article | August 22, 2013
Sales Hiring Best Practice: Test Before You Offer
HR has worked hard to find capable talent, and Sales has committed time and money to ramp the new hire. Result: another failure to launch.
If you’re a Sales or HR leader, this may be happening all too often. You wonder, “How can we be sure we hire the right people?” The answer may lie in what you are not doing. The focus is too often on behavioral factors. Résumés, interviews and reference checks only reveal what the candidate has done in the past. How can you predict the future? One proven way is the job tryout.
Execution is the missing ingredient in new talent assessment. Right now, NFL players are trying to win jobs on the starting team. Their past work has been evaluated. Interviews with the head coach and coordinators give positive signs. But they won’t get into the huddle on game day until they prove their skills in a tryout. The final step in their ‘hiring process’ is proof of execution. Sales can learn a lesson here.
This post will help take the risk out of sales hiring. Download the Sales Job Tryout Toolkit. Read on and you’ll be ready to Make the Number in 2014.
The Proving Ground
What’s involved in a Job Tryout? Here’s a 7-step overview of a tryout for a sales rep. (To get the details, download the Toolkit.)
Expand the Tryout
The tryout works well across a variety of Sales roles. Here are examples of 3 more scenarios that reveal the true capabilities of a candidate:
Sales Operations Leader – Scenario: Data quality of the current CRM system is highly inaccurate. The candidate analyzes potential root causes, prioritizes failure points for correction and offers an action plan with options.
Sales Manager – Scenario: Only 2 of 8 members of the sales team are making the number. The candidate determines what is causing the rest of the team to perform poorly. The output is a plan to get the entire team on track.
VP of Sales – Scenario: Marketing is not providing enough leads for the Sales team to succeed. There is disagreement about the quality of the leads and responsibility for qualifying potential. The candidate identifies the key drivers at work and presents a solution based on facts.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
A strong track record, experience and references are hallmarks of the “A” player. Interviews validate the paper credentials. But don’t stop there.
The final step is execution. It is by far the most predictable way to forecast how a candidate will perform after onboarding. Execution means actually doing the job. A job tryout holds the key.
A job tryout requires preparation. It takes time to perform. But it pays off in the end because it reduces costly mis-hires. And it’s reserved only for finalists.
An example of past work is not a substitute. It’s true that sample presentations, proposals or business plans give valuable insight. But the job tryout is a exercise that proves how the candidate prepares, thinks and acts.
The Overview of the Sales Job Tryout is shown at the left.
A Slice of the Real World
For sales roles, the most effective tryout is a sales presentation. The instructions include data about a fictional customer and business needs. The candidate researches the potential solutions and creates a recommendation. The time spent on this effort reveals several things. The candidate gets a sense for the work involved in the new job. If the tryout effort is disagreeable, the real job will be more of the same. The candidate’s engagement in the tryout is a strong predictor of likelihood of accepting a job offer. Only serious players take this step forward.
The execution during the tryout is invaluable. Top candidates can rehearse answers to interview questions. The job tryout produces real sweat, and real reactions to pressure. Questions from the panel test the candidate’s ability to handle objections on the fly. It just can’t be faked.
The Scorecard is shown above.
For solutions sold over phone and internet, the virtual tryout even more revealing. It requires resourcefulness to command attention of multi-taskers on the phone. The candidate’s skills with web-based presentation tools are on full display. The panel sees how quickly the candidate absorbed the knowledge needed to be successful. This is a powerful indicator of future onboarding ramp speed.
The Final Score
Top sales producers love the chance to perform. The exercise actually reassures them that this is the right next job. Hiring sales managers also get a clear sense of how the candidate will fare. The tryout is often the deciding factor among two “A” players. Both look good on paper, but one rises to the top in the tryout. The Sales Job Tryout Toolkit gives the panelists a scorecard to quantify their assessments.
In the end, the sales hiring decision has less risk. You can decide if the gap between what you see and what you need can be trained. The interview only assesses what the candidate knows. The job tryout assesses what they can do. You need both. The tryout also reveals resourcefulness. Where did the candidate go to get information? How creative? How persistent? How hard did they work to win the job? The tryout tests writing, presenting, thinking and selling skills. All at one time.
HR and Sales leaders need a steady pipeline of “A” player sales talent. Every mis-hire is a costly step backward. The Job Tryout Toolkit is a valuable tools we offer free. Take the risk out of hiring decisions and reliably add top talent to your team.
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