Recruiting sales people can be a difficult task – or rather the difficulty is in recruiting sales people who actually deliver consistently and stick with the job. Whether the role is direct sales, key account management, field sales, business development, internal or international or online, these disparate functions have a common performance requirement: to deliver revenue.

Unlike other areas of an organisation, the sales specialisation is one of the more difficult to assess from the recruitment process itself, and non-delivery is a common and expensive occurrence when it comes down to actual performance.

Why the Performance Deficit?

The trouble is that you need the sales team to look the part and talk the talk – that is their job and why you want them. Sales people are good at it. That’s what they do. And they apply their polished and persuasive skill set to the new job application process with just as much, if not more, enthusiasm, energy and dedication as they do to hitting their targets.

Sales people are expected to be good negotiators, appreciate the value of their worth and create an impression of confidence and professionalism – almost without thinking, they court their audience, whether it is the personnel department or the customer.

Graduate sales candidates further complicate the equation with a sense of self-worth, idealism and naivete of youth mixed with little or no experience under the belt. Training across the board addresses much of the support required, but sometimes sales people have an ineffable belief in their own methods, which may not fit the business culture.

Of course, the seasoned HR professional is fully aware of this, and the screening process is thorough and designed to weed out potential non-performers. There are obvious alarm bells, such as job hopping, psychometric tests, various analyses to highlight potential issues, but none of these substitute for actually doing the job.

Specialist Sales Agency Partners

However, when it comes down to it, it is often not until several months into the job that the cracks may show in the performance or poor integration into the new environment. By the time the situation is clear, it is generally after several months of expensive payroll and benefits, not to mention the expiry of the traditional guaranty period for agency fees. There is a further cost to the company in terms of wasted training and resources, followed by yet another agency fee to pay to start all over again.

Developing a good close ongoing relationship with a recruitment firm that can get to understand the business and requirements will help, so it may be a good idea to invest time in finding a recruitment partner that has a more detailed insight into this area of recruitment. They will be able to head off known offenders, so your time is not wasted, and act as another pair of eyes and ears to help check the fit of the individuals.

Specialisation is the key here, so look for expertise in recruitment of sales people and an understanding of the nature of the characteristics required, such as Metamorphose specialist sales recruitment. Perhaps consider a more sustained agreement package for the partner agency to engage on a longer-term basis in the successful tenure of the sales candidate.

Sales Team Progression

Another difficult area is progression for sales people. It is not in the nature of driven high performers to sit still and enjoy doing the same thing year in, year out. The utopia for sales would be for consistent and continually increasing sales with healthy margins – for its sales people to sell lots of products or services. Albeit greatly oversimplified, the more that is sold, the bigger the bonuses and earnings and the better for the firm. Progression is a difficult thing to manage because there is disparity between continued motivation to sell more and more versus continually performing the same function.

The characteristics that make a successful, dedicated, target-beating sales person do not necessarily make good motivational sales managers. The best sales people are highly focused, driven and single-minded, whereas management needs a completely different skill set to handle a team of strong-minded individuals and get the best out of the individuals. Another challenge in itself.

However, the key is to maximise the success of the fledgling sales person as a consistent on-target performer and to minimise expensive underperformance. Strong, appropriate screening procedures, effective induction and training and a strong specialist ally in your sales recruitment agency partner are good tools for the job. Hopefully, this will engender more consistent delivery and traction in the sales team so that they can focus on talking the talk.