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One of many challenges for sales leaders is hiring sales reps. Particularly in a strong job market, such as the Bay Area, sales leaders can face stiff competition. However, if you hire the wrong person or someone who quickly leaves, it costs the company more, takes up precious time and resources, and doesn’t help you or the team.

To find out how sales leaders can hire successfully in a competitive job market but still make the right choice, I went to LiveHive’s Chief Revenue Officer Jennifer Brandenburg. With more than 20 years of sales hiring experience, Jennifer has ample advice to help sales leaders in hiring.

Whether you’re in a difficult hiring market or not, here are 6 key takeaways she shared:

#1. Pay attention to organization fit.

You need to make sure that any candidate fits in culturally with your organization. You want reps to be competitively driven – but they also need to have team spirit and support everyone on the team. Can you imagine a candidate working side-by-side with the rest of your team?

Also, look at a candidate as a whole – not just where they were the past year. Be sure to look at where they were before then. If they’ve had shorter employments stints or puzzling job moves, ask for an explanation.

#2. Take referrals but place your instincts first.

Tread carefully when it comes to the referral network. Just because someone you know and trust refers someone doesn’t necessarily mean that person is right for the job. You need to check in with what your gut is telling you. The person making the referral may not have the insight into your organization’s culture – or may not know the candidate on a professional level. Enjoying beers with someone after work doesn’t mean that they are the best person for the organization or the job.

#3. Make your workplace and salary competitive.

Did you know that Facebook has a chiropractor on site for employees? Clearly, we can’t all provide the same level of amenities, but if you’re competing in a market where gym memberships, free lunch, and concierge services are offered, what can you bring to the table? Do you keep a refrigerator stocked with drinks? Do you offer free snacks or different perks? How pleasing is your office environment?

Similarly, you need to be competitive with the market when it comes to salary. That means, don’t be ‘penny wise but pound foolish.’ You don’t want to pay $5K less but end up losing that person after a year because of the salary – something that will cost you much more than $5K.

#4. Look at their history of success – and check references.

When you look at a candidate, pay attention to a history of success – either in college or the workplace. Have they been successful at their pursuits? Do they have a competitive nature? Jennifer looks at whether candidates have played sports – a competitive but often team-based activity. In addition, don’t forget to check references – it’s still essential for hiring.

#5. Hire a college grad!

Jennifer says that hiring people straight out of college is a great way to get them into sales – plus millennials can bring a lot of energy to the organization. A mix of age groups is ideal, according to Jennifer, allowing senior salespeople to mentor those new to the job market, and creating a balance in the culture. If you hire a college grad, you also need to look at their history of success, their college GPA, and any summer jobs and internships.

#6. Don’t say no to remote.

Sales leaders need to be open to remote employees – particularly in California, where a hot job market and traffic-clogged freeways might mean your ideal candidate lives farther away. That said, with a remote sales rep halfway across the country, you won’t be seeing them that often – and they also may not feel part of the team. Even if a sales rep works remotely a couple days, having face-time during the other days can help build company culture – particularly for startup organizations.

One last word of advice

If you have to try too hard to get someone to come on board, they’re probably not the right person. Any hiring situation needs to be a good fit and should be mutually beneficial for both parties.

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For more sales management tips and insight on the latest sales issues and trends, follow @LiveHive.

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