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Hiring Reps for Maximum Competency

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It is often said that a company is only as good as its employees. That means that having a fully functioning team with exceptional talent is the crux of what ultimately makes or breaks performance. This is especially true for high-performing sales organizations, as the competency of sales reps can significantly impact the organization’s ability to achieve repeatable revenue targets.

Maximizing rep competency means more than just ensuring that reps are displaying the right skills and behaviors in the role. The process begins even earlier, in recruiting and hiring the right talent that have a high probability of succeeding at a specific organization; in doing so, companies can significantly slash the potential costs and time involved in hiring the wrong candidate.

Sales enablement can help increase the odds of a great hire by establishing a solid foundation that not only ensures the selection of successful future reps, but also facilitates their growth onwards within their role.

As enablement professionals, it is imperative to partner with recruiting and HR teams to ensure they are armed with the necessary strategies to find new promising reps. Further, sales enablement professionals need to also look beyond the initial hiring step and into the onboarding and training processes in order to equip and grow those new hires into top sellers.

Here are some key guidelines to incorporate for hiring and onboarding new sales reps for maximum competency.

Ensure a Diverse Pool of Candidates

When looking for new additions to the team, aim to seek out culture additions by welcoming diverse perspectives and backgrounds. While recruiting for like-minded culture fits are important, the most effective working teams are those that are composed of diverse individuals and talents. In fact, diverse organizations have 19% higher revenues and are 70% more likely to capture a new market. Given this, sales enablement should strive to include people across a variety of demographics who will add unique value to their sales teams, including age, gender, race, and more.

Sales enablement can take the following steps to help talent teams broaden their search for exceptional sales professionals:

  • Create job postings on diverse channels by actively seeking out various networks and job search mediums that serve underrepresented groups.
  • Partner with local community organizations to source and refer candidates belonging to underrepresented groups.
  • Implement a diversity and bias training program for all those involved in the hiring process to learn about how to avoid common biases.

In addition to diverse demographics, sales enablement should be intentional about inviting candidates coming from all different selling backgrounds, education levels, upbringings, and paths to sales. Having a diversity of sales backgrounds is especially important for fast-growing organizations, as diverse teams are more likely to adapt to changes over time and lead with innovation.

Scout for Highly Coachable Reps

Whether companies are looking for a sales rep who is high velocity and transactional-focused or long-term and relationship-focused, the single most universal indicator of a successful sales rep is their coachability.

While having direct sales experience is always a plus, having a strong growth mindset and being willing to learn is an important non-negotiable attribute in the age of digital innovation because it means that the rep can adapt as the needs of the business inevitably change.

In essence, coachability is how well someone is able to receive feedback and make improvements accordingly. Here are some tangible ways to test for coachability during interviews:

  • Ask intentional questions to paint a picture of how the candidate responds to objections and conflict.
  • Ask the candidate to walk through a time when they received critical feedback and how it changed the way they thought about it.
  • Try setting up a mock presentation or sales call. Give the candidate feedback after their first try, then ask them to retry it a second time and assess how they apply the feedback.

“The reps I continue to give another look at are the reps who might not get it perfectly the second time, but are eager to try again or reflect on the feedback and understand what to do with it,” said Caroline Holt, executive vice president of revenue enablement at EVERFI. “It’s usually a pretty good indicator that they might be challenging to coach if they either react negatively to the feedback, or they don’t attempt to apply it at all.”

At the end of the day, the most effective reps are those who embrace the feedback they receive and are willing to get comfortable confronting their weaknesses in order to improve.

“When you hire somebody that’s got that ability to admit their strengths and weaknesses, you’ve also got a coachable person,” said Colleen Stanley, author of “Emotional Intelligence for Sales Leadership”.

Pay Attention to Preparation Efforts

Throughout the entire hiring process, be sure to have recruiters take note of the behaviors and preparation efforts that demonstrate the candidate’s commitment to the process. Showing up fully prepared and eager to learn not only demonstrates the candidate’s commitment to the role and company, but it also exemplifies the work they will have to do as sales reps managing various customer relationships throughout their role.

“It tells me that they’ve spent time getting involved in the process, which is exactly what they’re going to need to do once they get in front of a prospect or customer,” said Holt. “You need to put in preparation time, you need to translate that to the questions you’re going to ask them, and the value you’re going to create for them.”

Practitioners can gauge how much the candidate has prepared by whether they demonstrate that they have done research prior to the interview. Note how eager they are to ask in-depth questions and how they connect the requirements of the role to their own passions and specific experiences. Also, notice their subtle efforts in any thoughtful emails or thank you notes that reflect their overall authenticity and enthusiasm for the role.

Those who come fully engaged and demonstrate high involvement in the entire process are likely the reps who will show full ambition and dedication to their roles.

Implement a Comprehensive Onboarding Process

Once finishing the hiring process, the time and effort that goes into onboarding new reps is a major factor that determines their long-term competency. Many companies often hold orientation sessions that pack all the information and training all into one week. With this onboarding style, new reps are expected to take everything and apply it immediately, which often leaves them feeling overwhelmed and retaining less. In order to grow new hires into strong and consistent performers, it is important to take a more long-term approach when it comes to onboarding.

First, it is imperative to acknowledge the difference between orientation and onboarding. These two processes are often lumped together with a lack of clarity on their purposes.

“Onboarding is the time it takes for someone to be productive and consistent over time, and that ramp is going to change based on the sales cycle of your business,” said Holt. “Orientation and thinking that you’ve gotten somebody ready by giving them exposure to a lot of content over the first week or two is not the same as onboarding.”

To ensure reps are trained for maximum long-term competency, Holt shares her approach to a comprehensive and meaningful onboarding schedule:

  • Week one: focus on showcasing the high-level fundamentals of the organization by allowing new reps to understand the business solutions, offerings, competitors, and pain points of the target market.
  • Week two: provide a list of accounts for each rep to pursue and teach them how to identify and research prospects in order to develop sound approach strategies.
  • Week three: facilitate hands-on training by getting reps comfortable with scheduling, using outreach tools, writing, and engaging properly over social or email.
  • Weeks four to seven: allow reps to start executing discovery calls, learn to demo for solutions, and present a proposal for real customers.

Breaking up onboarding into these different phases will allow reps to adjust to their roles with ease and ensure that they will be able to stand on their own to achieve high performance.

Having highly competent reps among sales teams is pivotal to the overall success and performance of the entire organization. Knowing this, it is absolutely crucial to prioritize the initial steps to recruit and hire new reps who come from diverse backgrounds, demonstrate strong growth mindsets, and show commitment from the get-go. Moving beyond this process, the onboarding stage must also be viewed as a way to fully train and integrate new reps to become successful salespeople.

Enablement can help optimize for the best outcomes when it comes to finding the right hire to maximize sales productivity and revenue performance. To do so, sales enablement professionals need to work closely with recruiters, hiring managers, and sales teams in order to find and hire the right talent and ensure a successful transition from new rep to high performer.



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