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Is Your Industrial Sales Recruitment a Challenge? Three Hard-Nosed Ways To Qualify Candidates with Transferable Skills

Posted on April 24th, by Henry Goldbeck in Engineering, Henry Goldbeck, Recruitment, Sales & Marketing. Comments Off on Is Your Industrial Sales Recruitment a Challenge? Three Hard-Nosed Ways To Qualify Candidates with Transferable Skills

Industrial Sales Recruitment: Yep, It Can Be a Challenge.

industrial sales recruitment

Looking for Your Next Industrial Sales Superhero?

The reason finding good industrial sales people is so tough is because your ideal candidate needs to have two distinct (and not necessarily complementary) skill sets.

Not everyone’s got ’em. In fact, most people don’t.

One, they need to be charming extroverts who can read people and help them — in other words, they’ve got to be great salespeople — and two, they’ve got to have great technical minds.

They’ve got to be able to understand a highly technical product so widely and deeply that they can educate a customer who’s the real expert because she’s using it (or needs to use it) every day.

It’s sort of a right brain/left brain thing. Most of us favour one set of abilities over the other — but your ideal industrial sales recruit needs to be strong in both areas so he can toggle back and forth between them.

Then there’s the sales cycle: in industrial sales, it’s a long one.

So now you need a salesperson who has the discipline, endurance and persistence to follow the sale through the entire cycle…and close it.

People who get high on immediate gratification — and that probably applies to most of us human types — will get frustrated , under-perform and/or quit.

(Or get fired. Tomato, tahmahto.)

So you’re looking for three very special skill sets: sales, tech, and plain character —

— all in one candidate.

No wonder your industrial sales recruitment isn’t easy.

  • On the upside: because industrial sales pays well, you’re probably not going to face a shortage of applications.
  • On the downside: you don’t need a lot of applications. You need one good one.

So how do you find your one, ideal, super-star industrial sales recruitespecially if you’re in a very specialized industry with a narrow talent pool?

The more specialized your industry, the more challenging and time-consuming an industrial sales recruitment can be. You’ve got two avenues available to you:

  1. Hire from your competitors. After all, they’re proven commodities already active and experienced in your industry.
  2. Hire people in complementary industries who have transferable skills.

Here’s how to successfully do the latter.

(I’ll follow up next week with how to conduct a successful industrial sales recruitment from the narrow talent pool inside your specialized niche.)

How To Successfully Hire Industrial Salespeople With Transferable Skills (From Outside Your Specialized Niche)

First, Focus on Your Candidate’s Aptitude and Character, Not Necessarily Their Direct Industrial Experience (Or Your Product).

While it’s a major boon if your candidate has worked in industrial sales before — maybe in your specific niche, selling a similar product — a successful industrial sales recruitment means you’ve got to focus on what you want your candidate to do, and what they can do, rather than whether or not they already know your industry inside out.

  • Can this candidate talk, charm, sell?
  • Do they have technical aptitude? Have they demonstrated an ability to read technical documents, synthesize information, and learn an industry and a product inside out? Are they keen to learn? Motivated to know everything about the product they sell?
  • Do they have the grit and resilience to succeed in a lengthy sales cycle? Have they proven it before?

So in a first interview, don’t concentrate on discussing your company and your product (that can come later in the process). Instead, ask questions that reveal your candidate’s character and aptitudes. This will tell you more about if they can succeed at your company than telling them about your company.

And remember: when it comes to success in industrial sales, you’re looking for transferable skills AND character, character, character…

…which can be a hard thing to assess. Make sure you’re asking questions that will show it to you.

Second, Focus on Their Numbers. (If You Hire Them, Their Numbers will be YOUR Numbers.)

A good — or great — salesperson will know their numbers and be eager to share them with you.

So if someone’s hedging or hesitant…be very hesitant to hire him.

By the same token: your new industrial sales recruit should be very motivated by the numbers — both her sales numbers, and the commission you’re offering. You want a salesperson who’s driven by achievement and the tangible rewards of closing his sales.

So sure, you’re going to find that candidates are seeking perks like higher base pay and more paid time off..and if you want superstars, it’s a good idea to offer those things. But what you really want to see from your ideal candidates is an unwavering commitment to closing the deal and earning that commission. Numbers, numbers, numbers.

Third, Consider a Longer Hiring Process with More Transactions.

A hiring process shouldn’t be onerous or unpleasant — that will alienate your best candidates — but an effective industrial sales recruitment should to be long enough and include enough touch-points and transactions to show you if your candidate can stick with a process and follow through with you. You’re hiring someone who needs to have the persistence and diligence to follow — and lead — a lengthy sales cycle. If they can’t do what they said when they said they would with you, they won’t do it with your clients, either.

“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”  – Maya Angelou 

  • So if your industrial sales recruit doesn’t call you when she said she would, be wary.
  • If your candidate doesn’t provide the document promised at the time promised, take note.
  • If they seem to get frustrated with a two-or-three interview process, be concerned.

Your sales cycle requires more transactions and is a lot longer than the hiring process. Your ideal industrial sales candidate needs to be able to sail through a slightly-longer hiring process in order to succeed at the much-longer industrial sales cycle.

Sales skills, technical understanding, grit, follow-through: when you’re looking for an industrial salesperson outside your niche, you might not need direct experience with your product (or a similar one), but you must have these characteristics. So spend the time – and yep, it can take a lot of your time — to ask revealing questions, get to know your candidates, qualify your candidates, and get them to prove to you (with actions and transactions during the hiring process) that they have these essentials skills and characteristics.

A successful industrial sales recruitment takes time — a lot of it — but every minute you invest in hiring is a moment you don’t have to spend firing.

image credit: Sales by Duncan Hull on Flickr


Next week: How to Conduct a Successful Industrial Sales Recruitment from within the Narrow Talent Pool of Your Specialized Niche.

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Henry E. Goldbeck, President and founder of Goldbeck Recruiting Inc, is a Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) with over 24 years recruiting experience. In his 13 years at the helm of Goldbeck Recruiting, Henry has built the company's reputation as a leading headhunter and recruitment agency in sales, marketing, operations, engineering, and executive level positions across a variety of industries.

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