For sales positions the traditional hiring process too often focuses on the candidate’s years of sales experience in combination with a great first impression, a smooth presentation, and strong communication skills.

None of this predicts success.

In fact, one could argue that the only good predictor of sales success is a track record of past success selling similar products to similar buyers. However, this narrows the field and eliminates many potential candidates where the fit is not obvious. Overcoming this problem and opening the talent pool to more fully qualified candidates is now possible using this simple prompt on ChatGPT (4.0):

Create a performance-based job description using Performance-based Hiring methodology for a sales rep position (describe industry, product line, first-year sales goals, and major challenges). As part of this map the sales process from lead development to the final close and implementation support as a series of SMART KPOs or OKRs.

In most cases you’ll get something like the following plus all of the SMART details. (Send us a URL for an open role if you’d like to see a customized draft.)

Developing a Process Map for Sales Success

The process map for a successful sales rep in a solution selling situation involves several critical stages:

Lead Development: Identifying and qualifying leads that fit the target market profile and assigned territory. This stage is critical as it sets the direction for the entire sales process.

Initial Contact and Rapport Building: Establishing initial contact and building a relationship with the prospect. This involves understanding their business environment and establishing trust.

Needs Discovery and Analysis: Conducting detailed needs analysis to uncover the prospect’s problems, needs, and potential solutions. This requires deep listening skills and the ability to ask probing questions.

Solution Presentation and Customization: Presenting the product or service as a solution to the prospect’s problems, customizing the pitch to address their specific needs and concerns.

Handling Objections: Addressing and overcoming any objections or concerns the prospect may have about the product, service, or terms.

Closing the Sale: Successfully persuading the prospect to make a purchase decision, followed by handling contracts and terms negotiations.

Implementation and Follow-up: Overseeing the implementation process and ensuring customer satisfaction. This includes follow-up to address any post-sale issues and to identify additional sales opportunities.

Now you’ll need to convert this draft into a more accurate sales process map identifying the critical tipping points and deal breakers that drive the process forward. In addition, you’ll need to add a performance objective that includes managing the entire process sales using some type of CRM tool to ensure quarterly performance goals are met.

Conducting the Performance-based Interview to Predict Success

Here’s how to conduct the performance-based interview using the updated and prioritized performance-based job description.

For each critical step in the sales process you’ll need to ask candidates to provide detailed examples of something they’ve done that’s most comparable. For example, assuming getting the entire support team involved in making a high-level presentation to an executive buying team is an essential step, you’ll need to ask the candidate to describe something they’ve done that’s similar. It often takes 10-15 minutes of digging and peeling the onion to fully understand the person’s role and to validate the accomplishment.

To increase assessment accuracy it’s best to assign to each person on the interviewing team only one or two KPOs to assess rather than giving them a full yes/no vote. For example, someone might handle the discovery process and someone else could get examples of how the person managed multiple accounts to stay on top of all of their issues.

Conduct a Formal Evidence-sharing Debriefing Session

Don’t make the yes/no hiring decision based on a simple poll of thumbs. Instead, it’s important that each interviewer share the evidence they obtained during their interview and that everyone on the team hears it. A custom Quality of Hire Talent Scorecard can help capture this evidence. For each KPO rank the assessment from strong to weak. NOTE: A wide variance on these rankings indicates an interview process that’s suspect. A narrow spread, as long as it’s based on objective evidence, should give everyone on the team confidence in the ultimate decision to proceed or not.

A Business Process for Eliminating Sales Hiring Mistakes

By combining Performance-based Hiring with ChatGPT, companies can develop a more accurate and predictive recruitment process for sales reps, especially in complex solution selling scenarios. This approach not only aligns the candidate’s capabilities with the company’s specific sales process but also identifies the critical tipping points that drive the sales process forward.

It turns out the hardest part of this whole idea is starting with the premise that first impressions matter. And whether they do or not, is unimportant. What is important, is to not get seduced or turned off by it moments after meeting the candidate. Instead conduct the interview as described here and just after the person leaves ask yourself this question, “Will the candidate’s first impression help or hinder their ability to handle this job?” Then don’t be surprised at your answer and be sure to share it during the debriefing session.