I've interviewed hundreds of inside sales candidates over the years. I’d like to think that I’ve developed a proven process for making the most of a round one interview.
I have been working and reworking a short outline that I picked up from Trish roughly 6 years ago.
Earlier this month, I put it to the ultimate test.
From Sales Leader to Parent/Coach
My daughter (not in sales) asked me for help preparing for a very important interview. She is getting her Masters at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service studying health policy and management. The interview was for a position at Ernst & Young.
Panicked, I wondered if my trusty outline would translate. (Note: I know nothing about this field) Yet, realizing how important this opportunity was to my daughter, I wanted to design a mock interview that would be challenging and, most importantly, help her prepare.
The other day, I was talking to a friend who leads a team of sales development reps (outbound prospectors).
She was mentioning how tight the market is for reps with 1-2 years of experience. To paraphrase her predicament:
I need reps who are senior enough that they can & will do the job. But who are junior enough to unlearn bad habits before they calcify.
I asked, “Have you looked at hiring recent grads?” As it just so happens, we are in the thick of career fair season for many colleges & universities.
She asked if I had any tips. My reply: nope.
So over the last few days I’ve been giving it some thought and wanted to share what I’ve come up with.
Hiring Recent Grads: what doesn’t work
First, the bad. Much of our traditional questions, at least as they relate to selling, are ineffective. “Tell me about a time you pitched an idea to a peer group” is very different from “tell me about the last time you booked a meeting from an outbound call.” [Side note: here’s a great audio interview with Kevin Gaither on his philosophy for interviewing.]
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you, this Inside Sales hiring market is on fire. Companies are cannibalizing each other’s Reps with top-tier candidates pretty much sitting on a Lazy Susan and waiting to be served up to the next highest bidder.
Clients are constantly asking me, “How do we compete? What can we do to recruit A-players?”
Here’s my response, “If you want the best Reps, make a strategic investment in your front-line sales managers.”
The ever-wise Tom Peters shares:
The evidence is clear: Employee satisfaction and like variables are significantly, even overwhelmingly, linked to the employee's relationship with her or his first-line manager.
If you are evaluating candidates, here are 8 Inside Sales Manager interview questions that will tell you a great deal about your candidate.
Theme A: Orientation & Approach
1) “At your current/last company, who did you sell to?”
They need to be able to tell you, very specifically, what their ideal customer profile looks like. It’s a red flag if they respond with “Fortune 500” or “we’re a horizontal play.” Good sounds like “B2B software companies with between $25-250M in revenues and our primary buyers include the COO, VP of IT and the VP of Sales Operations.”
The more specific, the better. Rifles, people - not shotguns.
Hiring great Inside Sales reps has never been harder.
Increased competition for top talent and supply lagging behind demand means that when we land that great rep we have to make their experience with us outstanding! It is as much about retention as recruitment, right?
Our recent hiring infographic noted that 41% of reqs take 45+ days to fill. This is creating quite a revenue gap.
I recently shared my thoughts about how you have to be interesting and different to draw talent to you. But let’s say you are successful, what then?
- How do you close the revenue gap by onboarding these reps as quickly as possible?
- How do you ensure a great experience for them and for the buyers that are going to be working with them?
Let’s start with the underlying problem
Sales and Marketing leaders are making a strategic investment in their hiring process and then undermining it with a tactical onboarding process.
Earlier this week I was lucky enough to listen in on a Focus.com roundtable billed Bigger, Better, Faster: Inside Sales in 2011. Moderated by Chris Snell who lead the panel through a range of topics around Inside Sales & Inside Sales Management. (The recording [MP3 file] has been made available, so you can give it a listen when you have some time.)
I thought it would be interesting to highlight three questions that the panel addressed:
- What did Inside Sales do right in 2010?
- Where did Inside Sales get tripped up in 2010?
- What can Inside Sales Managers do to reduce hire-to-production time in 2011?
I have shared my thoughts on several occasions on the characteristics of a great Inside Sales Rep
. Most recently in Top 10 Competencies for Inside Sales Reps.
Garth Moulton of Jigsaw recently wrote on the very same subject: Profiling the Perfect Inside Sales Person-Part One. What follows is his Myth #2.
|Inside sales is for entry level employees. Actually, this is contradicted particularly by the consulting groups. Even when the goal is "simple" contact discovery, or finding out whom at a company might be the person to call, there are specific skills and experience necessary to complete the task. With all the information available on the web, your first contact with a potential customer has to be from a person very familiar with the market, the prospect's company, the seller's product, etc., or the target simply will not engage. My advice is to match what most companies do and stick the newbies on the customer support line. |
There is no doubt that Inside Sales has to be an integral part of every technology company's strategy - see IDC's Sales Barometer and Top Ten Predictions for more on why.
Our 2009 Inside Sales Metrics & Compensation Study shows that the average level of experience when hiring an Inside Rep is 2.8 years.
Introduction: This is the 2nd post in the series "How to Successfully Build an Inside Sales Team in Technology Companies".
We recently posted an article on Sales Interview Preparation: Candidate Side. Now I would like to talk about the other side of the coin and offer "5 Rules" for interviewing Inside Sales candidates.
Making a hiring mistake is extremely costly. Consider:
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