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There Will Be a Test

Reduce turnover--and heighten success--by measuring motivation before you hire.

If you were to ask most sales managers about the most important attributes they look for in a candidate for a job, you'd probably hear adjectives like motivated, disciplined, energetic or hard-working.

What's the central theme here? Effort! Most managers will hire a rep without experience or industry knowledge as long as that candidate is willing to give 110 percent effort. If we could measure a sales rep's effort before he or she was hired, we would have one very popular product on our hands. Although no one can predict the future, there are several practical ideas that will dramatically increase your chances for success by measuring candidates' effort, creativity and energy before you hire.

  • The presentation. After the first or second interview with a candidate, hand that individual one of your product brochures. Explain that you'd like him or her to return in a few days to sell you the product. Don't give out any more information. You want to see how much effort the candidate puts into finding out about your company, product, needs and so on. Then, in the next interview, evaluate the following:
    • Amount of research, time and effort put into the presentation;
    • How creative the candidate got with his or her approach; and
    • His or her selling skills, from start to finish.

    If you're interviewing an experienced sales rep, you might ask that candidate to sell you the product he or she is currently marketing. You can still use your own product as part of this exercise to measure preparation and effort prior to the next interview. The key in both situations is to measure communication skills, sales skills and effort. Of course, if the candidate doesn't come back to sell your product, you've got your answer.

  • 30-day action plan. For the next interview, have the candidate bring back a detailed outline of what he or she would do to ensure success by the end of the first 30 days after his or her training. This will not only evaluate the effort spent thinking and writing about activities and goals, but also illuminate his or her thoughts regarding what it takes to get the job done.
  • Why them? Why us? Have your candidates list 10 reasons that make them feel qualified for the job and what they can offer your company. Then have them list several reasons why they want to work for your company, why that specific industry, why sales and more.
  • Field trip. After the second or third interview, have the candidate spend half a day in the field with one of your experienced sales reps. Select one of your better reps and make sure that person goes through a typical day of sales calls (canvassing, customer visits and appointments). This is a great chance to expose the candidate to a realistic view of the job-while simultaneously recognizing your sales rep as a role model. Another benefit: The candidate may open up to the sales rep, who'll be viewed as a peer, about questions and concerns that might never come up during the official interview. Involving a senior sales rep in the employment process not only helps the candidate make a better career decision, but also helps to reduce turnover.
  • Nothing's worse than investing lots of time, energy and money on an employee-only to see your efforts go to waste several months later because the person you hired lacks internal motivation. But by employing these four methods in the hiring process, you'll be able to measure motivation from the start. Think about it: When a candidate puts a lot of energy and effort into getting hired, you're likely to see those same attributes demonstrated on the job.

    Barry Farber is the author of 11 books on sales, management and peak performance. His latest release, "Diamond in the Rough" CD program, is based on his book, radio and television show. Visit him at www.BarryFarber.com, or email him at barry@barryfarber.com.

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    This article was originally published in the May 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: There <i>Will</i> Be a Test.

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