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There's a right way and wrong way to hire sales people for any product. Surprisingly, most sales managers use the wrong way and wonder why their reps underperform.

If you don't want to hire any decent salespeople, just do the following:

How to hire unqualified salespeople

  1. Start by putting together a list of personal attributes. Include things like assertiveness, strong interpersonal skills, good communication skills and ability to influence people.
  2. Add a bunch of "must have" requirements to the list including specific years of selling experience, an exact description of the products you're selling and a quick statement of the types of customers the person needs to know.
  3. Of course, in addition to the above laundry list, put your own list of benefits and highlight those things top salespeople couldn't care less about.
  4. Include in your list at least 10 boring responsibilities and make sure you include the part about filling in expense reports.
  5. Don't forget to begin the job description with a generic piece of boilerplate about how good your company is and how it's all of the people in your company that make it a great place to work.
  6. Don't forget to emphasize the fact that all candidates must undergo a thorough screening including a personality test, drug screening and honesty test.
  7. When you interview candidates focus mostly on the quality of their appearance, affability, how assertive they are and if they're good talkers. If all of these are positive, ask them a bunch of softball questions, don't listen to their answers and immediately start selling them on your job. If their first impression is weak, ask some tough questions so you can defend your decision not to hire the person to HR.
  8. If you do all of the above and hire some sales reps this way, make sure you pay them at least 10 to 15 percent more than you should because these people are better at getting jobs than selling your products.

While this approach is laughable it's actually what happens at many companies. In fact, I just reviewed 25 different open sales positions at random on and steps 1-6 were followed to a tee. This is a great way to turn off every good salesperson and only see the most desperate and hire the friendliest.

However, if you actually want to hire great sales reps, ignore the above and do the following:

  1. Define the job as a series of performance objectives that actually define the work a top sales rep does. Ask these kind of questions when preparing these types of performance-based job descriptions, "What do our best reps do differently every day that ensures they make or exceed their quarterly quota targets?" The outcome will be 6-8 performance objectives that define the process of sales success, from getting the first lead to the final close and everything important in between.
  2. Determine the employee value proposition (EVP) by asking, "Why would a top performing sales rep accept our job if the person already had a good job or had a few competing offers from other good companies?" Something like, "Uncover hidden gems in this forgotten sales territory," might work.
  3. Never post a boring job description again. Instead prepare a job posting in the following format:
    • Have an attention grabbing title
    • Lead with the EVP that integrates the ideal candidate's intrinsic motivator
    • Highlight the 3-4 critical aspects of the job and tie these to the importance of the product line to the company's strategy
    • Have the person send you a paragraph describing their biggest sales accomplishment
    • Set up a time for a quick exploratory discussion
  4. During the interview have the candidate walk step-by-step in detail through his or her most significant and most comparable sales accomplishment. Map this to your company's process of sales success. Pay particular attention to how the lead was developed, who the buyers were and the intensity of the buying decision and the competition, the process from moving from the first lead to how the sale was negotiated and closed. If there's a fit with this first one, do this again for 3-4 other sales accomplishments. Also focus on how the person managed and prioritized all of his or her sales activities.
  5. If the complexity of the product line, the selling and closing process and the buying teams are similar, you're ready to move to the final interviewing round. For this you'll need to use the complete Performance-based Interview using this Quality of Hire Talent Scorecard to make the assessment.

There's a right way and a wrong way to hire anybody. Actually, sales positions are the easiest jobs to define using a performance-based job description but the people are the most difficult to accurately interview. The problem: Even average salespeople tend to be outgoing, assertive, affable and good talkers. Whenever I meet someone like this I put my cynical hat on and assume I'm being sold something I don't want to buy. I then start digging into the person's best accomplishments. Even better: When I find someone for a sales position who makes a less-than-stellar first impression I give the person the benefit of the doubt and start digging into the person's best accomplishments. Doing this hundreds of times, the one thing I've discovered about all great salespeople: They have a track record of great sales accomplishments. And quite frankly, that's what you really need to know when evaluating salespeople.