Most sales managers focus on three things when hiring a salesperson:
- Experience (resume)
- Gut feel (do they click with the candidate?)
- Personality (are they outgoing?)
Unfortunately, most overlook the missing ingredient—talent! Simply put, too many salespeople are hired without an evaluation of talent. This is one of the reasons that organizations experience high turnover levels and have trouble keeping people on the sales team.
Organizations that have high retention rates understand the importance of talent and the role it plays in the success or failure of revenue generation. In fact, world-class organizations go to great lengths to find, recruit, select, and develop revenue generators based on a deep understanding of talent. These organizations understand it takes more than hiring a person who is a good networker. They know it takes talent!
A working definition of talent: innate behaviors that cannot be explained by training or experience.
Using a talent screener during the hiring process of salespeople is the first step in the direction of talent! Many talent assessments and screeners exist—the best provide the following:
- Evidence of talent
- An interview process that is consistent (HR folks appreciate this)
- A better understanding of the candidates to weed out or spend more with (continue the interview process)
Here are some talents that separate top performing salespeople from average and bottom performers. (Talents identified via a Sales Talent benchmark study conducted by The Center for Sales Strategy and Talent Plus.)
Take a look at the list and think about each individual on your team or candidates you are currently interviewing—keep in mind the best performers tend to have many or all of these talents!
- Work intensity: Possessing the desire to do more and complete every item on their to-do list
- Problem Solver: The ability to identify problems and create solutions
- Command: The courage to ask for a commitment
- Interpersonal: The magic ability to develop personal bonds and deep relationships
- Ambition: The desire to be a top performer and exceed goals on a regular basis
5 Interview Questions to Uncover Talent
Asking questions tied to the talent themes—innate characteristics—makes a great deal of sense. Here’s a list of questions to ask for each theme and the desired response:
Question: Do you work harder than the other people you know?
Desired Response: You are looking for a “yes” answer here. “Everyone around me works hard” will not cut it here. You want to hear a clear understanding and a sense of pride in their natural ability to push themselves more.
Problem Solver (two part question):
Question: Do you learn things rapidly?
Desired Response: You want to hear “yes” responses on the first part.
Follow-up Question: What things do you or have you learned rapidly?
Desired Response: On the follow-up question, listen for specifics. The less specific they are, the less likely you are seeing evidence of Problem Solver.
Question: Do you persuade people to do things they did not intend to do?
Desired Response: To score Command, you must hear an unqualified “Yes.” It’s okay if the candidate goes on to say that doing so must be in the best interest of the other person, but first they must say "Yes." "I try” = no score.
Question: You’re riding on an airplane, hoping to get a little sleep. In the row in front of you, a baby has been crying for the last ten minutes. What are you thinking?
Desired Response: To score, the person must, first and foremost, express concern for the baby and/or the parent. Any mention of the person’s annoyance with the crying must be very secondary, or else there is no score here.
Ambition (two part question):
Question: Do you always set goals much higher than those of other people?
Desired Response: “No”= no score. "Yes”= continue with follow-up question.
Follow-up Question: (If YES) Give me an example of one of the high goals you have achieved.
Desired Response: To score on the follow-up question, the person must give a specific example of a high goal achieved and describe how it was accomplished.
When you focus on talent in your interviews, you're focusing on that missing ingredient that many organizations forget to assess. Talent is what sets true sales superstars apart.