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12 Recruiting, Selecting, and Training
Perhaps more than any other function of the sales manager, successfully
recruiting new salespeople, then training them well.
is critical to the long-term success of the organization. As markets expand
both domestically and internationally, companies seek qualified new
candidates to fill sales positions while talented people inside the company are
being recruited by competitors. Competition for talented candidates is fierce
and the direct and indirect costs of poor recruiting are high. At the same time
salespeople operate in a highly dynamic environment and must be able to
assimilate a great deal of information to make them effective with customers.
A key element in enhancing the success of current salespeople and preparing
new salespeople is training. For all these reasons, recruiting, selecting, and
training salespeople has become a very important part of the sales manager’s
job. This chapter describes the process of recruiting new salespeople into the
organization, then training the entire sales force.
After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
Understand the key issues that drive the recruitment and selection of
Understand a job analysis and how selection criteria are determined.
Define the sources for new sales recruits.
Explain the selection procedures.
Identify the key issues and objectives in sales training.
Discuss how to develop sales training programs.
Define the topics covered in a sales training program.
Understand the various methods for conducting sales training.
Explain how to measure the costs and benefits of sales training.
Mr. Bill Scannell
Vice President, EMC
Recruiting, selecting, and training salespeople.
Mr. Scannell looks at the critical process of recruiting and
hiring the right salespeople. He discusses the growing
understanding that professional selling requires professional
skills and highlights the positive impact collegiate sales
programs have on the recruiting at EMC. Mr. Scannell also
outlines the company’s approach to training with a focus on
getting salespeople in front of the cusomter as soon as
possible, even if that means telesales or customer service.
Finally, he speaks to the “lifelong” learning approach of the
company, providing learning throughout the salesperson’s
Go to the website for Contemporary Selling
(www.routledge.com/cw/Johnston), watch the video for
chapter 12 and then read the chapter. You will find an Expert
Advice follow-up at the end of the chapter, with questions that
connect elements of the video to your learning.
Sales managers must resolve a number of important issues when recruiting and
selecting new salespeople for relationship selling. Refer to the Contemporary
Selling model to see where we are. To better understand the recruiting and selection
process for salespeople, refer to Exhibit 12.1. The decision process has four stages:
establishing policy, analyzing the job, attracting applicants, and evaluating
applicants. The recruiting process is complex and involves many criteria. Test your
skills at hiring in Exhibit 12.2 and see what kind of candidate you would choose for
a sales position. Let’s examine this process in greater detail.
Source: Mark W. Johnston and Greg W. Marshall, Sales Force Management, 11th ed. (London: Routledge,
Managers are always searching for tools that will help them make better hiring
decisions. Here is a quiz that helps the sales manager identify the right
candidate. By completing the survey they get insights on the primary and
secondary characterisitics of the “right” salesperson and also whether
candidates should be recruited from college, inside the firm, or a competitive
1. Are you in an industry with
a. Relatively few well-known competitors and few changes in relation to
new products and service (1 point)
b. New competition entering the market and rapid changes to products and
services introduced (2 points)
2. What category fits your product?
a. Capital equipment (1 point)
b. Consumer (2 points)
c. Service (3 points)
3. If your product is technical in nature, what is your level of technical sales
a. Strong (1 point)
b. Average (2 points)
c. Weak (3 points)
4. How do you market your product?
a. Heavily (1 point)
b. Very little (2 points)
c. Rely on sales staff to do it (3 points)
5. Are you interested in
a. The development of additional business within existing accounts (1
b. The management of an existing line of business within mature accounts
(2 points)
c. The promotion of a new product to prospective customers (3 points)
6. How much time can you afford to hire and train new sales staff before
receiving a return on your investment?
a. 30–90 days (1 point)
b. 91–180 days (2 points)
c. 181 days or more (3 points)
7. Will your sales staff work in an office where
a. Direct supervisor is present (1 point)
b. No direct supervisor is present (3 points)
8. Will your sales staff
a. Rely on other sales personnel to prospect and qualify potential
customers (2 points)
b. Qualify prospects themselves (0 points)
9. How much time will you spend training your new hire?
a. More than 80 hours (1 point)
b. 41–80 hours (2 points)
c. 0–40 hours (3 points)
10. How much time will you spend coaching and counseling your new sales
a. More than 20 hours per week (1 point)
b. 12–20 hours per week (2 points)
c. 0–10 hours per week (3 points)
How to Score
1. Add your total points from questions 1–10.
2. Match your point total to the corresponding point totals following.
3. Your ideal candidate will possess the characteristics indicated for the point
Primary Characteristic of Salesperson
13 points or less
14–18 points
Tenacity, rapport building, work standards, oral
communication, ability to learn
Leadership, planning and organization, job
19–28 points
motivation, presence
Persuasiveness, negotiation, analysis, initiative,
written communication
Secondary Characteristic of Salesperson
13 points or less
14–18 points
19–28 points
Planning and organization, listening, job motivation,
initiative, written commu nication
Analysis, tenacity, oral communication, written
communication, rapport building
Independence, listening, oral communication,
presence, planning
Source of Sales Recruits
13 points or less
14–18 points
19–28 points
New college graduate or hire from within
Hire from within or competitive hire
Competitive hire
Adapted from Walt Shedd, “Ten Stops to Top Sale Professionals,” www.sellingpower.com
Establish Responsibility
An MBA student at the authors’ school was recently recruited for a sales job with a
major software company She was interviewed extensively not only by the sales
manager (her prospective supervisor) but also by higher-level executives in the
firm, including a regional vice president of marketing. All this attention from toplevel managers surprised the candidate. She asked, “Is it common for so many
executives to be involved in recruiting new salespeople?”
