CEO and talent consultant Troy Kanter shares non-traditional recruiting strategies to cut through the glare and see what matters.
Over the last 30 years, I’ve helped thousands of organizations find and hire the right talent. No matter the industry or organization, there are some things I see again and again.
For example, at AuctusIQ we often work with B2B sales organizations as well as college and pro sports teams. Both have their traditional methods for scouting and selecting talent, and both suffer from what we call the “Glare Factor.”
Glare Factor happens when we fall in love with some metric or characteristic that seems all-important. This “shiny object” keeps us from seeing who a person really is, and it gets in the way of a lot of smart hiring decisions. In sales, Glare Factor includes things like:
- X years of experience
- A degree in Y from the University of Z
- And of course, personal appearance and charisma
While in football, it might be:
- 40-yard dash time
- Hand size
- 5-star rating from a top recruiting service
I’m not saying these things don’t matter, but when you’re smitten by one flashy attribute, it blinds you to what’s really important. If you want proof, consider this:
Not one single wide receiver in the NFL Hall of Fame has a 40-yard dash under 4.5 seconds.
It’s true – yet many Division I colleges won’t even consider a prospect at wide receiver unless they hit that number. Just think of how many future hall-of-famers they’re overlooking!
Glare Factor is an unavoidable part of traditional recruiting. Fortunately, it only takes a few simple pivots to go from traditional to transformational. Here are some basic strategies that can drastically improve your how you recruit top talent for your sales team:
Let salespeople recruit salespeople
Most corporate recruiters are not salespeople, and they work normal business hours. Unfortunately, this is precisely when your best sales prospects are unavailable. If you’re not a customer or a prospect, they’re not taking your call.
Savvy salespeople just talk differently with other salespeople. They know that their most meaningful conversations happen between 7:00 and 10:00 at night, and from 8:00am to noon on Saturday and Sunday. This shift in strategy opens the floodgates to a larger pool of passive candidates who aren’t actively looking. It works so well that our clients regularly end up opening new territories for all the too-good-to-miss candidates they find.
Learn to ask the right interview questions
Most people have never been trained to do effective interviews, even if they do a lot of them. With decades of experience in sales, recruiting, and data and behavioral science, AuctusIQ has clarified a handful of questions that transform your ability to understand candidates and predict their success.
First, you want to assure your candidate that you’re looking for the right fit for both you and them. Begin by saying, “let’s just slow down and start from the very beginning.” Then ask:
1. “Tell me about growing up. Tell me about the most meaningful experiences in your life.”
Then let them go. Don’t interrupt, just let them share what inspired, shaped, and formed them. 30%-40% of candidates act like they didn’t hear the question and jump right into professional experiences. This reveals two things that don’t point to success as a salesperson – they’re not a good listener, and they don’t have empathy. They didn’t appreciate that you were trying to get to know them.
2. “Transitioning to the professional, who’s the best sales leader you’ve ever worked for?”
Let them think for a minute if they need to. Again, about a third of people won’t give you a name. Instead, they’ll start talking in a generic way about the characteristics of a good sales manager. This again shows that they’re not listening, and they’ve never built a meaningful relationship with a manager who has influenced their life. They may lack relationship capacity.
3. “If I sat down and had a cup of coffee with this person, how would they describe you?”
This reveals so much about character. They can’t fib because you’ve got this person’s name, so you tend to see integrity in their answers. They don’t have to go into detail – it’s more about how they respond.
4. “Now, let’s switch gears. Who’s the best salesperson you’ve ever worked for or with?”
By now they’re into the flow. Ask, “What did you admire about them? What did you learn from them?” This gives insight into their selling style and what they aspire to be.
5. “And if I sat down for a cup of coffee with that person, how would they describe you? What would they say are your greatest strengths?”
Once again, this gives great insight into what their strengths are as a seller, their self-awareness, and relationship capacity.
6. “What is the deal in your career that you’re most proud of? Why?” Now you start learning about what they value, their strengths and deal navigation skills, and what they’re most proud of.
7. For the final question, lay out your selling process and say, “I’m going to give you our seven or eight phases of selling here. Take out a pencil so you can write them down and I’m going to come back and ask you about them.” Candidates usually think you’re going to ask them to rank themselves, best to worst, on these points. Instead, I say something like, “We know that as sales executives, we have to be good at all of these. But we all have one or two that explain most of our success in our careers. What are those one or two for you?” Now they’re sharing their strengths and developmental needs. This reveals so much about whether you want to hire this person, and how to plan their first 90 days of onboarding if you do.
I can give you example after example of how these straightforward questions led me to hire people I would never have found if I couldn’t see past the Glare Factor. Many of our most successful hires lacked the right experience, came from a different industry, or just didn’t “look the part.” Getting it right under those circumstances is always one of my most satisfying experiences. Give these strategies a try and see if they don’t make your vision a little clearer, too.
Want to hear Troy talk about smarter sales recruiting? Listen to our corresponding podcast episode here.
Troy Kanter is the CEO and Co-Founder of AuctusIQ. Kanter has been transforming sales organizations and their revenue streams for more than 25 years. Prior to co-founding AuctusIQ, Kanter served as CEO of TwentyEighty, a $300M learning and performance management firm and the holding company of the world’s largest sales training organization. Before his role at TwentyEighty, Kanter was the President and COO of Kenexa, a software and services firm that he led from start-up through an IPO in 2005 to a $400M run rate in 2012, when it was acquired by IBM for $1.4B. At Kenexa, Kanter led the global salesforce, executed more than 20 mergers & acquisitions, guided the business through multiple rounds of funding, and expanded the company to more than 3000 employees operating in 20 countries.