It’s never been easier to find talented people to hire for your sales team — but are you using outcome-based targets to do it?

In a twist on LinkedIn, some hiring companies and recruiters are now going on apps like Tinder and Snapchat to find new talent. Whether you’re using a recruitment agent or handling the HR duties in-house, the funnel for recruitment is getting as big and refined as you could want. But before you make that hire, you need to be absolutely clear about what it is that you want: It’s not enough to want to hire someone to ‘build sales’. That means drilling down to some very specific metrics.

The problem came up recently with a sales management consulting client who asked me to oversee recruiting for their new sales manager to oversee a team – unfortunately, after they’d already experienced a bad hire. They’d used a headhunter who had brought in someone who had an excellent record of sales in the past. That history was not a bad thing; it just wasn’t totally applicable for this role. This person had no experience in sales management – and the company that hired him needed someone who was very experienced, seasoned – and able to mentor and coach others to achieve their own metrics for success.

He didn’t have the management skills to develop and support the team, but the company had hired him because they saw his inexperience as a plus – as a way to negotiate down his starting salary.

I looked over the interview questions and process they’d used to hire this person and it was clear even from those first conversations that this person didn’t have the chops. Again, it’s not that he wasn’t a good sales person. But he hadn’t got specific about the outcome-based requirements of the job (and to be fair, the interviewer hadn’t pressed him on it). So he squeaked through, despite not having a clear vision of what he needed to do, what resources he would need to get there, or what steps he would be running the team through to get to where they needed to be. He knew enough to undertake pipeline interviews with the team and performance reviews – but there were no real aims, much less processes to get there.

After he’d gone away, the company recognized that they’d made an expensive hiring error (which was made even more obvious when they realized there was no plan, process or metrics in place for the rest of the team to run with after he’d left).

Outcome-based targets were the solution

We changed up the process for the next hire. Instead of waiting for the incoming candidate to suggest how they would take on the reigns, we clearly defined the outcome requirements. We looked at past performance and realized that with some tweaking of processes, we could potentially grow revenue sustainably and set a target for X million dollars for 2016. We defined monthly milestones that we needed to reach – and quarterly targets as well for converting leads to sales. The numbers were already defined before we really started our search – and when we started interviewing candidates, they not only had a clearer idea of what they needed to achieve; they understood they had to be very specific about telling us how they’d achieved similar results in their previous experience. To get the job, they had to be very specific about how they’d gotten results in the past and precisely what those results had been.

Instead of “I’ve been managing a sales team for three years” (whatever that means), we asked for and got metrics we could use to really separate out the best candidates, like “My team grew sales by 15 percent the first year and doubled that in each of the next two years, with an outbound sales campaign using email and cold-calling, building off a 1-in-10 response rate”). The company they last worked for grew 200 percent in a year? Fine – how much of that increase was directly attributable to their efforts – and how did they know it?

Outcome-based job requirements also produced some thinking on their feet, with a few ideas we hadn’t even thought of for getting to their targets faster.

There are some caveats to this approach. Even within the same industry, past performance at a different may not translate perfectly into future results for the candidate. Also, a new company, or an old company launching an entirely new product or service, may not be 100 percent confident about their outcome based requirements (eg. “We’re anticipating $10 million in sales, before we’ve sold a single of these widgets”). Solving this requires doing your research, looking back at your business plan and reflecting on your ongoing corporate mission. Know yourself and be up-front with candidates about what they need to do to be successful – and you may just be pleasantly surprised with your next hire. You’ll find the right person in the end.

Need help setting up outcome-based targets for your sales team? Talk to the experts in outsourced sales management consulting in Vancouver