Earlier this week we touched on the three key chapters in your sales playbook. Here we’re going to go deeper on recruiting and share an approach that has worked in the past.
High on my list of desirable traits for any member of my team is coachability. Now, this doesn’t make coachability the right attribute for every team out there. I don’t believe in a preset list of top rep attributes as every situation is different (we’ll dig into this in a later post). But for me and for my company, coachability was critical.
How do you know who is coachable?
Most managers can recall people who were highly coachable and people who didn’t take it so well. But often that opinion was formed over years of working together. When you’re recruiting, you don’t have that luxury.
So how do you do that? A tactic that I’ve found highly effective to screen for coachability is pretty simple: give the candidate coaching during the interview and see how he/she takes it.
Here’s how it works.
I start by giving the candidate a fairly tough role play scenario. Most often, that was pulling up a complex part of the product and saying “This is a role play. Pitch me. It is not a test of your product knowledge, so if you don’t know something about the product just make it up. Take a minute to get familiar, and when you’re ready, start the role play.”
This often made even the most qualified candidates perspire a bit, but I’m not gauging them on how they handle the pressure. Frankly, I didn’t care much about what any candidate said during that role play. The important part happens after the role play ends.
Once I call “scene” on the role play, I ask the candidate to assess how they did. We discuss for a bit, and I’ll bring up 1 or 2 things I think they did well, and 1 or 2 things that I think they could have done better. It might sound like this:
“Great work handling a tricky product and bringing it back to the business value. I also think you showed good poise and clearly asked for a next step. Well done, keep that up. Next time, I want you to focus on two things to improve. First, this is a conversation, so ask me questions and engage me instead of making it a monologue. Second, when showing the product, walk me through it slowly because a prospect hasn’t seen it before. Point to the number and say it aloud, making sure I’m with you. Make sense?”
Now the real test begins.
Did the candidate ask follow up questions on my feedback? Did they take notes? Were they interested in hearing it, or did they get defensive? I am always surprised to see how some people will absolutely light up when you give them feedback in an interview. I once had a candidate thank me at the end of the interview specifically for taking the time to help them develop professionally, saying that even if they don’t get the job this was a very valuable meeting. Wow – there is a candidate who is hungry for coaching.
On the flip side, I shake my head whenever a candidate starts to get defensive in this conversation. You’ll hear that they didn’t ask any questions because they didn’t know it was a role play on both sides. Or that they didn’t want to highlight the product because they don’t know it well. These are signs that coaching isn’t setting in, and you’re going to get excuses instead of results.
Now that you’ve gathered some good signals during the feedback conversation, give the candidate the litmus test.
Have them do the EXACT same role play over again. Same product, same setup, same goal.
This is where the rubber hits the road. Not just whether they are open to receiving coaching, but will they act on it? As I listen to the second role play (and hopefully am an active participant this time), I am not concentrating much on how well they did in the first round, or frankly, how well they do in the second round. All I want to see is that the arrow is pointing in the right direction. Can I see signs of the candidate adjusting their approach based on the feedback? This is independent of how good their second pitch is. I want to know that you kept the two things that I liked, and that you took a shot at improving in the areas discussed.
A failing candidate will ignore the feedback conversation and just try a new pitch. A solid candidate will keep the positives and address one of my two points of critical feedback. This is often someone who asks one or two questions of me in the next role play. A rock star addresses both points of critical feedback, and takes them to heart. The next role play is a back-and-forth conversation as the candidate takes my feedback of “ask me questions” and gets me to do almost half of the talking. When this happens, hire the rep!
So if you want coachable reps, go out there and give them some coaching and see what happens.