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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.

Hiring A Sales Superstar: The Telephone Screen

“We are generally the better persuaded by the reasons we discover ourselves than by those given to us by others”
Blasie Pascal

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!

Hiring A Sales Superstar: Measuring Your Results

“If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owed more to patient attention than to any other talent”


Issac Newton

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!

Hiring A Sales Superstar: The Position Contract

“If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.”
Sir Francis Bacon

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:

  • total number of calls and visits responded to, generated and converted into buying activity will be recorded, measured and reviewed using GoldMine reports
  • your personal lead conversion success will be recorded, measured and reviewed using GoldMine reports
  • new customer dollar quota____ defined as business that is not currently with (__________)
  • Scheduled work hours for this position are: As needed

Sales will:

  • develop & maintain an “at-a boy file”
  • develop & maintain a competition file
  • deliver weekly & monthly synopsis of concerns to Sales Manager in the form of 1:1 meeting
  • maintain & develop database of minimum 100 suspect companies at all times
  • be a resource of information to help the customer continually improve their overall business operation
  • fax/e-mail/mail to minimum 25 prospects per week, 100 per month, 1200 per year
  • follow up telephone contact and fax within 5 business days
  • continually analyze lead generation process and measure for consistent results, any revisions in the process will be documented and presented to Sales Manager for decision on implementation
  • conduct sales interviews according to sales strategy process
  • prepare proposal to address item(s) of dissatisfaction or needs
  • rehearse presentation in full in front of sales Sales Manager or at his prior approval, another sales associate or video tape (if video taped must be reviewed by Sales Manager)
    present proposals
  • arrange and orchestrate customer site visits
  • present actions necessary to advance and finalize the sale
  • arrange for implementation of ____ services
  • follow up on any lead or referral within a 24-hour time frame or forfeit that lead to the Sales Manager.
  • They will also document source, strategy and success of that lead in GoldMine database and reward the source through appropriate company procedures
  • continually analyze sales/marketing strategy and measure for consistent results, any revisions in the process will be documented and presented to Sales Manager for decision on implementation

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.

Hiring A Sales Superstar: Hire-Right System Steps


“What we must decide is how we are valuable rather

than how valuable we are.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

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.

Hiring A Sales Superstar: The Job Description

“He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill.”

-Edmund Burke

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!