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How to hire and develop effective salespeople

Identify a promising pool of candidates.
In order to hire effectively, you have to be absolutely clear about the kind of person you are looking for. You don’t just want a job description: you want a description of the person you are seeking.

First, you must gain a clear understanding of the personality qualities shared by your top salespeople. No doubt, they are all persuasive, able to read others and can bounce back from rejection. But what else do they have? Is it high energy? Discipline? Is it that they are bright? Assertive? Capable of solving complicated problems? What exactly are the qualities that distinguish your top performers? What do they have that the others lack?

Those attributes, once pinpointed, become the profile of your top performers. And that profile becomes the model that you should use when hiring new people. The closer your applicants match the profile of your top performers, the more likely they will meet or exceed your performance expectations.

Don’t rely entirely on experience.
Conventional wisdom is that experience will prepare someone to hit the ground running. But the price tag for taking this road can be high. All too frequently, “experienced” job seekers don’t live up to their claim. Ten years of experience can be one year of bad experience repeated 10 times. Effective hiring has less to do with experience than it does with potential.

In fact, one of every four people in the general population has better potential for sales work than 50 percent of the people already in the sales profession. This is not to say that experience should be completely disregarded—it is more that experience should not be a sole determinant in making a hiring decision. Past experience does not necessarily equal future success. Hire based on potential first, because the right fit will do more for your company than just bring past experience along with them.

Consider using a personality assessment.
The information from an in-depth personality assessment can provide you with the insights you need to make a better-informed decision. Will the individual fit in with your culture? Work well with others on your team? Connect with his or her manager? Those are the important nuances that can make all the difference as to whether an individual will ultimately succeed or not. A validated personality profile can provide you with a measurable, objective view of an individual.

Use the interview process as an opportunity to address concerns.
In most cases, part of the difficulty of the hiring process is that the interviews often end up being a ritualistic dance in which applicants and employers are both trying to put their best feet forward – and end up tripping over each other. Sometimes, a new employee’s best performance is in the interview. So use the interview to probe those areas that may concern you. If you have questions about the applicant’s level of resilience or how they will deal with rejection, you can ask questions about situations where they struggled or faced disappointment. You can ask about how the applicant felt in that situation. And what he or she did to make sure the situation wouldn’t happen again. Through that exploration, you may discover that the individual might be well suited to the opening you have. Or it could save you from making a huge mistake. Knowing that beforehand—so you can bring on the right people and avoid the wrong ones—can save you enormously.

Find the right fit and coach for success.
The work doesn’t end once you find the right person for the job—in fact, this is where the real work begins. The first few days for a new employee are the most critical. Utilizing the insights from the employee’s personality assessment is valuable in getting that person up to speed—faster.  As a manager, you want to ensure that your employees hit the ground running, so prepare them by giving them the right tools to be successful. By doing so, new employees will know that your company is committed to their success and is willing to invest in their future. Equally important, new employees will know that they are truly valued. By coaching new employees as soon as they start their new jobs and setting up a training program with milestones, they will understand how to avoid potential clashes and adapt their work style to fit in with your organization’s culture.

Provide ongoing development.
In order to keep your employees engaged, you must make a solid commitment to developing their potential. As a result, business results can become more predictable, and you can ensure that you retain more top performers. Development can take the form of personalized coaching, team building or management training—or a combination of those. The key is to keep your top performers engaged so that they don’t feel tempted to leave for a competing organization. Ongoing development is not limited to the new employee: team members, leaders and colleagues all benefit greatly when collaboration and trust exist. Organizational coaches are able to assess your specific situation and provide personalized programs based on your company’s needs.

About Caliper - For nearly half a century, Caliper has been helping companies achieve peak performance by advising them on hiring the right people, managing individuals most effectively and developing productive teams. The accuracy, objectivity and depth of our consulting approach enable us to provide solutions that work for over 25,000 companies. To find out more about how Caliper can help you identify and develop people who can lead your organization to peak performance, please visit us at  or call us at 609-524-1200. Email  for more information.