Hungry for a “Hungry” Sales Rep? Think Again.


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Before you invest in any sales performance improvement initiative, make certain you understand the capabilities of every one of your salespeople. Improving sales effectiveness almost always requires behavioral change—on the part of the salespeople and their managers. For example, if your company (like many other companies) is transitioning from a product- to a solution-driven approach, you’ll find that some of your people will not be capable of making the transition.

This raises a very important issue: not hiring these people in the first place. One of the important messages we deliver to sales leaders is, “Vow never to hire another sales rep who can’t get the job done.”

Easier said than done, you might say. But there is something you can do. Partnering with a knowledgeable and trustworthy recruiter can help a lot. I’ve worked with some of the best, and they can really contribute to you achieving your long-term revenue objectives.

One of the smart sales recruiters I know is Eliot Burdett. Because the subject of hiring the right people for sales positions is so important, I asked Eliot if he’d submit to an interview. (This isn’t an ESR endorsement, but for informational purposes for those that follow this blog.) Here’s the interview:

Dave Stein: I know you serve the U.S. and Canada. So how is business?

Eliot Burdett: Business is great. When the slowdown hit a few years ago, companies in some of the markets we serve cutback staff and reduced spending, but within time the markets adjusted and things started moving forward again. Around the spring of 2010 we experienced a surge in volume and the pace has not slowed down at all since. Last year several large companies in the U.S. engaged us to help them build entirely new sales teams while other customers grew incrementally and have been retooling and upgrading all along. We had virtually no time off at Christmas because companies were aggressively pushing to add staffs, so we expect 2011 to be more of the same.

DS: In your experience, what are the most common mistakes sales leaders make when hiring reps?

EB: Great question. There are three big mistakes that lead to inferior hiring records and sales results. The first and perhaps biggest mistake companies make is having a poor understanding of what makes their selling environment unique and the characteristics that predispose someone to do well in their company. Too often companies think they need a “hungry sales rep” but overlook things like culture fit, ability to close similar sized deals and other factors like the ability to work in a start-up or mature company. The second mistake companies make, and this is another big one, is having an unstructured hiring process and hiring people based on looks, mood or gut feel. This is a recipe for a dismal hiring record. The more structure in terms of different objective tests and interviews, cross references and background checks, the better. The final mistake is not looking for potential candidates in the right place. The best sales reps are usually employed 100% of the time, so you won’t attract them in resume/CV databases or by posting job ads—they won’t see them. The best ones are found by networking with them and engaging them at their desk. Actually I did an video blog on this a little while back… Here it is.

DS: What about the sales leaders themselves… I know they’re often your clients, but are they generally suited for the jobs they hold?

EB: We are fortunate to get to work with some great sales leaders and it is exciting to see them employing more structure in their selling efforts, figuring out how to manage the millennial generation and embrace social media. Where companies run into trouble is promoting their top sales performer to sales manager because the two jobs are so vastly different. The rep that leads the sales team is usually wired in such a way that precludes them from effectively planning, communicating, coaching, administrating and holding people accountable –the key things that are required to be a great sales leader.

DS: You’re a talented writer. How important do you think that is in today’s business environment?

Writing skills are critical in most sales roles these days because so much business is being done in email. While negotiating almost always occurs in person or on the phone, a lot of prospecting and business development goes on in email and the quality of the writing has a strong impact on brand and credibility. Writing skills are also required to network in online communities and prospect via social media, so now more than ever reps need to have strong written skills.

DS: What makes Peak different from other firms in your space?

EB: We help our customers achieve sales and hit their targets. We are exclusively focused on helping our customers hire top performing sales people and have completed thousands of successful search projects across various industry sectors. Because we have managed sales teams, built companies from the ground up, and employed recruiting agencies ourselves, we understand hiring from our customer’s perspective and the critical importance of effective sales hiring. Customers call us when they need consistent and reliable performers, which means we can’t simply do a quick keyword search in a database, flip a stack of resumes and start selling candidates to fill a seat. Our engagements involve working with the customer to understand sales objectives and hiring needs, then hunting for candidates, using tailored methods to evaluate that they have the right mix of skills, experience and DNA, then advising our customer on who will produce the best results. It is a highly collaborative process which results in clients getting the right person every time and achieving higher sales, which is really what it’s all about.

Eliot Burdett has more than 20 years of experience starting and leading companies. Prior to launching Peak Sales Recruiting, he co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications), and GlobalX (e-commerce software) which was acquired by Eliot co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0 – How to Find Top Performing Sales Professionals, Fast and blogs on Sales Force Management and Hiring at

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Stein
Dave specializes in helping his clients win critical B2B sales opportunities as well as helping them hire the best sales talent.Dave is co-author of Beyond the Sales Process. He wrote the best-selling How Winners Sell in 2004.


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