Journey back with me to a time before A Sales Guy became a Sales Growth Company, when we were knee deep in the trenches of sales hiring.
Challenges in hiring salespeople
Hiring, universally, is fraught with challenges. However, hiring salespeople presents a different level of unique hurdles. Unlike professions with clear educational pathways like CPAs or engineers, sales lacks formal certification or a universally agreed-upon approach. The result? A landscape crowded with salespeople, where a staggering 80% don’t meet quotas, and yet, somehow, all claim to be top sellers.
A different approach to sales hiring
Faced with this conundrum, where 80% of salespeople underperform yet all claim top-tier status, ASG (then A Sales Guy) innovated a different approach: doing away with traditional applications. Instead of dragging potential sellers through the tedious, often futile process filled with redundant questions, we leveraged our marketing and lead generation platform. This enabled us to gather sales data akin to what’s used daily for evaluating prospects.
This strategic shift granted us unprecedented insights into hiring data and conversion rates, revealing a candidate pipeline of sorts. But the findings were sobering. Despite our process requiring considerably less effort than traditional applications, only 7% of job listing viewers completed the basic 7-question form. This initial stage, while not overly concerning, hinted at a broader issue.
Insights from hiring data
Of the 7% who took this first step, only 75% proceeded to open our ‘next steps’ email, which was replete with URL-linked calls-to-action leading to essential learning materials. These were designed to deepen candidates’ understanding of both the role and our company. However, of those who opened the email, a mere 44% moved on to the ‘next step’ – a simple task of constructing an email explaining ‘why you’ – why you’re a good fit for the role and for ASG.
Alarmingly, only 23% of those who opened the email engaged with any of the CTAs. This was a startling revelation: we handed applicants essential information on a silver platter, yet less than a quarter deemed it relevant or bothered to engage.
This leads to the heart of why we do what we do and the genesis of Gap Selling. If 77% of applicants can’t be bothered to learn about the company when it’s handed to them, what does that say about their approach to understanding prospects in a sales scenario?
Emphasizing learning and preparation
Gap Selling is anchored in the principle of learning. It challenges salespeople to delve into understanding the customer’s problems and how our products can solve them. To be a Gap Seller, one must first be a learner. This approach reshapes the traditional sales methodology, emphasizing tailored solutions based on a deep understanding of the buyer’s needs.
Our hiring process was intentionally designed to identify learners. This was the initial test for every applicant. Yet, when asked why they didn’t prepare or engage in learning about ASG and Gap Selling, the most common response was a belief that getting a call scheduled was sufficient. This mindset, unfortunately, mirrors how they approach their career and interactions with prospects.
Before implementing this process, we encountered numerous candidates with impressive resumes and references, yet they would arrive unprepared for interviews. A familiar scenario to buyers: the opening question often being, “What does ASG do?” Such lack of preparation is indicative of a broader trend in sales where the aim is often to do just ‘good enough’ to secure a meeting.
Cultivating learners for sales teams
But ‘good enough’ is rarely truly adequate. It might suffice to retain a job for a year – a common tenure in sales – or to generate leads that might randomly convert. However, for a high-end selling professional, this ‘throw everything at the wall and see what sticks’ approach falls woefully short.
For sales leaders, this is a clarion call to evaluate your hiring processes. Does your method identify learners? In our view, to excel in Gap Selling, to be coachable, and to effectively assist your buyer, being a learner is non-negotiable.
If your team doesn’t embody this learning mindset, it’s time to instill it. Teach them to prepare diligently for meetings, to prospect with the buyer’s perspective in mind, and to be part of the elite 1% of salespeople who truly influence sales.