A sales candidate who comes to you with substantial industry experience and/or a great book of business can seem like a dream come true.
Considering the potential for leveraging the candidate’s experience and contacts, it may even be tempting to shortcut the testing and interviewing process.
Make no mistake, experience is critical, especially when you need the salesperson to start producing quickly. However, a careful vetting process is still essential.
In some cases, it is important for a candidate to have previous sales experience. This guarantees that the candidate has knowledge regarding the position for which you are interviewing her.
However, making experience the primary determinant in whether to hire someone and foregoing the rest of the hiring process can be dangerous.
Your company’s hiring process should include much more than simply matching job skills to a resume. After all, experience only tells part of the story, and resumes may be embellished.
In evaluating a potential salesperson, there are many factors to consider. Although they do not carry the same weight of importance, here are some of the top traits to look for:
- Skills and Knowledge: Foundational skills and knowledge about a particular job are important to consider when hiring a candidate as this will lessen the amount of on-the-job training required to get the salesperson up to. However, a candidate can always learn additional skills and gain more extensive knowledge on the job. A previously experienced candidate can turn out to be your company’s top salesperson.
- Personality: Some personality characteristics are unteachable past the early ‘20s and extremely difficult to change. Most people have established characteristics that define who they are as a person and how they will perform in their jobs. The necessary Drive to succeed as a hunter salesperson is something that can be detected only through pre-employment aptitude test and during an interview. Nothing on a resume will indicate a person’s actual personality, especially their level of Drive.
- Drive: Having a high level of Drive outweighs experience because Drive is what will allow a person to perform well in the midst of selling, will push them to continue to challenge themselves to achieve more and cause them to never settle. A person’s Need for Achievement (the desire to attain excellence and perform well), Competitiveness (wanting to outperform peers and win customers over) and their Optimism (a sense of certainty that a positive result will reign supreme every time no matter the circumstances) will determine whether a salesperson will do well on the job, even more so than their previous experience.
How Does Drive Compare to Sales Experience?
It is not necessarily the experience a candidate brings to the table that will matter in the long run of their sales career; rather it is the Drive they bring to their position.
A lesser experienced, high Drive candidate will beat out a highly experienced, low Drive candidate in the world of sales every time. That is because it is Drive that matters most.
And keep in mind that Drive is not something you will be able to easily recognize from a resume or interview.
In fact, Drive can only be determined through a pre-employment aptitude test where the passion and determination to sell well can be accurately identified.
Preparing for a Sales Interview
When a candidate with lots of experience is being considered for a spot on your sales team and a pre-employment aptitude test has been administered assuring you that they have high levels of Drive, it is time to continue to the next phase of hiring process — setting up an interview with the candidate.
Research their experience before the interview so that you can focus on asking qualified behavioral questions.
While listening to the candidate’s response, keep the following recommendations in mind:
- Do not make first impressions and judge the candidate based on the extent of their previous experience, especially if it is high. Look for the potential and personality of the candidate that will fit your company’s needs and match the right person to the position.
- Do not base a hiring decision on background over behavior. More experience does not always mean better sales performance, especially for your company. Sometimes a more experienced candidate is rigid in their ways and less adaptable to other companies’ needs, including yours. Also, sometimes experience from years ago is irrelevant in today’s sales world.
- Do consider taking a risk on a candidate with less experience if their Drive is high and the fit for your company seems right. This will diversify your company and allow for more opportunities for your company to grow. Sometimes a fresh new face is what you need on your sales team and the potential they hold with their levels of Drive will allow them to “stretch” their abilities and outperform even the highest experienced salespeople.
It is important to continue the hiring process with an interview regardless of a person’s experience to get a well-rounded idea of how the candidate may perform on your sales team.
As a hiring manager, you need to dig beneath the surface to determine the quality as well as the quantity of that experience.
In particular, we need to answer three key questions:
Does the candidate have experience at a similarly-sized company?
Candidates from companies of a different size than our own may have difficulty adapting to the unique challenges of our sales cycle and brand recognition level.
For example, a candidate with experience at a larger company with strong brand awareness and a short sales cycle may have trouble moving to a smaller, younger company with a longer cycle.
Why is the candidate looking for a new position?
Is it a performance issue, or are they simply looking for a new challenge? Look at their previous job moves as well to assess longevity as well as other consistent patterns of behavior behind their moves.
Will the candidate continue to bring the same effort to bear for you?
If we are looking for a hunter, we need to be sure the candidate will continue calling on new accounts, rather than relying only on their existing book of business. This is where a Drive-focused pre-employment aptitude test and interview are critical.
Experience is a necessary factor when determining whether to hire a salesperson for your company, though it should not be at the expense of everything else, especially Drive.
Utilizing a pre-employment aptitude test such as the DriveTest™ can help you see determine whether a candidate is a good match for your company.
Taking into consideration a combination of the candidate’s experience, Drive and interview will allow you to make the best hiring decision for your company.