How to Hire Sales Reps That Will Use Your CRM

By Chris Carlson, President of Sales Talent Inc.  (

 Ensuring CRM Usage Begins During the Hiring Process
Ensuring CRM Usage Begins During the Hiring Process

The benefits of a robust CRM system are undisputed:  reporting, scalability, consistent messaging, analytics, etc.  And yet, investing in a CRM system makes little sense if your sales reps won’t embrace using it. Trash in, trash out.  So how then, do you hire sales reps that will correctly and consistently use your system?

A seemingly easy to answer question. Until you consider that, in my experience, a significant portion of the population that’s cut out for sales, also shows up on the spectrum for ADHD and/or doesn’t like to be told what to do or how to do it.

I brought this question to my close friend and fellow recruiter, Andrew Carges, who is the Global VP of Talent Acquisition at  They have a very large inside sales force and they had faced this very problem.  In fact, Andrew found that improper CRM usage also correlated very strongly with negative turnover for their sales reps. Fix this problem with CRM usage and you fix two problems. Obviously worth the investment.

Step 1: Create a Baseline For Technical Proficiency

The first step is to find a screening tool that measures a candidate’s computer proficiency.  In Andrew’s case, they found their answer with their current provider of candidate testing, SHL. Once you’ve selected your test, give it to your current staff to establish a threshold or minimum score required.  Given the scarcity of talent today, you might want to start a little lower and raise the required score as you have more data.  If you have a strong applicant flow, keep your standards high.   

Now you’ll know that your candidate pool has the requisite skills to use your system based on the computer proficiency test results.  What the test won’t tell you, is whether or not you have a candidate that will play by the rules and actually use the system.  Pay a little more for a full-blown personality profile and you will get a deeper insight into your candidate’s makeup.  Do they play by the rules? Do they possess the proper attention to detail? Are they disciplined?

Step 2: Vet Technological Disposition

Once you have conducted an initial test to screen for a candidate’s computer proficiency, the second step is to vet those results during the interview process.  It’s important to remember that there will be candidates who have the  necessary computer skills and the attention to detail that still won’t properly use your CRM system.  In our own terminology the skillset is the Can Do and actually doing it is the Will Do.   In my next blog, I’m going to cover personality tests in more detail.  How to use them.  When to rely on them.  When and how to question their results.  

 Your CRM sits at the center of your business – you can't afford to hire people who don't have the right disposition towards CRM.
Your CRM sits at the center of your business – you can’t afford to hire people who don’t have the right disposition towards CRM.

So, with results in hand, your next step is to sit down with the candidate and vet or test the findings.  It’s important that you question everything and not make your decision based on the results of a test.  A mis-hire is just too expensive to cut corners in your interviewing process.  Over-screening and losing out on a true A player can be even more expensive.  After all, the most important quality that you’re looking for in a sales rep is the ability to sell.

So what questions should you ask? And perhaps, just as important, how should you ask them? Before I give you the questions I want to give you the mindset.  Never, ever lead a candidate to an answer.  If you just spent 10 minutes (or even 1 minute) talking about your frustration level with your current sales reps not using your CRM, you aren’t going to get a candidate’s real answer.  If a candidate is smart enough to ace the rest of your interview process, they’re smart enough to pick up on your infatuation with your CRM.  When interviewing, I take the exact opposite tact.  My energy is neutral or even blase when it comes to asking money questions.  

What’s Your Disposition Towards CRM?

Here are some of the questions I would ask candidates to learn about their disposition towards CRM.

  • CRMs can be a pain, by the way, have you ever used a CRM before?
  • Other reporting tools?
  • What did you think of it? (the tone is mild curiousity)
  • Positives, negatives?
  • How did you feel about having to use the tools?
  • When I get a fluff answer to that question I come back to it.
  • I understand but how do you feel about using your CRM? (the tone is thoughtful here, not challenging)

If I get any hesitation with their answers, I dig in until (A) I’m satisfied with their answer or (B) I’m satisfied that they don’t have an answer or they’re not going to give me the real answer (both are knockouts).  NOTE – I prefer to interview people in person for this step because I like to watch a person’s body language.

