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Approaches to Sales Team Selection

 A World Cup sales reflection on reaching the goal.

By Matt Pearce

I don’t know about you but even without being a religious football fan I still love to switch on and watch the World Cup every four years. With the Socceroos now being a regular participant (at least in the first two weeks), it has added excitement.

The big question was:

“How were we going to put the ball in the back of the net?”

One we answered with a not very well.

For Australia, the simple (and only way) for us to score with certainty was via the penalty spot. Best part about scoring from the spot is it takes the least amount of effort.

Like football, Sales Team Search and Selection is about scoring the goal with the least effort and greatest efficiency. For a business if that sales chair is empty, the company is not growing as well as it could.

The irony is many businesses choose to start with a goal kick or a free kick rather than a penalty kick.

A lot of the time it’s the approach they take in engaging external support to manage the process.

When doing so, a business is looking to short circuit the selection and quickly and effectively identify the best prospective candidates for a role.

The challenge is depending where you place the ball it has a dramatic effect on the efforts needed by the business to reach the goal. Choosing how and who you use will determine where you start your attack.

The Goal Kick Approach

This is where a business engages multiple external consultants to “broaden the net and provide the most options”.  They end up with each submitting candidates leading with up to 10 to 15 resumes for review. The question here is:

“Has the consultancy and the business really defined the selection criteria or are they using “broad net” to do so?”

When you start with a goal kick approach, you still have a lot of hard work to get the ball in the net. You are working out how to get to the goal as you go. You spend as much time moving sideways and even backwards then forward.

The Free Kick Approach

The business engages an external consultant. After receiving the PD and a brief discussion, the consultancy starts the search. The consultant then submits resumes based on the general discussions that have occurred. They may have used a behavioural/psychometric assessment, but that is about personality traits rather than sales traits. The client spends time interviewing and working through the selection process. If the candidates don’t fit or “feel right”, more are added to the list. It’s like a free kick in football, you have a clear view of the goal but still have a lot work to do. You may take a direct kick and score but many times it is blocked. You must reset your attack and start moving towards the net again.

Both approaches end up consuming more time for the business then needed. It is taking the leader away from the more critical process of running the business. It’s even more challenging when they are down an important Sales resource.

The Penalty Kick Approach

A business engages an external consultancy to short circuit the selection process.

We understand this, and our approach is to provide strong candidates with the right blend of skills, experience and motivation. Our goal is to put you at the top of the box with two strong choices, both of which will lead to success.

The challenge is to do this quickly and effectively. We take a true consultative/advisory role that involves detailed initial analysis of the position and requirements combined with several short, sharp strategic discussions leading to strong candidates being presented.

An example of this is around some work we are just finalising with a company. The role in question was a State Sales Leader. We gained a brief from the client and started sourcing candidates. Our response was huge. We had 140 applicants, not including the high caliber people we already had pre-qualified from previous roles.

Then the selection really began. You can imagine our surprise when we started reviewing the applicants and many were of a high caliber. We used a mixture of our Sales Assessment Tool (qualitative data around how successful a sales person will be), initial phone screening and detailed interviews to bring the most suitable talent to the fore.

Halfway through this refinement was a final conversation with the client to clarify criteria based on our discoveries to date, allowing us to more effectively narrow the field.

The result:

In two and a half weeks we narrowed 140 candidates to 2 extremely strong candidates and 3 strong candidates, all suitable for the role.  Finally, we had identified another 5 candidates who are amazing Sales Leaders but just not right for this role. Several of these people we will be discussing with other clients to consider in their future growth plans.

We presented the two candidates, both were extremely well received by the client. The client was standing in front of the goal deciding whether to kick to the left corner or the right corner.

Final interviews are happening as I write this. The client will be offering one (possibly through a coin toss) by the middle of next week.

The time required has been dramatically shortened with a better outcome.

The key for successful selection is having a rigorous process that brings the strongest candidates to the business for consideration.

I must ask what type of attack is going to be most effective for Sales Team selection in your business?

If you are interested in a more effective approach to Sales Team Selection, reach out to us.