Head of Sales After MishireThis requires a “real life” scenario be required as part of the hiring process.  Most sales leaders discount the job tryout because it is difficult.  It is the most important component of any hiring process.

This post is written for the head of sales of a rapidly growing organization.  We asked you what causes frustration, and talent was mentioned every time.  We will discuss how to test for great sales talent.


Hiring the wrong talent can make your professional life extremely painful.  It is very costly for your organization.  Mishires can cost 5-7 times first year salary.  The productivity dip caused by turnover can ruin this year and next.


In previous blogs, we discussed the importance of measuring candidate competencies.  This step is important.  The job tryout allows you to validate the competency interview findings through observation. 


Why is the job tryout important?

Have you ever dealt with the professional interviewer?  He has a great resume. He can make himself sound like a millions bucks in an interview.  Everyone involved in the hiring process gives him a thumbs up.  So you hire him.  But he can’t execute once in the role.  You end up turning him over a year later.  In return you receive an empty territory and wasted resources.  The job tryout can flush out this candidate’s inability to execute.  ‘A’ players can execute consistently while ‘C’ players cannot. 


The Sales Rep job tryout has 4 distinct components


    1. Scenario – provide the candidate with a sales scenario.  It should be specific enough that the candidate can perform proper research.  It should not require substantial industry knowledge.  You are testing for sales skills not industry experience.


    2. Discovery(30 minutes) – the candidate can ask questions regarding the case study.  They should act as if they are talking to a mid-level influencer.  You can test their ability to ask probing questions.


      • Were they prepared for the call?
      • What type of research did they do?
      • Did they ask follow on questions?
      • Did they fast frame your responses to ensure clarity?
      • How do they use this information in subsequent steps of the job tryout?


    3. Face-to-Face Meeting (60 minutes) – the candidate sits down with the all the stakeholders involved in the hiring process.  They act like the buying decision team within the customer.  Each stakeholder should act like a buyer Persona within their customer.   The candidate should approach this like a formal sales call.


      • How is their presence?
      • Do they match messaging to your needs as described in the previous discussion?
      • Who talks more?
      • Do they define next steps


    4. Follow-Up – do not present this as a step to the candidate.  They should send a follow-up communication after the face-to-face meeting.  Some things to look for:


      • Do they send a follow-up communication in a timely manner?
      • Does the communication drive action?
      • Does it accurately summarize the meeting?
      • Is it focused on your objectives as the buyer? 


Candidate Instructions – the candidate should be told to approach this scenario like a sales campaign.  Nothing is assumed, so they should execute all tasks as they normally would. 


Where does the job tryout fit into the hiring process?  Below is an example.


Hiring Process


The tryout process does not represent a full sales cycle.  We find that top reps approach the early opportunity meetings differently than average reps.  They communicate in customer terms.  They ask great questions to uncover needs.  They bring insight that leads the customer to their solution. 


The tryout step may seem like a burden.  It is.  Adding 2 hours in the hiring process to avoid a bad hire is worthwhile.  Skip this step and risk wasting hundreds of hours on a bad hire.  Remember, the cost of a sales mishire is typically 5-7 times first year’s salary.  Mitigating that cost is definitely worth a 2 hour time investment.


How to get started


  • Build the scenario to test the desired competencies.
  • Pick a real life scenario
      • Provide prospect/customer background
      • Hint to possible problems the customer is facing
      • Provide a partial description of the buying decision team
      • Explain some of the competitive landscape
      • Provide relevant metrics they would typically obtain from internal systems
  • Make the scenario difficult and leave some details vague
  • Give detailed instructions to the candidate
  • Provide the same scenario to every candidate
  • Hire better sales talent


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Scott Gruher

Orchestrates and designs the perfect project strategy, one engagement at a time, to ensure that every SBI client makes their number.

Scott joined SBI in 2010 with years of hands-on experience in sales leadership and enterprise selling. Since his arrival, he has helped dozens of organizations dramatically accelerate growth, from Fortune 10 organizations like Phillips 66 to fast-growing cloud service organizations like InfusionSoft. Scott specializes in cross-functional alignment. He helps leaders align around the growth goal and design the right processes to bring the strategy to life. His unique combination of real world experience and a pragmatic approach to problem solving have made him one of SBI’s most demanded resources.

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