Being good at sales is about being curious, consistent, conscientious, and committed. When I am looking to make a new sales hire, I test for each one of those qualities--and I can actually do it in just 1 email exchange with a potential candidate. Here's how to run the 1-email quality check on your potential candidates and knock out the weakest links with minimal effort on your part.
Start by sending this email to an applicant you are interested in:
Thank you for your interest in the sales position at my company. In an effort to streamline our hiring process, we interview all interested candidates via phone as a first step. Please set up a phone interview at your earliest convenience.
Be sure not to include your phone number in the email and not to provide a time or day for the call.
Candidates will respond in one of the following ways:
Best Salesperson: The go-getter, at the very least, will propose a specific time and date via email and ask for the best number at which to get in touch with you-- or if she is really above and beyond fantastic, she'll actually find your company's phone number on her own and give you a call shortly thereafter. If she does the latter, her curiosity level and commitment levels are off the charts. Check her email for politeness (did she use a salutation or just rush right into a reply?) and for typos (taking the time to send error-free messages is a hallmark of someone who pays attention to detail!). If she meets the bar on both, she also meets the conscientious requirement--because she double-checked herself before pushing send, and understands that professionalism matters. The committed factor can be evaluated in how quickly she responds to you. If she truly cares about being considered for the position, she'll get back to you within 1 day of receiving your email. If she takes longer than that, she is not the right person for the job.
Average Salesperson: The b-level applicant will respond to your email asking what number to call. The commitment level here may still be high because the candidate might have responded quickly, and the conscientious factor may also be good, if the response is well-written, as in the scenario above. However, the curiosity and commitment levels are only average here--which means this person is either a rookie in need of basic training (something you will have to factor into your hiring decision and compensation package) or someone suited to a sales assistant role rather than a lead. Curious people don't wait for information to come their way, and neither do A-level salespeople.
Terrible Salesperson: The one who will sell nothing for your company will answer by providing his phone number to you. This guy is only capable of making a sale if the customer walks through the door with knowledge and money in-hand and literally brings his purchase to the counter to pay. He is devoid of both the curiosity and commitment required to go out and make sales happen, and you don't want him on your team under any circumstances--even if his email demonstrates that he is conscientious and consistent.
The email challenge is a simple but potent test to evaluate a sales candidate without spending a lot of time or resources in the process. For those applicants that meet muster, it's on to step 2 in the hiring process, which you can find in my next post.