeling when you have candidates who are close in answer results. I promise you will find that the best candidates are ALWAYS the highest scores if you use the right measures.
Okay, that’s it for today tomorrow, 4/09/08, I will begin to detail out the the first steps of the Hire Right System, talk to you then!
Part 3: Details, Details, Details
We spent the first 2 posts laying out the pieces of the Hire-Right System. Today we are going to start digging into the specifics.
Let’s begin at the beginning… the job description or what I call the Position Contract. The mistake that most companies make is a not defining the specifics of the job. Sales management, as a general rule, thinks that they should make the Position Contract as simple as possible. The problem is that they confuse a lack of needed detail with simplicity.
I am a outer space junkie. Reading everything from Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ to sci-fi and watching all things Star Trek. Apollo 13 is one of my favorite movies in this genre’ and I have seen it countless times. I loved the way they paid attention to the most minute detail of space travel. In particular, how they showed that there was not one detail that was too small to be left to chance. Everything they did had a checklist and spelled out process to complete the task.
So the question I ask is “why does sales management think they can or should skimp on the details of a Position Contract?“ Are sales, the life blood of any company, any less important? How many lives are dependent on a sales person doing their job right and effectively? With that in mind, below are some excerpts from a Position Contract I developed
for a client. I will be posting a link with the entire document in a few days until then feel free to call me with any questions.
Position Contract Excerpt Begins
Position Specific Standards: List all quantity, quality and behavior standards which this position is accountable:
Position Contract Excerpt Ends
I think you get the picture. There is no detail too small or insignificant to be left out. Don’t take anything for granted. When you pay this amount of attention to detail there is also a great by-product. Think of the message you are sending your potential hire. You are not only telling them that they will be held accountable, you set the standard BEFORE they come on board. All ambiguity is removed and it allows for the beginning of clear communication between you and your next Sales Superstar!
That’s all for now, Monday, 4/07/08, we will be digging into the setup and tracking of the Hire-Right System.
“What we must decide is how we are valuable rather
Welcome to Part 2! Today we talk about the specific steps in the hiring system…
Each step of the system must have standardized sets of questions, testing etc. so that all candidates go through the exact same experience (I will be discussing this more and showing examples in future posts). This allows you to compare candidates “apples to apples”. One of the biggest errors made in hiring is when 2 different potentials are interviewed by the same person yet are asked different questions. How can an accurate comparison be made? Standardized questions, testing and simulations also reduces if not eliminates any random “gut feeling” responses from interviewers and helps to focus on objective facts. You don’t want to remove your “gut instinct” from the process, just minimize using it with potentials who are close and comparable in skill based on your system.
Below is my proprietary 10 step system Hire-Right
1) Telephone Screen
2) Reference Checking
3) In-Person Interview
4) Industry specific testing
5) Sales Situation Simulations with Critique
6) Position Experience Day
7) 2nd In-Person Interview
8) Development Retention Class
9) Group Interview
10) Offer Meeting
There are, of course, different levels of intricacy/detail for each step and I will be explaining in more detail in future posts.
Remember salespeople are trained to make people like them. Plus, C-Potentials know if they obfuscate the facts long enough they can sneak by virtually any short term situation. Just long enough as it turns out to get a job at a company without a formal hiring system or enough steps in their system that will weed them out.
I know what you are thinking “Jeez John do we really need to put them through all these steps?” Categorically the answer is YES! Why do you want it to be easy for someone to get a job at your company? People quickly discard what is easily achieved, but something that is hard fought and won they will value greatly. Plus, the system tells them something about you. It tells them that you just don’t hire anybody and if they make it they are one of the elite, the best of the best.
The better question to ask yourself is what happens if you hire somebody who you think is a A-Player and they turn out to be a bust? How much money will you lose in your time and resources, your staff’s time training and coaching and how much will they cost you with customers? Can you live with those unknowns? Plus, when someone makes it through this system aside from the basics, you’ll learn the intangible things about them, things like…
1) Do they want this job enough to really work for it?
2) Can they do this job?
3) Can they handle the adversity that they are sure to experience at this job?
All key answers you need to know BEFORE making them an offer!
Also just like selling, hiring is as much as a disqualification process as a qualification on both sides of the equation. It is vitally important to not waste time on borderline recruits, or as I call them C-Potentials, this process takes long enough as is. You don’t want to waste your time with ‘average’ candidates, besides is sales the profession where you want to hire an average candidate?
Tune in tomorrow, 4/03/08, we’ll be going into the detail I have been promising and really start fleshing out your new hiring system.
“He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill.”
Hiring is just like sales. The recruit needs to “value” the position you are hiring for. If they don’t, just like in sales, when you simply throw a quote at the customer, you are competing almost excusively on price and not value.
I always tell my clients to ask themselves these 2 questions…
“How do you want the job you are screening for to be perceived?”
“Would you apply to this job?”
Start with a detailed job description. Talk to your best sales person and let them “walk you through their day”. Combine this with what you know they need to be a success at this position and you’re off to a good start. Remember if you don’t know what you are looking for and you can’t describe the position to your potentials you are starting off in the hole. (I will discuss more and show examples of a detailed sales job descriptions in future posts)
Whatever system you use it has to be made up of multiple “evaluation touch-points”. The U.S Marine Corp has done studies on effectiveness of their troops. What they found was that 2 people were 4 times as effective as 1 when they operated as a team. It is best to have at least 2 different people in the hiring process with both having equal hiring authority and conducting different portions of the process. This gives you 2 sets of eyes and ears all with one purpose in mind. (I will discuss more and show you sample versions of sales hiring processes in future posts)
There is more to cover and I am just getting started. Check back on 4/2/08 and tune in for part 2!