About the Author

Marie Warner is founder and President of Warner Professional Sales, LLC. Warner Professional Sales helps companies achieve sales force success through people, performance and planning. Warner Professional Sales helps companies get more revenue growth from their sales force by recruiting the right sales staff, 2) training and developing those sales professionals to consistently exceed revenue goals, and helping management to define and implement the best sales "process" and tactics for sales cycle control, territory assignments and quota planning.

Marie brings to client engagements over two-decades of leadership in the sale of technology, consulting and financial products and services to the Fortune 1000 and major financial institutions. This includes nine years of experience as Chief Sales Officer, in both enterprise-level and start-up organizations.

Marie Warner has authored articles in Mass High Tech, SalesResources.com, SalesVantage.com, EyesOnSales.com, Software Sales Journal, SalesDoctors, and Women’s Business  and has been interviewed by Forbes.com on successful sales strategies and tactics. She is a member of NETSEA (New England Technology Sales Executives Association), NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners); The Commonwealth Institute, NAPS (National Association of Personnel Services), and Founder and Director of Boston Women ConnectSM. Marie is also a CustomerCentric Selling® Business Partner, and participates in numerous other entrepreneurial, technology and marketing organizations.

Marie Warner can be reached by email at  mwarner@warnerprosales.com or phone at (617)489-4528.

Get a Second Opinion

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You are about to make a critical hiring decision. If wrong, your "mistake" may cost your firm as much as $400,000.

You are hiring a Sales Representative.

How comfortable do you feel with your company's sales hiring process and abilities? Have you been able to hire the best, or are the results no better than a flip of a coin?

Would you like a 90%+ success rate?

Think of the consequences of this hiring decision - a poor sales hire is a disaster -- a mistake which costs five to seven times that sales person's salary. At risk are not only the expenses of training and ramp-up, but also the damage that a poor choice of a sales rep inflicts on your prospect and customer relationships. Think of it - instead of net gain (sales) - it's a net loss for you and your company.

A non-performing new sales hire also drags down the entire sales team - sucking up resources and pulling down team quota and performance - especially impacting the hiring manager who now has to deal with sub-par performance.

You can avoid these consequences with a second, expert opinion on your sales hiring.

When I was a hiring sales manager (as a VP of Sales building seven different sales forces, carrying quota with more than 250 top-performing sales professionals) I rarely had the benefit of a second opinion on the potential hire. As a top performer, I knew what to look for in a candidate. Now in helping our recruiting clients - we recognize that ability to determine the best hire is something that sales managers really need a back-up for - the second opinion.

When Warner Professional Sales is recruiting sales talent for our clients, I personally interview and qualify every candidate, drawing upon over two decades of sales and senior sales management experience. I screen candidates as though I were hiring for my own sales organization. My approach works. Over 90+% of the sales professionals successfully recruited by Warner Professional Sales continue to succeed in their jobs after a year. Most firms have serious turnover in their sales organization. The Sales Benchmark Index Survey reports that the typical retention of sales talent is only 65%; put another way, a sales rep turnover rate of 35% - or one out of three hires don't work out.

One of our clients, an emerging e-commerce technology firm, emphasized the need for the "Second Opinion" on sales candidates. This company was growing fast, and had a continuing need for sales talent. Their own screening and selection efforts were disappointing to them. Those they thought were promising new hires ultimately proved to be non-performers. The firm could attract interested candidates and collect promising resumes, but senior management disagreed on the attributes needed for the finalist.

As savvy individuals do before making any decision that can have serious consequences, they called us to request a "Second Opinion" before making a hiring decision. Would I help them evaluate and find the top candidate among their finalist candidates - the one who would thrive in their unique culture?

Exactly how can the candidate ability and willingness to succeed be determined?

The process of screening candidates and interviewing to qualify talent is a significant effort.

First - the screening process must reflect the ideal candidate model; then the evaluation process must probe for success factors and 'fit' to the sales organization.

Each company has unique requirements for success - culture, business model, team structure, expertise (which is both experience and innate characteristics) as well as market knowledge. Candidate screening, qualification and selection demands time, focus and objectivity to determine the best fit for both the candidate and the hiring organization. Every sales manager today has heavy time demands, must always multi-task and is immersed in the company culture and business. We have yet to encounter a hiring manager who didn't welcome additional insights regarding both the hiring scenario and candidate attributes.

Here's how we helped the Sales Managers of our E-commerce client make their best sales hire:

  1. We conducted in-depth Behavioral Interviews of target candidates using a template of questions tailored for their unique selling model, business and the requirements of the sales role;
  2. We conducted and interpreted Sales Assessment Testing to determine a candidate's core sales characteristics (hunter vs. farmer; team player vs. individual performer, etc. ) work ethic and habits;
  3. We delivered Candidate Reviews using a common "template", customized for their company and the specific selling role. This promoted an "apples-to-apples" review of all candidates;
  4. We engaged thorough Reference Checks with past employers, co-workers and clients with written summaries following each reference conversation.
  5. We prepared suggested scripts for finalist interviews, and coached the hiring manager before that interview. I offered my own "ranking" of the finalist candidates, drawing on my 20+ years' experience as a VP of Sales which included over 270 hires that reported to me.
  6. We helped implement Background Checks (SSN verification, credit checks, criminal, sex offender and terrorist checks) through a nationally licensed service fully compliant with all state and federal regulations.

What else can be done to improve sales interviewing skills?

A recent article in a major business publication highlights the many ways hiring managers unwittingly sabotage their hiring through faulty interviewing practices. The article describes a number of firms spending up to $30,000 to coach or train managers to be better interviewers through multiple-day seminars, classes and role-playing.

The common errors cited in the article are hiring managers who talk more than they listen, telegraph across preferred responses, a tendency to prefer (selection bias) those who are similar to themselves, and failure to use a standardized approach (template) for hiring so that all candidates are evaluated uniformly.

Rather curiously, the article had a major blind spot: the failure to identify that the overall hiring strategy has to reflect the fundamental question of what skills are necessary to succeed in the position - from which all else flows. In fact, if the initial screening (resume review) does not reflect this - then the best interviewing process in the world is simply interviewing the wrong candidates.

As important as interviewing skills are in the long-term sales hiring game plan, the sales manager's need to utilize superior interviewing skills is much more immediate and urgent. Revenue pressure accelerates with each week a sales rep opening goes unfilled. Unassigned quota, missed selling opportunities and neglected customers tax the Sales Manager, who often must temporarily step into the selling role in the open territory, while continuing to lead the team, and to respond to her management's demands. The cost of a bad sales hire has both immediate and long-term negative consequences to the 'top line' revenue, and a repeated pattern of poor hires then becomes a threat to the manager's own job security.

Access to our Second Opinion services not only provides a hiring manager with immediate feedback on the sales candidate finalists, but can also be a holistic cross-check on the entire sales hiring process. Both the screening and the interviewing process need to work together to identify the best candidates and to result in a successful sales hire.

Our clients discovered that our Second Opinion service improved their interviewing and selection skills, while at the same time advanced the hiring process to a successful offer. They are confident -- and delighted -- that they determined the top potential among their pool of interested professionals, engaged that candidate professionally and expeditiously through the job offer, and established a repeatable, successful process for future sales hiring.

Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

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