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Four Tips for Not Getting ‘Sold’ by Your Next Hotshot Salesperson

How to hire sales professionals -- emphasis on professionals

By COREY WEINER

Salespeople sell stuff. You don't think they can interview impressively and charm someone into a second meeting?

An anomaly is the sales professional who, when production expectation and compensation subjects arise in an interview says, "Gee, not sure. I will plan this and that and employ all my contacts to wind up at X in revenues, but cannot promise a number in good faith."

More common, they name drop, trade war stories and speak of "money to be made." Ask yourself, if a sales professional is so great in his present position, why is he seeking a new one and negotiating a draw and health insurance benefits with me?

Don't always believe the hype

Would you rather hire an upfront, articulate individual motivated for change than a loud-barking dynamo talking about winning sales contests? This happens all the time. Impressive sales in one organization do not necessarily dictate the equivalent in another. Industry dynamics shift, economic cycles grow volatile and unique selling propositions become obsolete.

Learn to appreciate a back story – or hire a consigliere who does. Save yourself disappointment and avoid feeding into impracticality. If you are hurting for business and desperate to get some points on the board fast, of course you want to believe a salesperson's claims of greatness. So you give the benefit of the doubt, request his/her production statistics (if available) and pull the trigger.

Fifty-fifty chance it stings you.

What to do from here

Appreciate moderation – Noone is suggesting you make inquiring candidates jump hoops and run a metaphoric 40-yard dash as if your organization is NASA. That being said, avoid too casual of a recruitment process. Free lunches seldom appear, especially when you’re most in need of a revenue miracle.

Keep your ear to the ground – If too preoccupied with other responsibilities, have a right hand man you can dispatch for reconnaissance missions. This may include industry functions and even lunch with competitors or peers. Any successful salesperson will tell you much of their talent lies in psychology. That is to say consumer buying decisions are a result of one's level of comfort interpersonally more so than actual products and services.

Biotechnology companies distributing insulin for diabetics are a straightforward example. A patient’s life might absolutely depend on having the product. Demand is inelastic. If given a choice, however, physicians treating such patients prefer to obtain theirs from a likeable and trusted marketing representative. Whether to carry insulin samples is not the issue at hand. Whose insulin it is.

Think more like a copywriter than a human resource associate or staffing manager – Have you observed job descriptions from administrative roles up to division directors in multiple industries lately? A number of them are more lengthy and confusing than reading Shakespeare. As a salesperson yourself, you know damn well you would avoid reading four pages of functions and requirements for a given job opportunity. In as few words as possible, get your target candidate’s attention, interest, create a desire to speak with you about the job/ your organization, and take action with a call or intro letter.

Humble yourself – This is a touchy subject, especially for any decision maker in a position of authority. Make a specific point of expressing your organization’s value proposition to your sales force during the course of the interview. Do not assume someone is impressed with cherry wood furnishings, sterling cuff links and what stock exchange your organization trades on. If a candidate is worth anything, he/she has no energy for power plays.

Such an interviewing style works only to the extent the candidate is desperate or low caliber with nothing to lose and usually turns "hitters" off. The result: enough time amusing friends at happy hour with stories of job interviews-turned-circus acts in response to being interviewed as if a second-rate organization's portfolio is the end-all be-all to film a reality show.

It's a tough time in the U.S. economy the last decade or so. Producers have enough stress for three lives over mortgage payments, cars with talking maps in them and very fancy mobile phones while salaries and commission payouts sink subtly. Neither you nor a sales rep pursuing a new place to call home have the time and energy to waste being anything other than straightforward professionals.

You owe it to each other and yourselves.