Medical Sales Rep Recruitment: Implementing an effective selection process for better results.

For most organizations, recruiting plays a pivotal role in driving sales effectiveness, even though it remains one of the most challenging aspects to execute effectively. Several sales leaders think their companies have mastered recruitment, while others may consider it as less important compared to other SFE (sales force effectiveness) drivers. Yet eventually, after comparing their top performers with average sales reps, most of them agree that effective recruiting is of much higher importance than they initially thought. High achievers possess specific qualities that contribute to their success and are often absent in average performers. To become more effective in the sales rep selection, companies must recognize these success characteristics and incorporate them into their recruitment procedures.

An unfortunate hiring decision has significant repercussions for a company, in terms of cost, recovery time, opportunity loss and employee motivation.

  1. Costs: A bad hire can cost a company many times the salesperson’s annual compensation. This includes not only the salary, but also expenses, training costs, benefits, and incentive pay. These cumulative expenses can be substantial.
  2. Recovery Time: Recovering from the mistake of hiring the wrong person for a sales job takes time. On average, it requires:
    • One yearto identify that a performance problem exists and document it.
    • Six monthsto address the problem through coaching and performance management.
    • Another six monthsto replace the persistently poor performer.
  3. Opportunity Loss: During this period, the company loses opportunities in the sales territory and potential customers may turn to competitors due to ineffective sales efforts.
  4. Employee Motivation: The salesperson who is failing in his job becomes unmotivated. This lack of motivation can further impact performance and morale.

In other words, bad hiring decisions can have far-reaching consequences beyond just the immediate financial costs.

Picking the perfect person for a job is really hard, because success in sales involves a combination of various factors that contribute to overall performance. High-performing salespeople are not identical and their success results from a unique blend of qualities. When hiring salespeople, even experienced recruiters make mistakes—specifically they have about 50% chances of making the right selection. In many companies when hiring salespeople, both sales and HR teams are involved. HR screens candidates first, and sales makes the final choice. Finding great salespeople is like solving a puzzle, and teamwork between sales and HR matters a lot. When they’re on the same page, success is more likely, but conflicts can make recruiting tricky.

Sales managers often use their professional experience and intuition to decide which candidates will excel as salespeople. However, relying solely on intuition isn’t sufficient to make a successful recruitment. To enhance hiring success, companies should craft a blueprint for the perfect salesperson. This involves creating a detailed picture of the ideal qualities, skills, and behaviors that successful salespeople possess. By understanding these traits, companies can identify candidates who align with this profile. Once the profile has been established, the company must actively seek out candidates who naturally fit the mold of successful salespeople. This targeted approach increases the chances of hiring the right talent. Of course, companies also need to create an environment that appeals to these high-potential salespeople and establish processes that help identify any hiring mistakes early on.  However, defining an ideal candidate profile is the first and most important part of the journey.


Ideal Candidate Profile Identification

A candidate profile is a detailed description of the specific abilities, credentials, and personal traits required for a job. It’s crucial because it helps to define what makes a candidate suitable for a role before, they can be recognized as such.

Some attributes can be used as a filter during the hiring process. However, it’s possible to cultivate these attributes in candidates through training after they’ve been hired. On the other hand, some traits are innate to the candidate’s personality, character, and natural talent.

For instance, training can enhance knowledge or specific professional skills, but it has a limited impact on traits like energy level, interpersonal skills, and intellect.

Analyzing traits in this manner underscores the vital role of robust and effective sales force recruitment. As some sales leaders put it, “You can’t send a dove to hawks academy.”

Profile Attributes Can Be Modified Over Time: The traits that define a successful salesperson can shift over time. This is because the sales process itself can change, requiring different skills and attributes for success. Sometimes these changes can be significant. For instance, if a medicine’s patent expires medical sales reps may have to compete in a competitive market for the first time, requiring a different set of skills. At other times, the changes might be less obvious but equally important. For example, the sales process might become more consultative, requiring salespeople to spend more time understanding their customers’ needs, crafting tailored solutions, and providing product information.  As the sales landscape evolves, so should the hiring profiles used by sales managers and HR screeners. These profiles, which outline the desired traits of potential hires, need to be updated periodically to reflect the current sales environment. If recruiters continue to use outdated profiles when screening candidates, they risk hiring individuals who are not equipped to succeed in the new sales environment. This could lead to poor performance and sales outcomes.

Profiles Are Not Bullet-Proof Solutions:  There isn’t a perfect set of attributes that can predict success in sales roles all the time. People are diverse and their success or failure can’t be determined solely based on a set list of traits.  Successful salespeople can come from various backgrounds, have different levels of intelligence, and possess different personality types. For example, an introvert sales rep can be as successful as an extrovert one. This shows that success in sales isn’t confined to a specific type of person. However, while there’s diversity in success, certain traits are crucial for a sales role. If a candidate lacks any of these key traits significantly, it’s likely that he won’t succeed in sales. Hence, such candidates should be ruled out.

Moreover, it’s not advisable to select candidates based on just one strong trait. For example, while self-motivation is important for sales, not all self-motivated individuals will be successful. Ideal candidates are those who are self-motivated and also exhibit competence in other key traits. In other words, while hiring profiles can guide the selection process, they aren’t infallible. The most suitable candidates are typically those who exhibit a balance of several important traits. Hiring is a complex process that requires a holistic evaluation of each candidate.

Determining The Right Profile Characteristics: The first step a company needs to take to determine the right profile characteristics for sales candidates is to look at top performing salespeople and understand what makes them successful. These qualities can be used as a benchmark for hiring new salespeople. At this stage it is important to use both historical and current performance data to identify the best salespeople. The next step is to figure out why they’re so good. This could be due to their motivation, sales skills, empathy, honesty, or intelligence. It’s important to observe and understand what traits and behaviors are beneficial for the company and the sales role.

The third step is to split the identified traits into two groups: those the company will look for when hiring, and those that are going to be developed through training. For instance, a company might hire people who are motivated, empathetic, and intelligent and improve their sales skills through training and coaching. By this way, a company might help all its salespeople become top performers.

Experienced or Inexperienced Sales Reps? Some companies prefer to hire salespeople with experience because they can have an immediate impact on the sales effort. These individuals already have knowledge of the sales process and can hit the ground running. Other companies prefer to hire salespeople based on talent rather than experience. These companies are willing to invest time and resources to train and develop their salespeople. They believe that innate talent, when properly nurtured, can lead to successful salespeople.

However, most companies use a combination of the two approaches, hiring both experienced and inexperienced individuals. Ideal candidates are those who have both relevant experience and strong talent. However, such candidates are usually scarce, forcing recruiters to balance the importance of experience against their need for talent. While almost every company uses experience as a criterion for screening sales candidates, evidence suggests that experience is not the best predictor of sales success. The appropriateness of using experience as a hiring profile dimension depends on the specific selling situation.

The decision to hire experienced salespeople depends on various factors, including the company’s resources, the nature of its products or services, and the specific demands of its sales process. It’s a strategic decision that should be made carefully, considering both short-term and long-term outcomes.

As a conclusion, to make better recruiting decisions companies need to establish processes for more effective candidate selection. The first step is to define profiles that will help sales and HR departments identify the most suitable candidates for the sales job. This includes identifying the traits of top-performing salespeople and use them as a benchmark for hiring, while also keeping in mind that these traits may change over time. The next steps for successful recruiting is to develop a strong applicant pool, to select the right candidates and finally attract them to your company. We will review all these steps in the following article.