When hiring a good salesperson, is it better to base it on cultural fit or on past performance? A colleague posted this question on social media. She received many replies. None dealt with the heart of the issue: neither works well. It’s really about process.
Culture and Results Don’t Make It Easier
Of all the hires I’ve had to help clients with, hiring a good salesperson is the most unpredictable. Many factors, go into selling success. Yet, most clients just want to focus on past performance.
Then there are those who want a salesperson to fit in. They don’t see that a good salesperson often challenges the status quo. For instance, new types of clients come in. That means modifying offerings, or in a word, change.
Success Factors That Salespeople Don’t Control But Value
Process is important because many factors drive sales success beyond the sales person’s control. Here are a few:
- Marketability of the firm and its offerings
- Sales and service model of the firm
- Role of internal relationships in supporting sales or team-selling activities
- Processing and delivering of orders
- Pricing, financing and contract terms
- Sales management and marketing support
- Sourcing of leads and prospects by firm
- Salespeople owning rights to territories, markets or products
- Working an existing book of business versus having to build one
Change any and results change too. In other words, a salesperson with a great track record can bomb in a new firm. The reverse happens too.
For instance, a top performer didn’t do well at a new firm. Later, it found that the old firm gave him plum leads because executives liked him. On the other hand, a poor performer thrived when the acquiring firm gave him exclusive rights to market a service.
Internal relationships are key too. Two such salespeople, knowing the value of these, left firms only after negotiating a package for their support staff too.
Hiring a Good Salesperson Means Processes
Instead of results, firms should look at process. That means their own sales processes and those the candidates have used. How well do they match? Salespeople are people. Change is hard for them too.
A big change is the sourcing of leads. Salespeople used to firms supplying leads will have a tough go if they must now develop them on their own.
Therefore, hiring a good sales person based on results is a crapshoot. Overpaying for this risk is easy. Processes drive results though. It pays to look at them. How well does the firm’s process match the salesperson’s?