The student’s question raises the issue of who should have the primary
responsibility for recruiting and selecting new salespeople. The way a company
answers this question typically depends on the size of the sales force and the kind of
selling involved. In firms with small sales forces, the recruitment and selection of
new people is a primary responsibility of the top-level sales manager. In larger,
multilevel sales forces, however, attracting and choosing new recruits is usually too
extensive and time consuming for a single executive. Authority for recruitment and
selection is commonly delegated to lower-level sales managers or staff specialists.
In some firms, members of the human resources department (or outside HR
specialists) instead of the sales management staff assist and advise sales managers in
hiring new salespeople. This approach helps reduce duplication of effort and avoids
friction between the sales and HR departments. One disadvantage is that HR
specialists may not be as knowledgeable about the job to be filled and the
qualifications necessary as a sales manager. Even when the HR department or
outside specialist helps attract and evaluate applicants, the sales manager typically
has the final say in whom to hire.
Finally, when the firm sees its sales force as a training ground for sales and
marketing managers, either HR executives or other top-level managers may
participate in recruiting to make sure the new hires have management potential. This
was the situation in the firm that interviewed our MBA student. Although it offered
her “just a sales job,” company executives saw that job as a stepping stone to
management responsibilities.
Analyze the Job and Determine Selection Criteria
Research relating salespeople’s personal characteristics to sales aptitude and job
performance suggests there is no single set of traits and abilities sales managers can
use to help them decide which recruits to hire. Different sales jobs require different
activities, and people with different personality traits and abilities should be hired to
fill them. The first activities in the recruitment and selection process thus should be
the following:
1. Conduct a job analysis to determine what activities, tasks, responsibilities, and
environmental influences are involved in the job to be filled.
2. Write a job description that details the findings of the job analysis.
3. Develop a statement of job qualifications that describe the personal traits and
abilities a person should have to perform the job.
Most companies, particularly larger ones, have written job descriptions for sales
positions. Unfortunately, those job descriptions are often out of date and do not
accurately reflect the current scope and content of the positions. The responsibilities
of a given sales job change as the customers, the firm’s account management
policies, the competition, and other environmental factors change. When this
happens, companies need to conduct new analyses and update descriptions to reflect
those changes. When firms create new sales positions new tasks also need to be
Consequently, a critical first step in the hiring process is for management to
make sure the job to be filled has been analyzed recently and the findings have been
written out in great detail. Without a detailed, up-to-date description, the sales
manager will have difficulty deciding what kind of person is needed and prospective
recruits will not really know what is expected of them. Consider Ethical Dilemma
#1 and the challenges companies face in identifying the right kind of candidates.
Craig McMillan faced a difficult choice. His company, Cutting Edge Logistics,
had experienced significant growth in the last five years, and as vice president
of sales he had been one of the key people in watching the company grow
from just under $100 million to over $500 million in sales. Based in Chicago,
the company had hired experienced salespeople from competitors to help
grow quickly and had used generous financial packages to keep them
motivated and loyal.
However, as McMillan reviewed the sales for the last four quarters, he
noticed a disturbing trend. Many of these salespeople were older and
performance had begun to drop off. He knew he needed to hire new
salespeople, but he was unsure if he should use the old model (experienced
salespeople from competitors) or a new model of hiring less experienced
salespeople fresh out of college who could communicate with younger buyers
and decision makers at the client companies. The old model had been hugely
successful and he was afraid that a new one would alienate salespeople who
had been with the company for years. McMillan was afraid that changing the
hiring model could destroy morale, yet he knew the sales force needed greater
Question to Consider
1. Craig McMillan has called you for advice. What would you tell him?
Job Analysis and Determination of Selection Criteria. Information about each
selling job’s content should come from two sources: (1) the current occupant of the
job and (2) the sales manager who supervises that person.
Current job occupants should be observed and/or interviewed to determine what
they actually do. Sales managers at various levels should be asked what they think
the job occupant should be doing in view of the firm’s strategic sales program and
account management policies. It is not uncommon for the person who analyzes a job
to discover the salespeople are doing extra work that management is not aware of
and slacking off on some activities management believes are important. Such
misunderstandings and inaccurate role perceptions illustrate the need for accurate,
detailed job descriptions.1
Job Descriptions. Job descriptions written to reflect a consensus between
salespeople and their managers can serve several useful functions. In addition to
guiding the firm’s recruiting efforts, they can guide the design of a sales training
program that will provide new salespeople with the skills to do their job effectively
and improve their understanding of how the job should be done. They can also
serve as standards for evaluating each salesperson’s job performance, as discussed
in chapter 11.
