Should You Include Job Simulations When Hiring for Sales Positions?

Ask any HR specialist, sales manager, or business owner about hiring for open sales positions and you might catch wind of a common scenario. The candidate kills it in the interview, coming through with all the qualities the hiring team is looking for. They’re smart, they have social skills aplenty, and they come equipped with all the right qualifications. Yet you can’t help but worry: Will this seemingly stellar individual be the same person showing up for work a few months down the line? In the interview phase, it’s relatively easy to tell when someone is definitely not a good fit. But if you’re in this business for long enough, you know that it’s near to impossible to predict how a new hire will end up performing on the job—despite how much they might nail it during the vetting process.

Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome
Of course you’re always going to have your bait-and-switch employees—they said they were all about the numbers, but actually they couldn’t close a door. One thing you can do to combat Jekyll and Hyde syndrome is improve the hiring process by introducing job simulations right in the interview process. Ask questions like, “How would you handle a customer’s price objections?” or “How would you respond to a customer stating that they’ve used the same vendor for more than five years and are not looking for a new solution?” And don’t stop at testing them with sales-rep-to-customer interactions. Throw in a few colleague-to-colleague questions as well. This will give you a sense for whether or not Kelly or Brandon or Chris Whatever would end up being a true team player.

In interviews, candidates are subjective—they might not even know they’re not cut out for sales! What simulations do is add some much-needed objectivity. Will they be good at the job, or not? Simulations help fill in the knowledge gap for the hiring manager. You can make the process even more granular by setting up a practice sales call. Have the candidate “get on a call” with a few experienced sales managers. Record the interaction to get an even deeper sense of how honed the applicant’s questioning and listening skills are. In the process, you’ll be able to evaluate them on things like general demeanor, vocal inflictions, and how much (or even if) he or she researched your business and services before coming in for the interview.

Clear and Presentation Danger?
Another smart move for hiring managers is to task the applicant with building a sales presentation prior to their interview, and then having him or her deliver it to you and to a couple of key team members. That mock presentation will reveal how persuasive they are, how effective their delivery style is, and—again—how they counter objections.

No company wants to lose money, yet many do in this particular area. Because one of the biggest burners of budget dollars (in any business) is onboarding individuals who will not be staying with the company past the honeymoon stage. So the answer to the question at the top of this post is, yes, there’s definitely value in running job simulations; in fact, they’re some of the best predictors of future performance we have. If you need more convincing, just compare the hiring of sales reps to what goes on in spring tryouts. Rookies are a huge investment. No team would hire a player based solely on their RBIs. Coaches and team owners want them to hit it out of the park—or at least deep into the outfield.