• Jerry Phillips

He has industry experience so he must be good.

Earlier this year I worked with a client to define the skills and values for their sales team. They had never defined the skills needed for the role. They left it up to the first line manager to determine who they wanted to work with. The skills at interviewing and hiring varied widely, and the result was a large portion of the sales team didn’t have the aptitude for sales. The favorite candidate was to hire someone from inside the “shop” who knew the product, or a runner who drove product to the end customer, because they knew where the customers were.

The team of first line managers gathered with leadership, and human resources to work through an outcome-based process to determine the skills and competencies needed for a salesperson. They also captured the values they needed to be a part of the organization. They had never considered it before.

As I was working with the team, I was trying to understand why they defaulted to hiring from the industry or hiring from the shop instead of looking for talented sellers. Was it laziness, ignorance, or lack of process? Maybe a little of each. Hiring a person, even the wrong person, inside the company was easier because the first line manager felt they didn’t need to work to train them and because there was no onboarding process needed. Or so they thought. Just remember B players never hire A players.

Hiring someone from inside the company can be great. You know them, they know the product and procedures, and they probably know the customers. So, what is the issue? The issue is they may not have an aptitude for the role. One of the people hired from the shop was a strong operations individual, but he did not have an aptitude for sales. When he was placed in a sales territory, he failed miserably. After a year, the company moved him back into an operations role. Two weeks after that “demotion”, he left the company. They not only wasted a year of sales opportunities; they lost an employee who was good in his prior role.

The hero of this story is the new VP of Sales. He is in the process of upgrading his sales team. And he knows to do that he has to upgrade his first line managers. Now we are working the same process for sales managers that we did to define skills and values for the sellers. It’s a critical hire for the VP. His first new hire in the role, and it affects about fifty percent of his total business. He recognizes the need to define clearly the needs of the role.

Do you have a clearly defined set of skills and values you look for in your employees? Not just sales, but all employees? People are the life blood of your organization. Making a bad hire is costly not only in dollars, but in morale. Please take the time to own the process and define the skills and values for your company. It is not a silver bullet, but your odds of finding the right people are much improved.

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