Andrew Fayad is the CEO and managing partner of eLearning Mind, an e-learning design and development agency that helps companies transform their existing learning materials into memorable and engaging e-learning experiences.
Our client development team at eLearning Mind is a major player in our rapid growth; it keeps the lifeblood of our company pumping strong. Our team of sales rock stars didn't just happen by chance, though -- as a business owner in the competitive New York market, I am always asked where to find great salespeople and how we've learned to identify and vet the best candidates. Here are our four top secrets.
1. Have a solid HR vetting process.
Our client development team knows what to look for to spot the difference between a good candidate and a great one. Examples of the criteria we look for include:
Our HR team also knows how to let the candidates do the talking and how to ask a lot of questions -- this tactic uncovers their communication skills and overall experience, and gives our team a better idea of whether the person is a good fit and is knowledgeable in their field.
2. Hire for culture fit.
You can't "make" someone fit the culture of your company. Regardless of what position we are hiring, every candidate at eLearning Mind takes the Positive Assessment Tool (PAT) Hiring Assessment, a proprietary assessment similar to the Myers-Briggs test that was developed by one of our partners at eLearning Mind, Dr. Chak Fu Lam. The assessment utilizes the concept of people analytics and analyzes their "behavioral DNA," which is significant for hiring the right people, leading them, and helping to create a positive work culture.
PAT tests for everything from the level of a candidate's customer service mindset to personality qualities, and is used to find talented people who also fit our culture of "rowers" (someone who has high compassion, empathy and brings high levels of energy and enthusiasm to the workplace). Only 20 to 30 percent of test-takers pass, and as a result, our overall acceptance rate is now 3.5 percent. If a potential candidate doesn't pass, the interview process ends.
In conjunction with the PAT to ensure we are hiring personable salespeople, we also ask ourselves the question, "Would you want to have lunch with this person?" If you'd go out to lunch with that person because you found something likable, interesting or engaging about them, then odds are your clients would, too.
3. Choose people who have a passion for your industry.
How many times a day does someone try to sell you something? We are bombarded with companies trying to sell us stuff, yet rarely receive calls where the person on the other end speaks with a genuine, unwavering conviction about the value they can add to our lives. This is something that can not be taught, and only stems from a passion for the industry and the product or service offered. There's a reason people stay on the phone with Zappos customer service reps for sometimes hours (one even lasted 10 hours and 29 minutes) and believe it or not, it's not to complain. It's because the reps genuinely love and believe in the product and embody this on every phone call.
At eLearning Mind, one of the first questions we ask a potential sales candidate is, "Why this industry?" People who tell us they have a passion for learning and the way we learn are the ones who make it to the next round of interviews. A candidate can have an incredible track record and be one of the most engaging and likable people, but if they lack a connection with the industry, it will be a challenge for them to connect to and understand our customers. Passion allows our client development team to truly understand how our services impact our clients.
4. Have them interview with multiple people and departments.
A great salesperson has the ability to connect with a wide range of personalities. What better way to test this skill than by having a potential candidate interview with multiple people in your company and getting their honest feedback?
At eLearning Mind, after the candidate passes the initial vetting process, we have them talk with multiple people in our company in a wide range of positions about why they want to work here and how their background experience aligns with our current needs. This process is also of huge benefit to the candidate, as they're given a much truer and clearer understanding of our business and what to expect. Those who leave the most memorable impression on our team members will most likely leave a memorable impression on our clients.
Your sales team is crucial to the success of your business, and for more than just the obvious reasons. They're the ones who make that "first impression" with a potential client, and are the most aware of your customers' current needs and objectives. A great sales team becomes your best resource for understanding the current state of your market -- directly from the customers you are looking to serve -- and relaying this information to impact and adjust overall business strategy. This is why it's important to make sure the people you hire to do this important job not only have the right skills, but also fit your unique culture to represent the most accurate impression of who you are to your customers.