Avoiding Groupthink

I’ve been recruiting for almost 40 years.  Transactions between hiring authorities and search consultants remain the same.  Employer’s sole focus is on my candidates’ “measurables”; i.e. credentials, statistics, competitors, etc… Data in, outdated?   Is it time to re-consider traditional personnel evaluation processes?

In Sales Job history is Overrated?

The executives I survey agree – sales personnel is different.  So why search for, evaluate and hire sales talent the same way we recruit engineers and accountants.

In a perfect world, my clients receive resumes they covet underscored by exceptional character traits.  Today, more open reqs exist than available personnel.  And that supply – demand equation is more lopsided for qualified Software (SaaS) sales representatives.

A recent Wall Street Journal attributes this imbalance to many factors:

“Some companies are having a hard time selling people on a career in sales.

As the U.S. economy gains momentum, companies selling technology and other services to corporate customers are struggling to fill potentially lucrative sales jobs.

Technical sales and sales-management positions play a critical role for U.S. businesses, but they are among the hardest to fill, according to a 2014 report from Harvard Business School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project. Employers spent an average of 41 days trying to fill technical sales jobs, compared with an average of 33 days for all jobs for the 12-month period ending in September 2014, according to Burning Glass.

The youngest generation of workers, having lived through the financial crisis and recession, is more risk-averse, say sales executives, adding that young prospects are reluctant to enter a hard-charging work environment where success often boils down to a number.

In addition, “there’s a huge stereotype that sales isn’t really a career—that either anyone can do it or you’re born to it,” said Suzanne Fogel, chair of the marketing department at DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business. Parents share some of those misconceptions, and often dissuade their children from pursuing sales careers, she added.”

Alternatives Abound/Sales Hiring 2020

Creative ways of unearthing truly valuable sales people exist.  Start by searching in different pools for profiles.  99% of competitors target the same credential set.  Next-level recruiting begins with widening your lens.  Once you identify hidden gems approach her with questions that reveal individual qualities that constitute sales excellence.

For example, if you’re hiring an inside SaaS sales representative your company’s requirement looks like this: 3+ years quota attainment selling SaaS in a high call volume environment, job stability and 4-year college degree.  Reality – even if you win the recruiting battle, her odds of being a top-producer are 50/50. Why? My experience shows that cultural, chemical fit is more predictive of long-tenured successful sales placements than any factor. It`s logical to hire the candidate with the best resume, not always fruitful. Plus, reps that have been trained in another`s system are molded differently.

Consider searching for prospects that have over-achieved in their personal lives.  i.e. paid their way through College by selling door-to-door, earned a full scholarship and top GPA.  Or hire from an industry that demands customer service skills in a fast-paced, stressful environment i.e. a fast-casual food service.  Or recruit top ranked athletes or artists with a burning desire to prove themselves in customer facing occupation. Consider the benefits of starting with a clean slate and the self-motivation to get ahead in life.

Changing the focus of your screening criteria requires an open mind and confidence in your business plan. Once you’ve found a strong applicant that’s determined to break into IT Sales, how do you know she has what it takes?

Find out how she got there. Find out what obstacles she had to overcome to be promoted three times in three years. Then ask her “why” she chose to stay with Chipotle.  Ask what sacrifices she had to make to get there.  Ask her about her peers and how that group has changed as she’s climbed the ladder.

Go one step further to determine her level of hunger by asking how she would have handled it if she did not get promoted.  Listen for clues about her worth ethic.  And as you listen, key in on the one trait that every superstar sales rep I’ve ever met has – Resilience.

What only Salespeople Know

Sales is all about the experience no one mentions.  Sales is not glamorous-except the day you close a huge deal.  Sales is about discipline.  Sales is about planning.  Above all else Sales is about BBA – Bounce Back Ability.  Toughness.  Thick skin.  Emotional maturity.  Self-Belief.  Goals beyond #’s. So, a dearth of quality credentials does not stop a thorough recruiter.

Mike Lombardi quotes NFL Legend Bill Walsh in his great novel “Gridiron Genius” – “If we are all thinking alike, no one is thinking.”  Walsh’s career consists of an undefeated track record in 4 Super Bowls and innovative approaches that changed the game. (West Coast Offense for example)

The NFL is proxy for the hiring challenges faced today by the Software Industry.  We can learn from what we perceive on the field of play as results are palpable/dramatic.  Right here, right now in Denver we have the perfect example in Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay. He`s so small (by NFL standards) he didn`t get invited to their annual scouting combine, nor was he drafted by any franchise. A hometown connection lead to a tryout with our beloved Broncos and the rest as they say… is history. Lindsay now leads the NFL in yards per carry and experts are touting him for Offensive Rookie of The Year honors.

The one thing these multi-billion dollar organizations all missed was the size of Phillip Lindsay’s heart. His “want-to” didn`t show up on the prescriptive credential set all 32 teams blindly adhered to.

The essence of sales success stems from one`s individual spirit. Scouting for that is rigorous. But it`s the part of the job we (The Pinnacle Source) love.  Now is a perfect time to wade fresh waters. The science of recruiting has a lot to learn from his brother -art. Or you can rely on the newest technology from ZAPPER recruiter now promising in their radio ads a “short-list of unicorns”.

The choice is yours.