Sales Management Corner-Common Sense Rule #9: Reference Check

 Always Find a Way to Check a Sales Candidate’s References!

I have never been the least bit sensitive about admitting when I blundered. What’s the point in not admitting it when the rest of the world knows it! Alas, there were countless times in my formative sales management years when I failed to check out the references of salespeople I was about to hire. Admittedly, this was at a time in my life when I was a tad on the arrogant side so why would I need to check references when I knew I had hired the right person! Oh brother!

There were two sales reps I hired who sued me and the company after I fired them. One nimrod accepted a $25K settlement; the other suit wound up in court where I spent two and a half hours being grilled by the two attorneys. I (we) won that one. And a great story it is-probably for another type of blog!

Getting references are a bit more challenging today vs. the 1980’s. Most HR departments have people’s mouths under lock and key, for good reason. The minute a manager casts a verbal dark cloud over an ex-employee the legal flood gates have the potential of  creating havoc. We live in a politically correct world and moving outside the PC box carries with it a skull and cross bone warning.

But, ya gotta think crafty here. Every salesperson had sales managers from past companies. Find those folks and ask them direct questions (which you have already prepared) about the salesperson’s work habits. Make those questions applicable to what the salespeople in your company have to do. Locate other salespeople from the company the rep used to work for. Remember, think crafty. Don’t you call. Have one of your veteran salespeople call. Salespeople talk more openly with other salespeople than they do with other company’s managers.

I also favor making a few calls either in person or on the phone to a sales candidate’s old customers. Doing this in person gives you the chance to see if the customer is being honest or lying through their teeth. Again, have specific questions for the customer about how the rep performed in the account. I believe that there is a direct and very strong link between thorough referencing and hiring the right sales candidate. It is hard to beat the Big Three-interview, assessment, and references-when hiring for a new position.

The Final Thought: “Executives are hired for their technical skills and experience but fired due to a lack of leadership ability.” John G. Agno

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