In many companies there are a variety of sales positions. Some may not even
include the word “sales” in the job title. Go to Monster.com and type in “sales” and
you will find hundreds of job listings. Note that each description spells out many of
the items identified below and require a variety of different skills and experience.
Detailed job descriptions, such as those you see on Monster.com, tell both the
company and the potential salesperson exactly what the expectations are before
employment, which vastly increases the rep’s chances of success.
Good job descriptions of sales jobs typically identify the following dimensions
and requirements:
1. The nature of product(s) or service(s) to be sold.
2. The types of customers to be called on, including policies concerning how often
calls are to be made and the personnel within customer organizations who
should be contacted (e.g., buyers, purchasing agents, plant supervisors).
3. The specific tasks and responsibilities to be carried out, including planning
tasks, research and information collection activities, specific selling tasks, other
promotional duties, customer servicing activities, and clerical and reporting
4. The relationships between the job occupant and other positions within the
organization. To whom does the job occupant report? What are the salesperson’s
responsibilities to the immediate superior? How and under what circumstances
does the salesperson interact with members of other departments, such as
production or engineering?
5. The mental and physical demands of the job, including the amount of technical
knowledge the salesperson should have concerning the company’s products,
other necessary skills, and the amount of travel involved.
6. The environmental pressures and constraints that might influence job
performance, such as market trends, the strengths and weaknesses of the
competition, the company’s reputation among customers, and resource and
supply problems.
Determining Job Qualifications and Selection Criteria. Determining the
qualifications of a prospective employee is the most difficult part of the recruitment
and selection process. The problem is that nearly all these characteristics play at
least some role in choosing new salespeople. No firm, for instance, would actively
seek sales recruits who are unintelligent or lacking in self-confidence. At the same
time, not many job candidates will possess high levels of all desirable
characteristics. The task, then, is to decide which traits and abilities are most
important for which job and which are less critical. Also, some thought should be
given to trade-offs among the qualification criteria. Will a person with a deficiency
in one important attribute still be considered acceptable if he or she has outstanding
qualities in other areas? For example, will the firm want someone with only average
verbal ability and persuasiveness if that person has a great deal of ambition and
Deciding on Selection Criteria. Simply examining the job description can assist
decision makers looking for key qualifications in new salespeople. If the job
requires extensive travel, for instance, management might prefer applicants who are
younger, have few family responsibilities, and want to travel. Similarly statements
in the job description concerning technical knowledge and skill can help
management determine what educational background and previous job experience
to look for when selecting from a pool of candidates.
Larger firms go one step further and evaluate the personal histories of their
existing salespeople to determine what traits differentiate between good and poor
performers. This analysis seldom produces consistent results across different jobs
and different companies. It can produce useful insight, however, when applied to a
single type of sales job within a single firm. The assumption is that there may be a
cause-and-effect relationship between such attributes and job performance. If new
employees have attributes similar to those of people who are currently performing
the job successfully, they may also be successful.2 Another compelling reason to
analyze personal history is to validate the selection criteria the firm is using, as
required by government equal employment opportunity regulations.
Find and Attract Applicants
This is one area where some firms do not spend enough time and money. They
attempt to hold down recruiting costs in hopes that a good training program can
convert marginal recruits into solid sales performers. Unfortunately, several
determinants of sales success are difficult or impossible to change through training
or experience. Therefore, spending the money and effort to find well-qualified
candidates can be a profitable investment. In certain industries finding enough
qualified individuals can be a challenge. For example, the life insurance industry
reports that it must interview 60 to 120 people to find one good hire.3
In view of the difficulties in attracting qualified people to fill sales positions, a
well-planned and well-implemented recruiting effort is usually a crucial part of the
firm’s hiring program. The primary objective of the recruiting process should not
be to maximize the total number of job applicants. Too many recruits can overload
the selection process, forcing managers to use less thorough screening and
evaluation procedures. Intel, for example, receives thousands of applications every
day. Besides, numbers do not ensure quality The focus should be on finding a few
good recruits.
Self-selection by prospective employees is the most efficient means of selection,
so the recruiting effort should discourage unqualified people from applying. For
example, many companies recruit via the Internet. Companies like Cisco Systems
and IBM have a screening procedure by which candidates can provide certain key
pieces of data about themselves and the company will search its job openings to
look for a match.
Recruiting communications should point out both the attractive and unattractive
aspects of the job to be filled, spell out the required qualifications, and state the
likely compensation. This will encourage only qualified and interested people to
apply for the job. Also, recruiting efforts should focus only on sources where fully
qualified applicants are likely to be found.
Internal Sources. Sales managers go to a …
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