Hiring Sales Pros

Quit Relying on Your Intuition When Hiring Your Sales Team

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“[Chad Bradford] is one of the most undervalued players in baseball. […] Nobody in the big leagues cares about him, because he looks funny.” — Jonah Hill (playing Oakland A’s Assistant GM, Peter Brand), Moneyball

In 2002, a Major League Baseball team took a revolutionary approach to building their team. The Oakland A’s were struggling financially and reeling from the loss of several star players when they adopted a statistics-backed recruiting method. By turning attention away from intuition and toward measurable factors that got players on base, the A’s changed their team—and then the league.

Hiring is often similar. Traditional, intuition-based decisions may lead to hiring a perfectly lovely person with a delightful personality who would rather get a root canal than ask for a sale. Their prospects (though charmed) never sign on the dotted line. Mistakes like these are costly, leading good candidates to your competitor’s doorstep and the wrong people to the front lines, misrepresenting your company.

Related: How to Hire Your First Salesperson

Redefining hiring practices allows us to avoid putting too much value on the wrong things and directs our attention to the attributes that get people “on base.” In order to move away from recruiting and hiring based on intuition, businesses should add third party testing, do group interviews and consider company culture.

Third-party testing

In Moneyball (a film based on the Oakland A’s game-changing season), Jonah Hill’s character describes players getting “overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws—age, appearance, personality.” It turns out that in baseball (and in sales) many of the attributes that lead to the win (or the sale) can be measured statistically. Tests such as the SPQ Gold and Strength Finder objectively measure yielding tendencies, the ability to ask for a sale and other winning qualities.

One of my clients was about to eliminate a candidate because he didn’t have sales experience and had long, unkempt hair. I took one look at the same candidate’s SPQ results and convinced the company to reconsider. The man went on to become the company’s top salesperson.

A person’s style can change, but the kind of consciousness he brought to the table is unteachable. You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but this is the guy you don’t want selling for your competitor.

Considering assessments, first, safeguards you against making biased decisions. To hire based on attributes that allow people to get “on base,” have all of your employees take the tests and then identify what attributes your best employees in each role demonstrate. Take that information into the next step, and you’re instantly more equipped because it allows you to identify your Moneyball attributes.

Related: Build a Stellar Sales Team

Group interviews

I love group interviews. They speed up the process and allow me to watch how people react when they are outside their comfort zone. Having someone else at the interview to observe is an additional safeguard against your biases. The observer can let you know if you’re drawn to someone because they validated your opinion or got you talking about your children and hobbies, rather than for their salesmanship.

Present the opportunity for candidates to debate amongst themselves, so you can observe. The subject of the debate is inconsequential. Whether you ask what the best flavor of ice cream is or what color the company’s logo should be, you’ll quickly recognize who are the leaders.

Culture building

With each decision, consider the culture you are building. Culture is the magnifier for your strategy. It’s what happens when no one is looking. Hire people who will add something beneficial to what you’ve built because culture eats strategy for lunch. Ask yourself, “What is this person going to do to the other people on my team?” Do they add or take away from the team?''

Don’t focus on what you like or don’t like about them. Ask yourself how they fit into your bigger visions and direction.

Make sure you communicate the culture and the position. Be honest about the job. You don’t want anyone to have the honeymoon feeling and then find out it’s not like they thought it would be. For example, you may say something like, “We are a company of victors, not victims.” Let them know that if what you describe isn’t a good fit, it’s okay.

If you hire the wrong people, you’ll spend the next several years trying to move them out of your company. If you hire the right people and set up the right coaching programs, you will never have to fire anyone again. Your team will hit a home run—again and again—and then win the championship.

Sales: Four Signs a Sales Pro Will Be a Good Hire (Hint: Think Money)