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Avoiding the seven deadly sins of MSP sales recruitment

Hiring expert Michael Schmidtmann details the seven mistakes that MSP hiring managers make in recruiting salespeople -- and explains how to avoid them.

For most companies, hiring seems to be more art than science. However, with 50% of a company's success attributable to the talent in the organization -- according to industry hiring gurus -- absorbing a few best practices can go a long way.

In a recent Continuum Managed Services webinar on MSP sales recruitment, titled "Keys to Attracting and Retaining Good Sales Talent," attendees learned some dos and don'ts of recruiting employees. The webinar featured Michael Schmidtmann, a veteran leader in sales management and currently a business advisor with 4Profit, a technology-focused advisory services company.

For starters, Schmidtmann laid out what he called the Seven Deadly Sins of Hiring: not spending enough time and attention attracting and hiring; not sourcing enough candidates; being "undatable" based on first impressions; not screening candidates effectively; not being able to get a good candidate to commit; not targeting the candidate's hot buttons; and, finally, not onboarding and ramping up effectively.

So how should MSPs get job candidates in the door, and, once in, how can they determine which candidate is the right one? According to Schmidtmann, it's all about the process.

A great MSP sales recruitment process, he said, does six things: It identifies great candidates, makes the company and job attractive, screens out "emerging underachievers," identifies trouble areas, closes the deal, and gets the new hire productive quickly.

The hiring expert noted that a good candidate may have some trouble areas but it doesn't mean that you don't hire them; trouble areas can be worked around. For example, he pointed out that a very good salesperson might not be good at paperwork. "You can compensate and build a process around them to help them be successful," he said.

In other words, if there's a candidate that for the most part fits the bill, they can be the right fit as long as you know and can work around their trouble areas.

Ninety-five percent of the sales universe is open to a conversation about a potential job opportunity -- even in smaller markets.

One of the most challenging aspects of hiring for many companies is getting attractive candidates through the door. According to Schmidtmann, most employers just don't look far enough into the universe of potential candidates.

Ninety-five percent of the sales universe is open to a conversation about a potential job opportunity -- even in smaller markets. "Seventy-five percent of those job candidates don't have a resume out in the market," he said. So employers need to be proactive to discover that 75%.

Sources for talented candidates include local print media, specialized job boards, recruiters, employee and network referrals, mass-market job boards, LinkedIn, recruitment programs on sites such as CareerBuilder, and vendors. In other words, leave no stone unturned.

However, to attract top talent, you've got to adopt an advertisement strategy that tells why your company is interesting and different. This might mean explaining that you provide, for example, personal attention, learning opportunities, advancement, an enjoyable culture, a challenging yet rewarding environment, and recognition.

To find the right job candidates among all of the potential candidates, toss out the "think" screening questions, such as "Why should I hire you?" and "Where do you want to be in five years?" Instead, Schmidtmann said, you should embrace questions that show what the candidates do.

"Give them a real sales scenario to see how they work," he said.

For instance, ask them what they would say to a customer who tells them, "I like your solution but your price is too high." Or ask them how they would get past the gatekeeper at a prospective customer. How they handle those scenarios will give you valuable information about the candidate.

Then, tally up the pros and cons of each candidate after every interview. Share with the job candidate a list of positive attributes they exhibited and then challenge them on some of the answers they gave in the scenario questions, even if you liked the initial answer. This tactic allows you to see if a job candidate is coachable.

The bottom line is that recruiting employees takes time and effort if you hope to get it right.

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What best practices have you developed for hiring salespeople?
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When hiring for my business, I search for potential employees that exhibit the "Three P's": Professionalism, Punctuality and Personality. These three character traits are essential for our salesforce as the sales team needs to be able to make long term relationships with clients and have the charisma and talent to accomplish this. We look for candidates that have strong skills dealing with people from all walks, and give preference to these candidates.
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