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How To Hire A Sales Star

Denise Rondini August 15, 2012

Adding a sales assessment tool to your hiring process can improve your success rate.

By Denise L. Rondini, Executive Editor

drondini@randallreily.com

Finding the right salesperson for your dealership begins with first defining what exactly you are looking for. According to Dave Pearce, president of salestestonline.com, “We have all heard the terms hunter and farmer applied to salespeople. A lot of people think sales is sales is sales, but this is not necessarily true.”

 If, for example you are looking for a hunter-type salesperson — somebody who can close, somebody who can prospect — those individuals generally are quite assertive. “They usually are very outgoing, they usually are rather impatient and they are usually rather independent,” Pearce says.

“This is why they can be pushy albeit in a nice way. It also is why they tend to be quite hard to manage because the traits tend to be like two-edge swords. They do not like the rules, they will break the rules but the very same characteristics can make them deal with the rejection, make them ask for the order, make them comfortable with a lot of failure because every failure brings them closer to a sale.”

If your dealership is looking for more of a farmer type or customer-service type individuals often they are not very assertive people. However they tend to be outgoing, warm and helpful. They often are very detail oriented, and they are often very structured personalities who will follow up well, according to Pearce.

“If you ask them to follow up, you can almost set your clock by them. They will be rule bound, they will largely motivated by fear of failure and this is what tends to make them very good with procedures, rules, guidelines and the details,” he says.

 Pearce suggests dealers make sure which type of salesperson they want before advertising for an opening in the sales department. “Think about yourself as a casting director for a movie,” Pearce says. “Before you can decide who is going to be good for a role, you should know what that role is and that is the same with sales.”

He also suggests dealers set up a consistent hiring process. “Do the same thing for everybody so that you are not flying by the seat of your pants and doing one thing with one individual and one thing with another,” he says.

Reviewing resumes is the next obvious step and then conducting telephone interviews with the most promising candidates.

 “At this stage of the game, I would suggest testing people because of the cost of testing and the fact that it can be done over the Internet.  If you are serious about people after you have talked to them over the phone, you can quite easily evaluate them to see if they are a good fit for you at that point,” Pearce says.

 “Then if you are not interested so be it, but if you are interested than you can bring them in for an interview or you can even give them a series of exercises.”

Pearce suggests dealers do something like the following: Tell them that at 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon they need to send you a one-page email telling you why they are the right person for the job.

“You get a lot of things out of that. Surprisingly some people won’t even bother to do the exercise. That tells you something. Other people may not be able to write an email, which is incredible in these days but that can happen. You will be able to see if they can follow instructions. If somebody gives you a five-page e-mail that tells you something. And others will surprise you, they will give you exactly what you want and make a very solid argument as to why they are the one for the job. That doesn’t cost you a thing. And it puts the onus on the applicant as opposed to you, which I think as much as possible you should do that kind of thing.”

This will help you further narrow the pool of candidates you want to bring in for face-to-face interviews. “If you have used an assessment tool, you can use the results in red flag areas to get to know the individual better and to level the playing field,” Pearce says.

“The reason why you test someone is because you are at a serious disadvantage when you are interviewing people, so the idea really is to level the playing field a little bit.”

While role playing has fallen out of favor in recent years, Pearce believes it still is a good tool to use during the interview process. “You can do the old ‘sell me the pencil or the ruler.’ Or the ‘go in the other room and phone me and try to get an appointment.’

“Those things cost nothing, but surprisingly you can see an awful lot from them,” he says.

Resumes and even interviews can give you a good picture of the facts of the individual’s background and what they have done. “But what you really want to know is their temperaments and motivation,” Pearce says.

“That is our jargon but it means drive, assertiveness, sense of urgency, how you manage a person, how you motivate them, their strengths, their weaknesses. What a lot of people would call their style. It is that intangible aspect of the individual that you are usually trying to measure. Most managers know they have to measure this stuff, they just don’t describe it the way we do,” he adds.

 Most managers know that is important. They know that is what usually will determine success or failure. “They also know that people can hide who they really are in a job interview and that is why most of us know that you can hire people based on what you see only to be fooled down the road. Our tests and other tests around can uncover that soft area, that temperament and motivation very quickly and accurately.”

Pearce says the sales tests basically can tell what you can expect to be dealing with in two to four months, “once the person is really back to who they are acting normally. I am not suggesting that people are acting abnormal, but they are able play roles for short periods of time. And what we are really trying to do is uncover who the person really is.”

Sales testing can take different forms and can range from short — 10 to 15 minutes — to as long as two hours. The test Pearce’s company uses is completed online in a short period of time. The candidate if given a log-in and password and goes through a series of multiple choice questions and ranking of adjectives exercises.

Depending on the type of test you select, prices can vary from$50 to $200. Before selecting a testing vendor, the dealer needs to make sure the test is measuring what he wants measured and then make sure that it is accurate.

“Realistically a bad hire is going to cost you thousands of dollars,” Pearce says. “Therefore the test should be accurate, it should offer good value and it should be relevant to your needs. There should be some customization of what it is you are specifically looking for.”

 Additionally, the resulting report should be understandable. “In my opinion you should not have to go through 25 pages of fluff to figure out what the report is saying.”

“Make sure the organization that you are dealing with will be able to get back to you quickly and be able to spend as much time as you need to answer your questions so that you are happy because these decisions cost you a lot of money,” he says.

Pearce cautions dealers that sales assessment tools are only one piece of the puzzle. “People are complicated so any test vendor that tells you this is a panacea is a liar, these are just tools.

“I would use the analogy of building a building. You use a hammer, but you also use a nail and a saw and a level. When you hire people you still use other tools, but this one is a good one and so are other tools out there that our competitors would offer but they are not the be all and end all.”

 But if used correctly sales assessments can help you narrow down the pool of candidates to those who have the traits and characteristics that best mesh with your needs.

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