The secrets to hire and manage a top performing sales team

The 7 things that deceive companies when hiring sales reps

The 7 things that deceive companies when hiring sales reps

Too many times companies look at the wrong things when hiring sales reps.

There are some common mistakes that companies make when hiring sales reps.  These mistakes end up costing companies a huge amount of resources and money. U.S. firms spend a whopping $15 billion a year training salespeople (HBR, 2017). But does it make business sense to train who don’t have what is required to be a stellar sales rep? Or one who needs to build certain skills and traits from the ground up?
We reviewed some of these traits in a previous blog post, as well as in our interview with Zuzana Kudelova. Nonetheless, many companies struggle to uncover them through the traditional recruitment process. Even worse, companies look at the wrong things to make their final hiring decisions.
In this blog-post we will learn:
  • The traits that are generally easy to look at during an assessment process for a sales role
  • The traits generally missed and that proves to be fundamental for sales success
  • How bias and gut-feelings determine the outcome of the current recruitment process.

The three things easy to measure during when hiring sales reps

At least three things lead companies to make an instant judgment. There are of course more, but these are three good examples:
  1. The CV: 85% of all candidates lie on their CVs. Yet companies screen in/out the vast majority of applicants simply looking at:
    • the candidates’ self-declared accomplishments,
    • the previous companies they worked at
    • years of experience
  2. Self-confidence: This might be a good predictor of future performance.  Unfortunately, when not associated with other traits, it is worth absolutely nothing. Being successful in sales is a lot more than being confident. It’s about being consistent and optimist first. Self-confidence is only part of the equation and without the first two is worth little. Additionally, people tend to confound self-confidence with arrogance. When this happens bad hiring mistakes are very common.
  3. Oratory skills: of course, being a master in the art of speaking can is a fundamental part of the sales job. Unfortunately, on their own, this is not a guarantee for top sales performance.

The three attitude traits difficult to measure during the recruitment process

Companies might skip the assessment of a large number of attitude traits when interviewing candidates.

This is generally due to an unstructured recruitment process. The traditional CVs/interviews approach is another major cause
  1. Grit: the way a person reacts to adversity, and negative outcomes is a fundamental predictor of sales performance. More about it in this great Ted Talk
  2. Achievement striving: Sales stars have this intrinsic instinct to compete and excel. It might be competing with other people’s or competing against one’s own performance. The idea to excel is at the core of what they do. Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult to establish this quality during an interview. In fact, candidates can easily fake them during a face-to-face interaction.
  3. Self-discipline: this is a fundamental part of any sales role. For example, the capability of a person to stick to routines is a critical skill.

Why “bias” is the 7th element deceiving companies during the recruitment process

A large number of personal biases affect decisions during the recruitment process. In some roles, like in Design or Software Engineering ones, it is easy to look for proofs of work. Asking for a skills test might appear more difficult to request for a sales role. Hence, most times, decisions to hire a candidate as a new sales rep is mostly based on gut-feelings.

The 7 capital biases

There are at least seven relevant biases, as described by Forbes:
  • Halo Effect: Our impression of a person influences what we end up thinking about a candidate. Halo effect is largely based on first impressions.
  • Horn Effect: This is the opposite of the Halo effect. Any perception of an unfavorable characteristic in a candidate creates an unconscious bias. This can overshadow their other traits, beliefs, and actions.
  • Leniency Effect: A particular interviewee might be rated too negatively because of the interviewer’s own context, or their negative view of certain personality traits.
  • Contrast Effect: When a candidate seems better than the ones before them you are more likely to rate them much higher than you normally would.
  • Confirmation Bias: This is the tendency to search for information during the interview process that confirms your pre-existing beliefs.
  • Conformity: We want to fit in. When evaluating a candidate with your colleagues, you will unconsciously decide to agree with the majority.
  • Personal Similarity Bias: We tend to favor people who are most similar to us. This is an implicit bias that we all carry within us. We attribute good personality traits to people whom we can relate to.
You can hire top salespeople only after understanding the current gaps of your assessment process.
Do you rely too much on the CV to pre-screen candidates? How much the candidate self-confidence and ability to talk influence your decisions? How do you assess for traits like achievement striving, grit, and self-discipline? What type of biases affects your judgment?

Let us know what you do to avoid these hiring mistakes

Hiring objectively is a fundamental step. It will help you ensure you never hire again the wrong candidates, a fact that is even more important in sales. We will cover in a future blog post how to do it and ensure hiring top candidates. Meanwhile, you can check our site if you want to find an easy and quick way of doing it.
We are very interested to know how you assess your candidates in sales roles. Please let us know in the comments!

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