Finding the Right Fit: Recruiting and Keeping the Best Salespeople for Your Team

It may be less quantifiable than skill sets, but faulty cultural alignment costs your organization money.

Stagnant growth, high turnover and ineffective onboarding can all stem from the same systemic issue: not recruiting and hiring the right sales people.

The current state of sales employees in the U.S. could use improvement. According to one estimate, more than half of all sales employees lack the skills they need to succeed. Hiring the right candidates can have a big impact. How can you buck the trend and not only retain top performers but also hire the right people for your organization in the first place? Conquer these three barriers to start hiring and retaining top sales talent.

1) Hunters vs Farmers: Know the difference between the skill sets to hire the right salesperson for the job
Your sales team needs to search new leads and acquire new customers, while also maintaining good relationships with current customers. These two activities require different skills and should generally be managed by different types of employees: hunters and farmers. How do you tell the difference to ensure you hire the right rep for the right role?

“It may be less quantifiable than skill sets, but faulty cultural alignment costs your organization money.”

Hunters: Promotion-focused salespeople responsible for exploring the market and finding new business carefully track their targets before pouncing into action and bringing a new client into the organization. Hunters:

  • Set their eyes on the prize, focusing on goals and rewards that their efforts will achieve.
  • Comfortably take risks.
  • Prefer to work quickly.
  • Dream big and think creatively.
  • View the glass as half full.
  • Seek positive feedback and lose steam without it.

Farmers: Prevention-focused members of the sales team who maintain relationships and keep customers loyal, cultivate the client relationship, and nurture client needs. A skilled farmer can cause a small customer to blossom into a highly profitable one. Farmers:

  • See their goals as responsibilities.
  • Concentrate on staying safe.
  • Fixate on what might go wrong if they don’t work hard or carefully enough.
  • Work slowly and meticulously to succeed.
  • Prepare for the worst.
  • Avoid risk but work thoroughly, accurately and carefully.

An increase in customer retention rates by only 5 percent can increase profits by 25-95 percent, according to the Harvard Business Review. Hiring a farmer instead of asking a hunter to manage current customer relationships can pay big dividends!

2) Culture Shock: Misunderstanding your own organization’s culture causes misfires, misfits and misalignment
“Culture fit is the glue that holds an organization together,” asserts non-profit leadership recruiting expert Katie Bouton. It may be less quantifiable than skill sets, but faulty cultural alignment costs your organization money.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), if someone leaves an organization due to poor culture fit, replacement costs at least half of the employee’s salary.

To help ensure your candidate will fit your culture:

  • Prioritize culture fit early in the recruiting process: Don’t wait for the final interview phase to detect misalignment. Poor fit with company culture trumps other skills and qualifications.
  • Clearly define your company values: Employees should be able to clearly articulate the main pillars of a company. Anyone who strays from those core values should not be considered for a role.
  • Frame the traits of ideal salespeople within the organization’s overall culture: Tie each individual’s brand to the company’s brand.

At Baker Tilly, we value passion, integrity and stewardship. We ensure that potential employees value these principles just as highly as we do.

3) Assess first, ask questions later: Utilizing sales assessments earlier in the hiring process can weed out candidates who aren’t the right fit
Traditionally, assessments have been used toward the end of the hiring process to help organizations decide between several qualified candidates. We recommend flipping this protocol. With more access to online tests, companies can screen candidates on the front-end of the process to determine if they fit the sales role (hunter or farmer?) or culture, saving valuable, in-person interview time.

The Harvard Business Review outlines a pre-interview assessment success story: A British supermarket chain eliminated the bottom quarter of candidates through a pre-interview screening. Interviewing a smaller pool of candidates more closely matching the job requirements reduced the number of ill-suited candidates by two-thirds and saved more than 73,000 hours of managerial time.

Data from pre-interview screenings can also inform profiles for successful and unsuccessful candidates to refine future assessments.

Ready to crash through the barriers that are separating your organization from building its best sales team? From recruitment to training we can help. Contact a Baker Tilly Sales Effectiveness Advisor to get started.