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A sales manager’s primary responsibility is to recruit, train and motivate his or her sales force to achieve peak performance. Of these three vitally important tasks, recruiting is the least understood and by far the most challenging.

When you recruit the right person you will find that they’re self-motivated and eager to train. Conversely, if you hire someone that is not suited for the position, you’ill experience low morale, high turnover and find yourself constantly in the training mode.

While there’s no perfect system that can guarantee you’ll hire the right person every time, there are basic guidelines you must follow if you expect to recruit your way to the next level.

First determine if you are a buyer or seller . It pays to be patient and selective during the interviewing process. What you’re looking for is a hard- working, self-motivated, team player and not just a warm body to fill the position. By approaching the interviewing process with a buyer’s mentality, you’re more likely to maintain your objectivity and hire a long-term top producer.

During the initial interview, most sales managers have a tendency to oversell the position. These well-meaning managers make the mistake of describing the sales profession in its most favorable light by over-emphasizing the compensation potential and understating the inherent challenges.

Buyers understand the importance and the responsibility of being straightforward and laying all of their cards on the table. They know through experience that it is better to run the risk of scaring off a prospective hire than to face a disillusioned salesperson after the fact. Buyers tell it like it is by emphasizing the demanding aspects of the sales profession such as rejection and hard work. By placing a few roadblocks and challenges in front of a prospective hire you are able to check his or her interest and validate their resolve.

Buyers understand the necessity of doing a thorough reference check. In addition to the standard questions regarding character and work ethic, it’s always a good idea to ask his or her reference. In your opinion, if (Miss Candidate’s name) were to fail as a salesperson, what do you think the reason would be? This question is never anticipated and frequently invites the most insightful discussion.

It’s strongly recommended that you use a checklist, because it allows you to stay on message and helps you to remember important questions. Relying on your memory is a poor business decision and will normally come back to haunt you. Take good notes throughout the interview. If you talk more than you listen during an interview, you’re a seller and not a buyer.

As a manager there are several benchmark questions you need to keep in mind during the interviewing process. Ask yourself, does the candidate make a favorable first impression and would you want this person working for your competition?

You would be fooling yourself not to anticipate that your prospective hire has been coached and is well prepared for a standard office interview. With this in mind, I suggest that you conduct two formal interviews followed by a social interview. The initial interview is designed primarily to probe for general suitability such as punctuality, communication skills, financial stability and evidence of past success. Its been said that both success and failure leave a trail. Look for past experiences where they have faced difficulties and have shown the resiliency to bounce back. This approach lends itself to a valuable discussion about the necessity of being self-motivated and maintaining a positive attitude in the sales profession.

To allow for reflection, temperament testing and verification of references, I would advise a minimum of one week between interviews. Consider setting up some hurdles between the first and second interviews that will allow you to measure interest and personal responsibility. When I was a sales manager, I would invite both my potential hire and his or her spouse out to dinner or to a sporting event. When you’re interviewing a salesperson for a commission-based position, it’s imperative to check for spousal support.

Consider inviting potential new hires out for lunch and cultivate relationships with clients that you think may be successful on your sales team. Make certain to include them in your company’s social events when appropriate.
Hopefully you will look at your recruiting program with fresh eyes and a renewed determination to recruit your way to more revenue and higher profits!