Want Sales Productivity, Be Fanatical in Hiring a Front-Line Manager

Posted by Trish Bertuzzi on Wed, Sep 26, 2012

 


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.

Good follow-up: “Based on what you know about us so far, what do you think our ICP looks like?”
Their answer will tell you how much research they have done on your business.

2) “Who developed the sales process for your team?” + “How have you ensured adoption?”

Your front-line managers need to be able to define, document and communicate a sales process that is repeatable and scalable. They need to get everyone on the same bus in terms of executing that process.

This is much easier said than done. What they share about how they executed will tell you a lot about their approach and thought process.

3) “Can you share information on the top 3 deals that are in your group’s pipeline?” + “If the rep for [ABC Opportunity] came to you and said ‘this deal is about to slip to next quarter,’ how would you respond?

You want to get a sense for how well they know the risk factors, business drivers, key people, etc. at play in their reps’ deals. Isn’t it important for your front-line manager to keep their finger on the pulse of the market?

So much of successful sales management is taking this “got a minute” question, figuring out why the opportunity is in trouble and coming up with a creative way to get past the issue and towards a win.

Note: you most assuredly don’t want to hear “I’d tell them to get me on the phone with the prospect.”

Theme B: People, People & People

4) “What does your hiring profile for sales reps look like?” + “How do you attract candidates?” + “How do you evaluate them?”

The prospective manager needs to be able to articulate their recruitment and hiring philosophy. Do they hire on gut? Do they have a personal scoring sheet (can they share it with you)?

You need to get a feel for if they are a reactive hirer or if they’ve made a commitment to interviewing on a continuous basis to develop bench strength.

5) “What does your on-boarding process look like?”

You want to learn the specifics of how they get new sales reps up to speed. Are they talking about immersing their reps in their buyers’ market and challenges? Or is it all product & process? Note: they need to embrace this buyer philosophy before all others!

Good follow-up:
“How has time-to-ramp changed from when you started in this position to today?”

6) "What is your approach to coaching?” + “How many hours would you estimate you spend on coaching (per rep per month)?”

Ask what types of coaching have they found most effective: Live call listening, post-calls debriefs, role playing, etc. Also, you want to hear how they provide feedback to their reps (verbal, documented, unstructured, thorough, etc.).

Good follow-up:
“Can you send me a recent post-coaching feedback document (with the names removed of course)?”

Theme C: Communication & Collaboration

7) “How have you worked with other functional areas: marketing, product development, customer support, etc.?”

It is critical that the manager doesn’t have an ‘us vs. them’ attitude towards other functions/departments.

If an issue is derailing their group, they need to go to bat for the team and address it. Excellent managers don’t fight the system, they make the system work – period.

8) “What are you getting today from Marketing in terms of leads, content and overall support?” + “What do you think you will need in this position?”

This will give you a sense for how much ‘air cover’ their current group receives from Marketing. How well does their expectation match your reality? It is key to get in front of any disconnects here.

These are just a few of the questions I’d want answered. What have I missed? What do you ask your candidates?

Find Trish on Twitter and Google+ 

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On a related note: Save the date!

Ken Krogue & I will be putting on a webinar on How to attract and evaluate the ultimate executive to run your inside sales team. There will be great content, a downloadable ebook and a giveaway for all attendees.

Topics: recruiting, inside sales hiring

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