Whenever I’m asked the question, “What makes a great sales leader?,” I quickly answer, “The ability to find and hire top sellers faster and more consistently than anyone else.” But wait, isn’t that HR’s job? No it isn’t. And considering the labor headwinds of another economic downturn, or “Quiet Quitting,” or The Great Resignation, CSOs have the ultimate duty of staffing our teams with top talent to deliver on revenue commitments.
I personally witnessed the importance of this responsibility while working in the recruiting industry with other senior sales leaders who left the task of sourcing and screening candidates solely to their HR function. It was mind-boggling the number of weeks to months they would lose while waiting for their recruiter to send them qualified candidates. And then to complain about the lack of quantity, poor quality or mismatched expectations. So here are my three pro tips I’ve espoused over the years that, when coordinated with (not delegated to) your HR counterpart, will supercharge your sales talent recruitment.
Super-Charger 1: To increase the quantity of your candidate bench, go beyond competitors and similar businesses to source nontraditional candidates.
Staffing and recruiting professionals who excel at research by using technology, multitasking, problem-solving and finding opportunities where there seem to be none.
Sales professionals who previously left or paused their careers to attend to family matters and are now returning-to-work (no one tries harder to prove themselves).
Sellers who graduated from well-known training programs (even those outside your industry), such as military and athletic schools, General Electric and Enterprise.
Pro Tip: Proactively subvert recruiting processes that suppress candidates who lack the traditional credentials that sound good on paper but aren’t actually critical to success in your sales role. Overly specific applicant tracking systems (ATS), screening forms and prejudicial interview questions can eliminate nontraditional applicants from the process who would otherwise be successful.
Super-Charger 2: To increase the consistency of your candidate pool, add four ideal qualifications to the job posting and instruct your recruiting partner to funnel candidates who meet at least three.
Ideal qualifications are things like B2B selling, worked in healthcare, capital equipment sales and indirect channels.
Avoid getting too specific: Use “healthcare” not “life sciences,” “B2B” not “F500,” “capital equipment” not “power generation” and so forth.
Be sure to differentiate these ideal qualifications from true requirements and necessary experience. For example, requirements could include bachelor’s degree, authorized to work in the U.S., etc., while experience could read “eight to 10 years in outbound sales.”
Pro Tip: When candidates meet three of your four ideal qualifications, customize their onboarding to quickly develop against the missing element. Using the example above, let’s say the candidate for an indirect role previously sold B2B healthcare hardware as a direct seller. No problem! You can prioritize channel partner engagement in their first few weeks in role.
Super-Charger 3: Ask candidates to place themselves on a corresponding scale or spectrum, always following up with, “Why?”
Here are some examples that I always loved to use, but these can be customized as appropriate:
Where would you put yourself on a spectrum with “highly structured” on one end and “unconsciously competent” on the other? Why? (Also works with hunter/farmer, etc.)
On a scale of one to 10, where do you rate your ability to handle ambiguity (conflict management, etc.)? Why?
Do you identify with “‘loving to win” or “hating to lose”? Why? (This is my personal favorite.)
Pro Tip: There may not necessarily be a single right answer with these questions, but pay close attention to the quality of the “why” answers. If candidates cannot articulate their reasoning (I don’t know) or their answers are mealy (I’m a bit of both), then consider moving on to other candidates who will bring more clarity and conviction to your team.
In closing, remember: It is your responsibility to staff your team. Without a complete, high-functioning team, I could not make or keep revenue promises, so I had to own my hiring quality and speed. And by applying these pro tips, I could hire faster and better … and so can you.
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