Step 3: Validate CRM Role In the Business

For those candidates that pass the first interview but were red flagged by our initial testing, I add a step to our 2nd interview. I use the power of candidate self-selection to root out those candidates who are still in the process but shouldn’t be.  I help candidates self-select themselves out of the position by setting clear expectations about the responsibilities for the job.

For example, I may state the following:

We’ve made a considerable investment into our CRM system and we believe that it is core to our success.  Our testing of you revealed that you may have a hard time with consistently and accurately (or whatever it is that your testing red flagged) entering every bit of data into the system and using the tool throughout your sales process.  

The accurate and complete entering of data into our CRM is a non-negotiable here.  I’ve seen sales reps with scores like yours perform beautifully and we’ve let go of a few high sales performers that just wouldn’t use the system (there’s a common and usually true belief among sales reps that those who sell can get away with murder).  If this would pose a problem for you, it’s probably a better idea for you to pursue other opportunities.”  

A good sales rep likes to be challenged and will usually come right back at you with what you want to hear.  Here’s my follow-up to that.

“I totally understand that you can do anything that you set your mind to.  I’m not challenging that.  What I’m challenging is whether or not you’d enjoy it.  You’ll be in our system all day, every day.  If that will be a friction point for you, I have a hard time believing you’ll be successful here.  I don’t want an answer right now.  I want you to sleep on it.  (The tone is firm but not edgy.)”

One word of warning with this approach.  It works a LOT better with sales reps that are currently employed and at least reasonably happy with their current job.  They’re in front of you because they want a better job.  Keep in mind that someone who isn’t currently employed is highly motivated to get a job. The pain of not having a job is going to appear a lot bigger than the pain of wrestling with your CRM.

CRM USAGE Requires Ongoing Management

My closing thought on how to hire sales reps that will use your CRM actually has nothing to do with the selection process.  If you don’t enforce using your system, your well-designed selection process will be for naught.  Just like every other company out there we struggle with this problem at Sales Talent.  I stress the importance and things get better until I take my focus away.  Sales reps are smart.  They’ll do just enough to keep themselves out of trouble.  Our next step, which we’re about to implement, is a reduced commission for sales reps that aren’t using the system correctly.  I’ll report back with how it’s working in a later blog.

 Chris Carlson

Chris Carlson is the founder and President of Sales Talent Inc, a Seattle based National B2B sales recruiting firm. You can click through to sign up for and follow his Blog or view Sales Talent’s current Sales Openings.

The Glassdoor Effect

By Chris Carlson, President of Sales Talent Inc.  (

Previously, Chris Carlson wrote about building your online brand on LinkedIn as Part 1 of a three part series on online hiring and sales branding.  This week in Part 2, he shifts the focus to the online job review site Glassdoor.  

 Glassdoor is changing the game for employers. 

An eye-opening stat that I shared in my previous post about building your online brand on LinkedIn is that less than 20% of consumers believe a company’s claims about themselves.  On the other hand, 92% of consumers trust their peers’ reviews of companies.  This trust in what our peers say is the platform that fueled Amazon, eBay and Yelp’s success.  Now Glassdoor is bringing peer reviews to recruiting.  Through Glassdoor, potential employees can read about their peers’ experiences with interviewing and working at a given company.

Employers, job seekers, and investors know that Glassdoor is on to something. They have raised almost $100M in funding and have positioned themselves for an upcoming IPO.  More important to the talent community, Glassdoor has quickly established itself as the go-to resource for job seekers looking for insights into the working conditions for a given company. With 22M registered users, reviews on over 300,000 companies and an annualized growth rate of 160% over the past 3 years, Glassdoor is here to stay.  If your company hasn’t been reviewed on Glassdoor yet, don’t worry, it’s coming.

