4 Signs a Sales Manager Can Recognize an ‘A’ player in an Interview

February 11, 2012 at 7:00 AM

One of the most challenging things to do as a sales manager is to determine if the person sitting across from you in an interview will be an ‘A’ player.  Will he or she be the next superstar?  Can this person ‘make it rain’?  Can I rely on them to exceed their quota?

Sales Managers consistently ask me what tips or tricks they can use in an interview to ensure hiring an ‘A’ player.  Since SBI has started measuring ‘Ramp to Productivity Failure Rate’ (aka: how many of your people hit their quota vs. how many fail and leave the company), it has slowly been increasing.  Our median rate 9 years ago was 42%.  It is now 52%.  This means 52% of all new hires FAIL.  This means over half of all new sales hires don’t make their quota in year one.  Ouch. 

The only true way to hire ‘A’ players is to have a robust Talent Management Program.  This includes 5 major components: Talent Definition, Acquisition, Evaluation, Selection and Development.   A good TM program will attract, select, retain and develop ‘A’ players.

Talent Management

Talent ManagementBut what happens when you don’t have a TM program?  What happens when you are actually in the interview asking questions and listening to the candidate’s answers?  What do you look for at the ‘moment of truth’?

4 Sure Signs that indicate an ‘A’ player:

#1 - Sense of Urgency. ‘A’ players have a high sense of urgency.  They need to get it done NOW. Whatever it is; the longer it takes to accomplish the more frustrated they become.  They are ‘A’ players because they challenge the customer.  The build trust with the decision maker, not just a ‘good’ relationship. Challenging customers results in increased sales. The challenge comes from the need to expedite the sale.  Thus, urgency is the opposite of compliance.  You don’t want your sales people to be compliant. 

TIP: Look for answers around impatience and 4th quarter comebacks.  (Aka: Eli Manning and the New York Giants)

#2 - Enthusiasm.  ‘A’ players are passionate about their work.  They get up and stay excited all day.  They love to sell and go through brick walls to do it.  They have a real passion around selling and enjoy the hunt. (We call these wolves)

TIP:  Notice answers around work ethic matched with excitement.  Passion is a key differentiator between ‘A’ and ‘C’ players.  If they mention how great they form relationships, kick them to the curb.

#3 - Keep it Simple.  ‘A’ players have mastered the fundamentals.  They don’t look for the next big product to help them make their quota. The sales process is used in every opportunity.  SPIN selling is tattooed on their forehead.  They actually use call plans on every client meeting. Simply put:  They are professionals. 

TIP Ask questions around how they interact with their customers and how they prepare for sales calls.  Listen for the use of these fundamentals and how simple they convey it is to sell.  (We know it's not).

#4 - Show me the money.  Yes Jerry McGuire coined the phrase and almost everyone uses it (including us at SBI).  It means to be money hungry.  ‘A’ players want to make money.  And the more money they make the better.  Don’t ever think an ‘A’ player wants to ‘please his customers’.  He wants to please them because it means more money.

TIP Ask what his W2 was last year (what he made last year).  He will know it to the penny.

Why should you spend the time weeding through average sales people to get one that’s an ‘A’ player?  They exceed your ‘B’ player quotas by over 3x!  This difference can set you up to make your bonus and get you promoted.

Below is a Quota and Talent Assessment we performed for a large organization whose stock price has risen 35% in the past 6 months.  Notice all the ‘A’ players.  The VP of Sales here has a strict Talent Management Process including the 4 steps mentioned above.  The results are impressive.

Sales management

Interviewing sales candidates is tricky.  They are sales people and their job is to sell you on themselves.  If they can’t sell you on themselves, what will they do with your customers?   Make sure you look for these top tips to uncover ‘A’ players in your interviews.  Your success is critical to hiring the top talent.  These answers to your questions will tip you off on how successful they could be.

What are some other tips in spotting ‘A’ sales reps?  Leave a comment for all to get these valuable tips.

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Topics: Sales Management

Posted by Dan Perry

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