Much to the dismay of many employers, getting new salespeople productive quickly doesn’t start after you him them. Incentives and training are important facets of meeting and exceeding quotas and goals consistently. But getting a salesperson to perform well right out of the gate requires due diligence before you ever hire him or her.

A small business owner recently posed this question in a discussion group: “What are some tips for making new salesperson productive quickly?” The best response depends on the salesperson hired.

Some new hires might need training. Others might need coaching. And a few might just need to be pointed in the right direction. If you, the employer, has expectations for big results quickly with a minimum of training and support, then it’s a given that you must hire a candidate with the right set of skills. If you are willing to invest in on-boarding the new hire with additional training, coaching, and/or other resources, then you can hire a candidate with some skills but mostly potential. Unfortunately many employers hire high potential candidates but expect maximum productivity quickly without any effort.

How can an employer gauge how quickly new salespeople can ramp up? Follow these 5 tips and you’ll be sure to eliminate much of the guesswork.

  1. Set your goals. This needs to be done before you hire. In fact, it needs to be done before you even advertise the position. Often an employer sets his goals based on the employee they hire. Most of the time that approach ends up in disappointment. Goals need to be specific, measurable, and include a time line. “Generate leads” is not a good goal. “Generate 10 leads that convert to 2 sales totaling $10,000 in the first 30 days” is a well written goal.
  2. Define the scope of the job. Staying focused on lead generation for a minute, how much responsibility will the new hire have? Does your business have a strong brand name already and active marketing program that generates a lot of incoming calls or web inquiries? Or are you expecting this new hire to identify potential customers and cold call or direct market on his dime and time? There’s a vast difference in skills between the salesperson who can build his own list compared to the one who can effectively follow warm leads.
  3. Identify essential skills. Think “if the job could talk, what would it say?” What skills must new salespeople have to meet the goals you set? Initiative, outgoingness, and an ability to multi-task might not be enough if the new hire doesn’t have the ability to learn your products, bypass rejection, and think analytically (especially for consultative –type selling). Don’t dwell on individual personality traits but focus on competencies such as decision making ability, ability to motivate others, negotiation skills, and relationship management.
  4. Write an effective, targeted ad. This tip is really quite easy if you have set your goals, defined the job, and identify the skills that a candidate needs to meet your expectations.
  5. Assess candidates. The interview is an integral part of hiring productive salespeople, but it’s not nearly enough. In general, most interviews are barely more effective than flipping a coin. When it comes to interviewing salespeople, the odds are much lower. Salespeople sell. That seems like superficial but salespeople are selling themselves during the interview. The hiring manager must be capable to see through the sales pitch because unlike many products and services, employees don’t come with a money-back guarantee and warranty.

An effective way to uncover the “real” potential and skills of salespeople during the selection process is to use sales personality and sales ability tests. There are many validated and predictive tools available. They vary in cost, accuracy, and reliability. A good sales test will identify what skills a potential new hire is naturally good at doing….and what weaknesses he or she might not have shared with you at the interview or on their resume.  In a way, sales pre-employment assessments function as an owner’s manual for new hires.

When researching which test might be best for your business, seek a qualified pre employment test expert that can select an assessment that fits your criteria. But be wary of the hiring expert who recommends only one tool for every occasion. One size does not fit all, especially when it comes to evaluating salespeople.