Preventing Sales hire remorse

Many founders flounder with international sales hiring.  They end up with sales hiring remorse - and the scars to prove it.  A sales hiring mistake results in finger pointing and costs a big six figure sum.  Most founders don't use a disciplined hiring process.  If they did, and stuck to it, their success rate would be higher.

During the early stages, company revenue is dependent on the founder team.  This is not due to their honed sales skills but their deep understanding of customer's problems and how they can solve them.

New sales hires don't have this innate understanding.  The great ones will have skills, experience and talents very different to those of the founders.  To find them and maximise the odds of success build a disciplined sales hiring process and use the following questions as your guide to prevent sales hire remorse:

1. What exactly do you want them to do?

Are you looking for a hunter of new customers or a farmer to win revenue from existing ones?  What do you want them to do? Generate leads? Orchestrate sales? Close deals? Be clear on territories, sales quotas, compensation plans and reporting lines.  Top quality candidates will lose interest if you are not clear on exactly what you want them to do.

2. What is the profile of a successful sales performer?

Seek input from experienced colleagues and industry experts to establish the top 7 profile criteria (skills, personal characteristics, behaviours/ performance and experience) needed to succeed in your company.  Think about the profile of existing successful performers.  Put this profile at the heart of your selection process.  Use it as a benchmark for interviewing, assessing performance, and reference checking.

3. Who will help you?

Some CEOs claim to have the Midas touch but experienced help ensures more insightful assessment.  Who will help you? Think about who to involve for initial phone elimination, in-person, and final shortlist interviews.  Consider also utilising the services of sales recruitment experts and for the US someone like sales training guru Dave Stein who writes an excellent blog on sales hiring.

4. Where will you find good ones?

Getting star performers is tough and selecting from a small pool is risky.  Create options through your own networks, using networking tools like Linkedin or perhaps recruitment firms?  Good candidates often have compensation plans you can't afford.  Think about how to position the role to make it challenging and attractive to star performers?  What's your big vision for the future?  What's in it for them? 

5. How will you get the best from the interview process?

Interviews present a golden opportunity, often wasted due to poor preparation and time management. Prepare questions to assess whether the candidate is a good fit for the profile you have created.  Use the interview time to probe hard on the areas that are key for success, rather than listening to a CV pitch.   Think carefully about your style of