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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

From Where to What: Asking the Right Questions About Hiring Salespeople

Where_vs._What_Make_Sure_You’re_Asking_the_Right_QuestionsHave you ever gone to the grocery store hungry and without a shopping list?

Do you make strategic and wise choices or do you bounce around from aisle to aisle frantically looking for “something to eat” and realize later that you picked up some things you didn’t really need?

The same is true for hiring salespeople. If you don’t approach the recruitment process with a list of behaviors and characteristics you need – you may find yourself frantically searching for people, but picking up the wrong people (perhaps because their packaging was so persuasive).

Recently I spoke to a state broadcasting association about the importance of drastically changing their employee recruitment paradigm from where to what. I want to share with you what I explained to them because I think this is a message that could benefit a great many managers and recruiters!

As a Talent Analyst for The Center for Sales Strategy, I am often asked, “Where can I find good salespeople?”

Where, where, where? Recruitment is often looked at as where to find people, where do I look? Do I go on LinkedIn? Do I look at restaurant wait staff? What about the person sitting next to me on my next flight?

I’m here to tell you there is no “sales Mecca” or “Fountain of good sellers,” no magical place to look.

The truth is you can find great salespeople anywhere and everywhere.

You can find talent (and non-talent!) in nearly any location, with any generation, and at any time. Rather than exhausting yourself by focusing on where to look, you should change the question to what —as in What are you looking for? If you start by listing the talents and behaviors that you know will lead to success in that job, you will have much greater success with selection.

Start by defining exactly which talents are most important for the role you are trying to fill. To do this, consider the account list they will carry or the projects they will lead. Envision someone doing this work with excellence, and make a list of the behaviors you would expect. Does this new hire need to be full of ideas? Or will the ideas be supplied by another staff member? Will they need to be a great negotiator? Or is that not so important in this role? Is it critical that this new hire be able to nurture relationships or just maintain them? Start out by making a shopping list of your must haves.

Once you nail down the specifics on what you are looking for – the where becomes much easier. In fact, you will begin to have endless possibilities of where to look. 

Regardless of how old or young the person is, talent is essential to performance. While many other factors contribute to sales performance (training, pricing, marketing, etc.), the best managers know that hiring top talent is Job One! 

Talent is rare and exceptional—it is not hanging out at every street corner—but you can find it (anywhere!) if you know what to look for.

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