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Improving the odds of hiring a good salesman.

Improving the Odds of Hiring a Good Salesman

Usually, hiring salesmen in our industry is a pretty casual affair. We advertise or use an employment agency, interview three or four people and then lose no time in choosing the one who seems best qualified.

So far, so good. Everything goes well for the first few weeks, but then it dawns on you that the guy you hired just isn't working out. His mistakes or lack of experience are costing money. You talk with him and a few months go by. Then you toy with the idea of calling one or two of the rejected candidates, feeling that after all, they will be better than the one you chose. But this is risky too, so you finally call the agency again. Sound familiar?

Agency fees, ads and all the money spent interviewing are not the most important costs of hiring the wrong salesmen. The real expense is the business you lose from the time you start looking for the first man until the second one becomes productive. Add to this the cost of customer good will, lost through the poor salesman's ineptitude, and you see a really sizable loss. Choosing the wrong man again can be financial disaster.

However, the odds of hiring the right man the first time go way up if you do a better job of screening and testing, if you do it like the big companies.

Proper Screening

Salesmen usually fail because they lack one or more essential qualities. Most common reasons for lack of sales success are: * laziness; * inability to get along with people; * loss of confidence; * failure to plan schedules and calls; * inability to make decisions; * obstinance and unmanageability; * lack of judgment.

These reasons for failure demonstrate that you cannot hire people only on the basis of their experience, ability and education. We have lots of successful salespeople in the casting industry who have relatively little experience or education. Track record, however, is very important. Look at what the man has consistently done in the past.

How do you obtain revealing facts about a candidate? From the man himself, a weighted application, guided interviews, testing and checking references.

A weighted application form should be designed to show whether the applicant has the minimum qualifications for the job. It delves more deeply into background than the usual application. Preliminary screening is used to weed out obviously unsuitable candidates.

Testing should be professionally administered and should cover four key areas: learning ability, personality, inventory, knowledge of the industry and clerical aptitude. Guided interviews should be conducted before a group of company officers who will question the candidate together and evaluate him individually.

Checking references is too important to be left to the employment agency or search firm, both of which have a serious conflict of interest. By all means, run a personal credit check and insist on a medical examination. At the final interview, the president or vice president of sales already has decided on the man and makes an offer.

Perhaps the trickiest part of this whole sequence is the guided interview because this will be much more probing than the previous screening. Questions here should be related directly to the job and should seek to reveal adverse behavior patterns and find out if the candidate's qualifications match the job requirements. If the job requires complex administrative responsibilities, the interviewer must establish whether the candidate can handle these.

If the salesman has to work largely without supervision, questions should probe whether he has worked successfully before under these conditions or if this will be a problem. Answers to these and similar questions will gradually provide a pattern (favorable or otherwise) that will be helpful in making the hiring decision. Again, most of the important clues will come from the applicant himself.

Strengths and Weaknesses

When interviewing salesmen, remember that every applicant has strengths and weaknesses. A few minor weaknesses or even a string of them is not necessarily enough to reject a man. In other words, don't look for perfection. Look for the man who is adequate on most points and very good on some. And don't evaluate a salesman with a view to promotion. Good salesmen usually make lousy sales managers.

Some companies make it a policy to also evaluate the applicant's wife before reaching a final decision. This can be a very wise move. An invitation to dinner or casually calling at the house for some needed information are easy ways to accomplish a meeting. The purpose of evaluating the wife is to get at least a superficial reading on family relations which might affect job performance.

If it proves difficult to construct an industry knowledge test--and it probably will--consider using such general questions as: What business publications do you need? How do you like to develop sales leads? How do you handle price objections? How much travel do you consider reasonable for the job? Answers to these and similar questions will provide indications of the degree of the candidate's sales professionalism.

While a well-organized approach to hiring salesmen won't automatically ensure against making mistakes, it will weight the odds in your favor. On average, foundries pay experienced salesmen more than $43,000 a year, about 18% higher than the average midlevel industrial salesman. At this rate, it will pay to be more careful about the selection process you use.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Warden, T. Jerry
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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