How to Lower the Risk of Hiring New (Sales) People

When I interviewed for my role at The Junto Institute, the process was lengthy and unique to me. I had face-to-face interviews by video and in-person, assignments to complete, and questions that got to the core of my beliefs. I had never experienced an interview process that unveiled the person I was beneath my work spirit.

We recently held a class on Building a Sales Team where Jeff Ellman, co-founder of Urbanbound and Hireology, shared his experiences on why this vetting process is important, the value of building a bench of new candidates, and the power of a document called "The Playbook."

“Hiring mistakes are the number one problem in any business,” Jeff said. He went on to explain that on average, business owners are making hiring mistakes 50% of the time that cost ten times the amount of the position’s salary, when factoring in onboarding, training, and turnover.

In order to avoid these hiring mistakes, Jeff designed a process that starts with the initial interview. He demonstrated this by performing a mock sales job interview between himself, as the interviewer, and one of our company CEO’s, as the interviewee. In this interview, Jeff’s questions honed in on what type of person this CEO really was. He asked questions about academic experience in high school and college, specifically about high and low points, and asked for detailed examples.

This type of vetting allowed for Jeff to see whether this CEO was a high or low-risk candidate. The CEO had been captain of a sports team, played multiple sports and participated in clubs, and all the while held a great GPA. Jeff sought out patterns of excellence and goal orientation such as these to show that this CEO was low-risk and a potential great hire.

Building the bench was another important aspect that Jeff spoke about. He could not stress enough that instead of searching for salespeople to hire when the need comes around, connecting with those that could be the “dream team” before having a need for them will save time. Jeff states that a simple lunch, coffee, or even a follow-up phone call with these types of candidates who could be A-players can go a long way and build a recruiting bench that is ready for when the time to hire finally comes. 

A crucial moment in our discussion was on the topic of “The Playbook” in regards to onboarding new employees. This Playbook is a document of virtually everything the employee needs to know to learn and grow, a recipe for success because it allows for a designed career path and will help new hires scale their growth. 

This Playbook includes detail on dozens of topics: the company overview such as values, mission, and internal contacts; how the company’s sales software is used in the person’s role; what the sales process is and how it unfolds; the marketing resources that salespeople have access to; sales tools such as voicemail scripts and email templates; and much more.

“Salespeople are hard to hire, that’s why you need to have a strong process,” says Jeff. Bad hires can be poison to a business but a structured process to unveil who the person really is, and implementation of a Playbook to provide clear guidance can get companies ahead of the curve and lower their risk when hiring new people.