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Case Study: Household Auto Finance Casts A Wide Net To Find Top Sales People

May 18, 2004
Filed under Uncategorized

Household Auto Finance, one of the nation’s largest lenders, has enjoyed great success with its “wide net” approach to recruiting new salespeople.

“I tell my sales directors not to be afraid to hire someone from a different industry. We need to identify rising stars,” says Brian Hausmann, a regional general sales manager at the San Diego-based company. “We’re hiring more people with diverse backgrounds. I just spoke with 10 new hires, and one used to be on the dealer side, another was a liquor salesman, another was in computers.”

Hausmann has five regional sales directors who report directly to him and about 60 sales managers under those directors. Hiring at Household, a subsidiary of Household International Inc./HSBC, is a collaborative effort between sales management and human resources. A recruiter, an HR generalist and an HR assistant all work with the sales director to plan recruitment strategies.

“We try to screen people for a proven track record,” says Terri Horn, group director, Human Resources. “We look for people who are very assertive, who are high achievers. We want to see that they increased their territory by a certain volume or by ‘X’ percent. We try and put more science into the hiring than ‘We just like him.’”

Household has developed different criteria for different regions. “In Chicago, for example, which has always been a tough market, we need thick-skinned, hard-chargers who can stand up to the dealers. When I hire sales directors for that area, the key thing I look for is a coach and mentor,” Hausmann says.

A prospect’s track record obviously is important, but so is the result of the Walter V. Clarke Activity Vector Analysis (AVA), a system designed to identify specific behaviors required for success in a particular job. “It’s amazing how well it predicts what type of personality you’re dealing with,” says Hausmann.

The AVA reveals a candidate’s level of sociability, calmness and willingness to conform. “If we find there’s a low assertiveness level and the person is someone who prefers to work alone with a great deal of direction, he or she probably won’t be a successful fit as a regional sales manager,” says Horn.

Adaptability is a must for Household’s sales force – especially given the whopping 300 percent annual turnover at most car dealerships, which means they are constantly selling to new people. Candidates also go through a behavioral interview. “We look for accountability, thinking skills, communication and leadership,” says Horn. “We ask them to describe the best working relationship they ever had with a client. We want people who want a challenge and who are adaptable to change. They need strong communication skills and they need to be able to influence people.”

Household is preparing to expand its sales force in a few major cities, and it got a head start on the recruitment process. In the past, it took up to two months for each hire, but since the company created a career section on its Web site (www.household.com), it gets resumes daily. This allows Household to fill positions quicker while lowering hiring costs.

Now, the company fills most sales positions in 25 to 30 days. “We have a bullpen of good recruits. We want to be prepared, so we’re always out looking for candidates. We may not have an opening today, but when there is one, it will be a faster transition,” explains Hausmann.

Household’s recruitment strategy also has taken advantage of the downturn in the economy. “We’ve turned to AmeriCredit Outplacement Company and we’re speaking with people who have lost their jobs,” say Horn. “We also use Internet recruitment sites and networking through our own sales force.”

Household’s job candidates go through an initial series of group interviews, then they might meet the CEO. They are interviewed by a variety of people who have prepared different questions. They’re really “put through the mill,” Hausmann says, but eventual hires say it’s a positive experience. “Not only do they feel they were the ones who got picked, they’re honored to be working here. They don’t feel like we just hire anybody, and that’s great for us.”

Horn says hiring the right managers is the best way to keep salespeople once you find them. “One of the main reasons people leave companies is because managers and salespeople don’t gel. When we do exit interviews, the number one reason for someone leaving is they are not making as much money as they hoped, and next, they didn’t have a strong relationship with their managers.”

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