A Needs Analysis Strategy For Recruiting Sales Candidates

Your needs analysis strategy is your key to successfully recruiting the right sales people.


David walks into Mr. Stevens’ office for a first meeting. He shakes Mr. Stevens’ hand, opens his laptop and proceeds to lecture about the greatness of his products. The harangue lasts about 45 minutes. As he continues to talk, David packs up his materials, again shakes Mr. Stevens’ hand, and walks out of the office.

Once out of the building he calls his sales manager to debrief on the meeting. “I told him about our latest products and all the great colours that it comes in. It was a great meeting… I talked the whole time… We are going to get this deal!”

Anyone who has been in sales for even a minute can see the glaring flaw in this meeting. The sales person talked the entire time and presented features and benefits without knowing what his prospect needed. David completely missed the needs analysis part of the meeting which is the most critical part of any sales process.

 As you know, the life of a recruiter parallels that of a sales person. Recruiters need to develop a needs analysis strategy when recruiting sales candidates just like sales people do when pursuing prospects.

Lecturing candidates on how wonderful the company is does not bring about any more excitement than it did for Mr. Stevens. Sales managers often refer to that approach as throwing darts while blindfolded.
A candidate recruiting strategy using David’s approach is destined for the same fate.

Related: Beware of Hiring Your Competitor’s Sales People

No such thing as a great sales person

To develop your needs analysis strategy, you need to start with a foundational question. What is your goal for the sales recruiting process? “It’s obvious… hire great sales people!” Wrong! There is no such thing as a great sales person. Don’t believe me? How many of these so-called great sales people have been hired by your company and failed? How can you explain this rockstar failing? If you believe that great sales people exist, then the explanation for their failure is either that your company is the worst to sell for, or the sales person forgot how to sell when they arrived on your doorstep.

A sales person’s success isn’t just based on their sales skills but on the synergistic match of needs, wants and desires between the role and the sales person.

This means that the goal is to serve as a matchmaker between these two entities. In essence, you are formulating a sales marriage between the candidate and the firm.

Who do you want to hire?

The first step is to develop a profile of your ideal sales candidate and identify required and desired attributes. Just as the sales person needs a profile of the ideal client, the recruiter needs a profile of the ideal candidate to develop their needs analysis strategy.

This detailed, written description presents a comprehensive picture of the successful candidate for the role and serves as the basis for the entire sales talent screening programme.

Interviews, mock role plays, and assessments should compare the candidate to this profile. The needs analysis strategy should be geared toward identifying synergies, or lack thereof, between the candidate and the opportunity.

Knowing what to ask and when

In sales, the needs analysis serves a number of purposes, including exposing unattractive prospects. The same goes for the recruiter. Part of the needs analysis strategy is to quickly identify fatal flaws in the candidate that would remove him or her from consideration.

What areas should the recruiter explore? It comes back to the profile of the ideal candidate. Those areas that are deemed required attributes provide the exploration list. For example, if one of the requirements in the profile is that the candidate must have extensive experience selling services in the C-suite, a question should be asked about the candidate’s prowess in doing so.

Getting ready to propose

When a sales person conducts an effective needs analysis, they gather information that helps them develop the scope for a proposal, including pricing. However, asking intimate questions about the prospect’s current situation cannot be effectively done unless the sales person has earned the right to do so.

It may occur in a first meeting, or later in the process. However, the strong seller knows that they can’t develop a winning proposal without knowing as much as possible about the current situation.

The same holds true when you get to the offer stage of the sales talent screening programme. Much like the well-skilled sales person, the expectation is that the offer will be accepted. Who has time to waste on prospects who aren’t going to buy? It’s a rather ugly day for the sales rep who gets blind-sided by a competitor who wins the account.

Related: Building A Scalable Sales Team

The recruiting experience is much the same. Making a huge investment in a candidate only to lose them to another opportunity is costly and wasteful.

A recruiter should never be surprised by a candidate rejecting an offer because it was $20 000 lower than what they were looking for. This requirement should have been uncovered and worked through well before the offer stage during the needs analysis.

As part of the needs analysis strategy, the recruiter also needs to know what it will take for a candidate to leave their current employer, if they are looking at other opportunities, and where this opportunity ranks in contrast with the others.

Keep in mind that the number one killer of sales pipelines is the decision to do nothing. The common cause of this affliction is a poor needs analysis strategy. The same holds true when recruiting. If the candidate elects to keep their current position, your needs analysis strategy may be the root cause.