Why the “Candidate Experience” is a crucial part of the Sales Hiring Process:
You’re an Employer excited to make a new sales hire and are looking for the “perfect” candidate.
You’ve already spent the time creating an ideal candidate profile– a specific work history, experience closing certain sized deals, selling into a niche market—but there’s more to it than just matching skill sets.
You’re looking for someone you will possibly share an office with in the years to come, and a colleague who will bring dedication and respect to your company name while still being able to engage in the company culture.
Will any candidate tick all of these boxes “perfectly”? Not likely – you will need to compromise in a few areas and find someone trainable who will eventually fill those big shoes.
Many Employers fall into the trap of waiting for the perfect candidate – resulting in lower sales team productivity due to slow hiring.
We get a lot of feedback from candidates regarding their interview experiences, and one bad experience may not seem like a big deal at the time—but word travels quickly and your reputation may be hurt for potential future candidates that may have otherwise been interested in the position. You don’t want an unwarranted bad reputation to detract potentially amazing talent!
Below, are some tips to providing a great candidate experience (regardless of the interview outcome):
- Timing— If you are not ready to make a hire today, why are you looking? You wouldn’t want to consider a candidate if they themselves weren’t ready to make the leap. Understand that the interview process can take a lengthy amount of time and resources for a candidate, and that you should not engage with them until you are truly ready for the process to begin.
- Process— It is crucial that you have a designated interview process in place for your hires. Whether it’s 2 steps or 5, be up front and clear with the candidate about the length of the process, even the length of the interviews—some of your best candidates will already be employed and they are most likely taking time off from their jobs to sit down with you. Please be respectful of this. If they can only take a call early morning or after 5pm take this as a good sign that they are dedicated to their current position. Be flexible with the candidate and understand that since you haven’t offered them a position yet, you will need to work with their current schedule.
- Questions— Be prepared to answer any questions your candidate may have in regards to compensation, benefits, equity, company history and have a straightforward attitude. Especially within sales, it is crucial to be up front about these details as to not waste the candidates (or your own) time with something that might not be a match from the start. No, compensation is not the only thing that matters in finding a good candidate fit, but the candidate should know the salary up front and be comfortable with it—or else there’s no use wasting time with additional interviews.
- Clear Requirements— Do you have a clear understanding of what YOU, as the Employer, are looking for? If not, it’s time to make a list. This ties back in with timing. If you are still questioning the traits of the candidate you are looking for, you will most likely end up wasting a lot of time and produce a bad experience for a potentially amazing employee. Not a great look for your company. Just as you want a candidate who is excited and eager to be with your company for certain reasons, you should be excited and eager to find a person that matches your specified requirements.
- Be Decisive— If you already have a hiring process locked down, as well as a clear understanding of the candidate you are searching for, decision making should be the easiest part of the hiring ordeal. Do they match your candidate profile? No? It’s time to send the polite rejection letter, so that they can accept other offers that may be on the table or continue their search. Likewise, you are losing revenue each month you do not make a sales hire for your team. Making clear, and concise decisions helps both you and the candidate by not wasting time and money.
Providing your candidates with a seamless hiring experience not only shows your professionalism, but your company ethics and the respect you have for all individuals whether you extend an offer or not.
Regardless of whether you hire someone or not, they should have a well-structured, straightforward and accelerated experience that will leave them with a solid idea of the company and position.
This will improve your reputation while attracting additional talent for the future.
Some people have a natural ability to sell while others struggle to make each sale. Regardless of being able to meet quota goals, there are some characteristics that make some salespeople stand apart from the rest (really! it’s not *just* about those numbers!).There’s no doubt that hitting those numbers for quota is crucial to keeping your job in sales, but often companies are looking for a lot more than just numbers.
Going from good to great as a salesperson is more than just hitting quota. Being a great sales person also has a lot to with your personal network that is built over the course of a career. Your reputation and your network will pay dividends for the rest of your life.
Below are some traits that will help you stand out from the rest of the crowd:
Listen. It is quite common for salespeople to be the loudest in the room. This is not a bad quality to have when you are cold-calling all day long and starting conversations with strangers. However, being loud doesn’t mean not listening. Listening to your prospective customer rather than trying to pitch them right away will help you uncover their “pain points” and allow you to offer them the best possible solution and position your product effectively. Listening also is a form of respect. It lets your prospective client know that you are more interested in helping them, rather than just hitting your number.
Being Direct— Being direct as a salesperson is crucial—being direct on what you can and cannot do for your customer. Answering questions in a timely manner to enable them to make decisions quickly. No one wants to sit through 3 meetings and 2 conference calls to then begin haggling price. Be up front with your client and expect the same from them so that no one’s time is wasted.
Personality— It seems like a no brainer, but if your daily job is interacting with people and forming relationships, it helps to have some personality. It’s important to develop hobbies and interests outside of work and to develop the ability to easily relate to and engage with others.
Empathy— Exceptional salespeople know when to “push” but are not pushy. They have empathy for their customers and can accept that the sale may not be a fit at this time. This empathy and understanding for the customer’s needs makes them feel they can trust you and puts them at ease. Leaving a good impression does not involve laying down intense pressure, it’s about understanding what the customer is looking for and making sure it aligns realistically with what you are selling.
