It’s been a lot of years since I last hired and ran a sales team which was in … 2005. Yikes! That long ago!? Still, over 80% of my career was spent doing just that. Finding and selecting the right salesperson for your company is one of the most critical, and difficult, challenges that any sales manager is faced with. While I think that I have always been a pretty good judge of people, like most of us, my choices have been hit and miss and every miss has been extremely costly. Finding good salespeople today is even tougher than it was … back then.
Now, in 2015, we have to approach this task while including the elements of social media and social selling. We will use these methodologies to both find and to evaluate sales candidates. Back in 2005 most of us (at least me) were using email and … we were using email. I don’t even think that the term social business was even uttered until 2009 and then it was used to describe businesses that were dedicated to solving social issues. The Social Business Model which addressed social enterprise was, to the best of my knowledge, first widely discussed in 2012. In other words, not very damn long ago!
If I were looking for a salesperson today, what qualities might I be evaluating and what process might I be using? How can social media assist us in finding quality social salespeople? If you are looking for a social salesperson, it would be in both your and their best interest if you are either already running a social business or you are very much open to the potential value of becoming one. Certainly, a social salesperson will thrive at a much higher level within a social business atmosphere that will support and help to develop their efforts vs. one that is not and will not.
Find your potential candidate
One of the areas that social media should excel in, as it relates to this process, is in the ability to help us to find potential candidates for our position(s). Think about it this way. The success of social media is predicated on one thing and one thing only and that one thing is reach. Reach is determined by connections. Therefore, leverage your connections to discover candidates. Simple.
- Get the word out or … were you planning on keeping this a secret? You can’t leverage your connections if you don’t ask for their help. Ask for, and get recommendations from others for candidates who might fill your position opening.
- Become a master of search. A well thought out LinkedIn search, for example, will not only identify quality passive candidates in addition to those who are looking, it should also yield the kind of potential hires who have a demonstrated technical capability. Additionally, these same folks probably have at least a solid fundamental understanding of social networking (sales).
- If this is something that you do a lot of, consider a LinkedIn Recruiter account.
- Advertise on the appropriate networks. I have spoken with many companies who swear by advertising socially. They are seeing higher quality candidates and the prices for these services are quite competitive. Craigslist might be cheap but …
- Join, and be active on, appropriate groups. I run a B2B sales and marketing group on LinkedIn. A lot of our members are sales recruiters. Smart. They are fishing where the fish are.
If it were me, I would be running this exercise continuously and that means even when I am not actively looking for new salespeople because …
- You never know when you might need one. They leave, you ask them to leave, or you decide to expand your force.
- It becomes a lot easier to subjectively evaluate your herd, and to cull it when necessary, when fresh stock is waiting in the wings.
As a side note, and as a sales manager, if my target customers were generally found on social network “x” and my potential sales candidate could only be found on social network … “none” … this might give me cause for concern. Just sayin’.
Evaluate for a perfect match
Your new salesperson will need great focus and the ability to manage their time wisely because they are going to look at lot like this …
Take a very close look at their profiles and feeds and evaluate these for their level of sophistication, degree of professionalism, and for any red flags. Let’s face it. They will show you on LinkedIn exactly what they will want you to see. The same will hold true for their resumes and the interview. It’s like recommendations. Nobody has ever shared, or published, a bad one.
On the other hand, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? From the standpoint of really getting to know a candidate and their behaviors, I call these three networks “the gifts that keep on giving” and employers are using these tools. Continuing …
- Do you know people in common? Both Facebook and LinkedIn will plot these relationships. For perhaps an even deeper search, take a look at Conspire or Refresh. Either way, common connections = possible recommendations. Or warnings.
- Do not neglect their traditional selling skills. Giving an untrained salesperson a tool like social selling is roughly akin to giving somebody a loaded gun and not telling them which end the hurty thing comes out of.
- Check their work history and references. Just because we are hiring a social salesperson, this does not mean that your standard procedures are no longer necessary.
- Consider running a behaviors and skills assessment. There are many many available on the market ranging from free to very low cost. I represent one such company. Regardless of the price, I can guarantee you that it will be one hell of a lot cheaper than a bad hire.
- How well do they know and use social media? How about their technical skills in general? Have they used a CRM or Social CRM (for that matter … do you??)?
- Do they demonstrate good social media manners? If they are texting during your interview you can bet your bottom dollar that they are going to do the same thing in front of a potential client or a valuable customer!
If there is one thing that I have learned through the years it is to go with my gut. If something smells funny, it probably is the candidate and that stink is just going to increase over time. Demonstrated behaviors, good or bad, are likely to be repeated behaviors. When people are late to our scheduled meetings, they likely will not be receiving referrals from me. Why? Because I have no reason to believe but that they will be late to meetings with customers that I refer them to and that looks bad on me. These rules hold every bit as true with sales candidates.
Hire and then mold them into winners!
You have likely already invested a great deal of time, and money, in the process of hiring a new sales rep. Next you will invest even more time and money, substantially more of each, in putting them to work in your organization. Now is the time to double down on your investment. If you want to have any hope at all of seeing any sort of a return on your investment, you must be prepared to put in even more in the form of good training. To not do so would be to squander all of your efforts to date.
I am told that finding good salespeople today is maybe harder than it has ever been. What have your experiences in this regard been and what things have proven to be successful for you?