Why Your Sales Hiring Needs More Than Interviews

Imagine you’re about to hire your next VP of Sales. It’s essential to take time to make a thoughtful decision. Traditional job interviewing is not enough to make an informed decision. Instead, we recommend using practical assessments.

Why Practical Assessments Matter In Sales Leadership Hiring

The best salespeople communicate effectively for a living. They know how to persuade, develop leads and gain referrals. Those skills present a double-edged sword for a company hiring a sales leader. On the one hand, you want a sales leader with powerful persuasion and communication skills. On the other hand, you need to be confident that the candidate can deliver if they are hired. Hiring the wrong candidate can hurt the performance of the entire sales team for months.

You can use a few strategies to reduce the risk of hiring the wrong sales leader. Working with a highly experienced sales leadership recruiting firm like Peak Sales Executive Search dramatically reduces this risk. Even with that advantage, poor hiring decisions are still possible. That’s why we encourage many of our clients to use practical assessments. 

Practical Assessment Options For Sales Leaders

Assessments have a long history in hiring. Today, assessments have become famous for technical positions like software engineers. Developing an assessment for a sales leader is challenging because customization is required. To save time, pick one of these options.


Option 1: Sales Technology Strategy 

Like every other department, sales professionals can become more effective with the right technology. A sales leader has a significant role in finding the right set of technologies to enable their team’s performance. With this practical assessment, the goal is to determine how the candidate thinks about technology.

To make the most of this assessment, keep these points in mind.

  • Current Sales Technology

Brief the candidate on the current systems and apps you have in place, including prospecting, outreach, and customer relationship management tools. Otherwise, your candidate might suggest software solutions you already have.

  • Overview of Recent Technology Initiatives

Asking a potential VP of sales to present to your hiring committee on sales technology suggests that your company is open to new technologies. It’s important to add context here so that your candidate can calibrate their presentation. For example, if your organization has a robust project management office (PMO), share this fact with your candidate so that they can reflect this fact in their presentation.

  • Key Constraints and Evaluation Criteria

Equip your candidates for success by sharing the high-level criteria you will use to grade the candidate’s performance. For example, you might take a balanced scorecard approach to review the presentation based upon strategic vision, responsiveness to questions, and relevance to the company’s goals. 


Option 2: Helping Sales Employees With Sales Coaching 

Adding new sales technology may not be your top priority for your new sales leader. Instead, you may be focused on developing your employees. The right sales executive or manager can play an influential role in lifting sales productivity. 

  • Create A Plausible Scenario While Protecting Privacy 

For this type of assessment to have value, it needs to be grounded in your company’s reality. To create this type of scenario, look for themes in the performance reviews of the sales team. For example, you may find that many of your newer sales hires struggle with prospecting. In that case, you might structure your assessment on coaching employees to improve prospecting effectively.

  • Focus On The Process

Coaching is a highly personal process. Therefore, it is challenging for a potential sales leader to deliver a comprehensive coaching experience during the hiring process. You seek to understand how the candidate would approach coaching from a process standpoint.


Option 3: Company Leadership Case

Leadership skills are highly challenging to assess. The following scenario ideas can make it easier to assess these skills. Use these:

  • Identify A Company Leadership Case

Asking a VP of Sales candidate to solve a leadership challenge in the hiring process is unrealistic. Instead, the leadership case should be grounded in your company’s challenges. For instance, your organization may have difficulties aligning sales and marketing. Solving that disconnect may be a good area to focus on.

  • Clarify The Goal

As with the other scenarios, give the candidate guidance on your expectations for this applied case. For example, you may encourage them to take a process approach to the issue because the candidate may have a deep understanding of the people involved.


Mistakes To Avoid

There are a few common pitfalls when using practical assessments in your sales leadership hiring process. Keep these points in mind as you run your hiring process.

1) Offering Inadequate Guidance

Your potential VP of Sales should have every opportunity to impress you with their performance in the presentation. Yet, some less experienced hiring teams fail to offer proper guidance. At a minimum, tell your candidates the following: 

Your candidates should know the format and timing of the presentation. For example, advise them that “you are invited to present a 30 minute PowerPoint presentation via Zoom with a Q&A session. In addition, it is smart to share the audience (e.g. “the hiring panel includes the CEO, the CMO, and one of our Board members.”

2) No scorecard

Without a scorecard to assess the presentations, it may be difficult to compare each candidate thoughtfully. As a starting point, we suggest assessing cases based on the following criteria: quality of analysis, strategic perspective, and quality of interaction with the hiring panel. 

3) Using Assessments At The Wrong Time

In technical hiring, it is common to use assessments early in the hiring process. Leadership hiring is different, especially if you share sensitive data with the candidate. There is an easy fix to this problem. Reserve the assessments until you have completed an initial round of interviews or have a final shortlist of three candidates.


The Best Way To Accelerate Your Hiring Process

Finding the best sales leaders is a challenging task because sales leaders are extremely busy. Contact Peak Sales Executive Search today for support in finding your next sales leader and designing an assessment.

Please read our further Insights to increase your knowledge about recruiting an executive.