Solutions Driven—The majority of sales people are numbers driven. But what sets exceptional sales people apart from their peers is that they are “solutions driven”. Exceptional salespeople have a firm belief in the product they are selling and the solution based impact it will have on their customers. In other words, they have passion for providing products that will simplify and ease the burden of their customers. It is for this reason many salespeople are very selective with companies when choosing their next move— they want a product they personally believe is an effective solution.
For many professional positions, a phone screening acts as the first step in the interview process. It is an especially crucial part of the interview process for salespeople, as a large portion of your prospecting and selling may be done primarily over the phone. Creating a good impression that relays both confidence and that you did your research is key to acing this process. Below are some tips:
1. Do your Research On the Interviewer.
This should be a no-brainer, but know who you are talking to. Research them on Linkedin and look at the previous companies they have worked for, where they went to school, etc. Not only will you be able to have a good understanding of who you are on the phone with, but you may come across commonalities that you can use to carry the convo along.
2. Do your Research On the Position.
Likely, if you are talking with a recruiter they have not sent you a job description yet (for client confidentiality). Kindly ask for the job description or details surrounding the company and position. You want to have a rough idea of the role prior to your call, and adjust your tone accordingly.
3. Timing is Key.
Be prepared and ready to answer the call. This doesn’t mean you have to pick up on the first ring, but do not sound like you just rolled out of bed. A phone interview is critical when you are interviewing for a sales position. Likely the position entails a great deal of cold-calling and phone interaction. An interviewer is looking for how you handle the conversation on the phone and how you will interact with your future clients.
4. Remember your Manners.
A thank you goes a long way, and everyone wants to feel valued. Someone set aside some time specifically to speak to you and get to know you better, and it is polite and respectful to thank them for it.
5. Ask next steps.
If all goes well on the call, don’t be shy! Especially as a salesperson, this is key. If they cannot give you next steps, you may already have your answer as to how it went and can move on (or they are just disorganized—red flag). If they can give you next steps—great! You’ve successfully proven you can “close” on your first interview. Solid work!
If you are working with a recruiter be sure to update them on how the phone screening went right after you end the call. Your feedback can help them gain a better understanding of how to advise the employer and may just help you lock down that second interview!
An actor has their headshot, a professional has their resume. Either way, it’s a representation of yourself to help you “book” that coveted interview slot. It needs to paint an accurate representation of yourself, in the best possible light.
Just as there are plenty of talented actors who can’t book work, there are plenty of seasoned and skilled sales professionals who cannot get interviews. Sometimes, its not your qualifications holding you back, but rather the way you are presenting yourself. Every profession has the key skills that hiring managers and recruiters look for in a resume—let’s break this down for saas sales!
Far too often, we see resumes that look like a short fiction novel. Not to say you can’t be a sales professional who loves to write, just saying your sales resume is not the place to do it. A hiring manager or recruiter is looking at hundreds of resumes all day long—get to the details and be direct.
Think about what you would be looking for if you were making this hire. Would you care to know the details surrounding the type of software your company is selling? More than likely, this can be googled (and will be googled!). Remember you are a sales professional—be direct in labeling quota percentages attained, new businesses brought on, average deal size, and goals accomplished.
Sales is all about numbers—be up front with these stats! Under each sales position be sure to provide bullets regarding your specific wins in that job title.
Picture or No Picture?
A recent trend has tons of professionals including their headshot on their resume. Maybe you feel this is advantageous for you.
Let your numbers and your phone screening do the talking.
Keep it Short and Sweet
Why is it, that when someone says “long story short….” it’s usually never short? Maybe you’ve been working in the industry for 20+ years. That’s great! While you have no doubt obtained exceptional skills in this time frame, no employer is going to need the details on what you did at your very first job out of college. Limit yourself to one page detailing only your most recent, and most amazing work.
Likewise, if you are a young graduate who has switched positions a few times—take into consideration how this is perceived. Decide on how you will present it and have good reasoning to back up your job moves. Discuss what you learned in each position and also decide if there are any positions that would be better left off the resume. No matter what stage of your career you are in, keep it succinct and to the point. Hiring managers and recruiters will get a strong sense of who you are professionally and will appreciate your openness.
Treat your Resume and Linkedin profile like a commercial
Performers have a “sizzle reel”, what do sales professionals have? More than likely you don’t have a video of you in a demo making the sale because well, that would be incredibly awkward. As a sales professional you need to view your Linkedin presence and resume as your “sizzle reel”.
Sizzle meaning—your best and brightest moments are on display.
Did you speak at a conference?
Add that video or photo to your Linkedin profile.
Do you work for a Google Ventures backed company?
Add that under your name on your Linkedin Profile.
Did you ramp up far ahead of schedule in your current sales position?
Add that under your most recent job and italicize it.
The point is—Linkedin is the modern sales professional’s commercial. You know how to sell, but can you advertise? Learning how to sell yourself, is crucial to being a sales person in the job market! Keep in mind the words of our favorite flawed and fictional ad man Don Draper, “Make it simple, but significant.”