In addition to company reviews, users can see self-reported salary ranges, interview tips and an approval rating for a given company’s CEO.  Glassdoor’s goal is for “the majority of job searches in the US [to] end up utilizing Glassdoor.”  Given that their founder Rich Barton also co-founded Zillow and founded Expedia (cue up the Rod Stewart song “Some guys have all the luck.”) I see that goal as entirely plausible.  Whether or not they ultimately reach that goal, they’ve already changed the face of recruiting.  Transparency into your company is here.

“Run Away!! This company’s only focus is what company will be acquired next.”


 Employees are empowered to speak about good (and bad) employers. What is your online employer brand?
Employees are empowered to speak about good (and bad) employers. What is your online employer brand?

The quote above is the 1st review on the 1st page of reviews for one of our clients. Overall the company is rated quite favorably but it’s pretty hard to miss a review like this. With the average online user having an attention span of 8 seconds it’s not a stretch to see the potential significance of Glassdoor reviews on your company’s hiring brand.

Savvy Sales Professionals Are Watching (And Reading) About You Online

In our role as talent scouts, we have seen first hand the impact that Glassdoor has on attracting top sales talent. Simply put, the savviest sales professionals avoid companies with negative reviews. Those companies find themselves left with a diminished pool of talent to recruit from.  Yes, these companies are left with the dreaded “best of the worst.”  Because of this, Glassdoor is a major consideration for Sales Talent as to whether or not we’re comfortable representing a client.  

A common misperception is that Glassdoor is only a rant site for bitter former employees to vent. Consider the following two facts:

  • The average company rating on Glassdoor is a 3.3 (out of 5 stars)

  • Two-thirds of reviews are positive

Glassdoor recognizes that there’s a lot of misperceptions as to what the site is and what it isn’t.  You can read Glassdoor Myth Busters. They also have a very good Blog for Employers that has lots of useful tips for managing your Glassdoor hiring brand. Topics range from hiring brand best practices to insights into attracting and hiring the best and brightest.  Their blog is an excellent place to start your journey with regards to understanding what Glassdoor means to your hiring brand and how to leverage the positives that comes with employment transparency.

The savviest of employers are embracing this transparency into their hiring process.

To that point, the savviest of employers are embracing this transparency into their hiring process.  From Glassdoor reviews comes critical feedback that just might give your company the opportunity to create a better place to work.   To that end, I suggest that if your company is big enough that you’ve been reviewed on Glassdoor you need to manage that image.  That means that you need to: 

(1) Have someone within your company responsible for monitoring your brand

(2) Have that person follow Glassdoor’s blog on managing your online employer brand

(3) Review the various ebooks that Glassdoor has compiled beginning with Employer Branding for Dummies.  

Trust me, they’ll have a lot to learn.  Once they do, they’ll able be able to bring back invaluable information into what you current, former and potentials employee think about working for your company.  Company led exit interviews often give you feedback that makes you feel about where you work.  Glassdoor usually gives the painful truth.

Transparency Is a Good Thing

What I find most interesting about Glassdoor is that it’s company agnostic. The best employers gain a competitive advantage and the worst are punished in the hiring game. I see transparency about what it’s like to work at a company to be a good thing.  Personally, I love peer review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.  With recommendations from these sites, I now look forward to traveling to new cities as I can spend my money with confidence.  If I care enough to see what others are saying about a cup of coffee, imagine how important it would be to potential employees to have an insight into what it’s like to work at your company.  Like it or not, there’s an all-out war for the most talented employees.  In the past, the employers held most of the power.  It’s a totally new game today.  

In Part 3, the final blog of this series, I’ll be sharing a few tips to enhance and/or repair your company’s LinkedIn and Glassdoor hiring brands. The LinkedIn tips will also apply to enhancing your ability to promote your services or products.  If you think this is something to put on your radar for 2016 or beyond your business just might go the way of a restaurant loaded with poor Yelp reviews before then.  Ignore this at your own peril.  

 Chris Calrson- Sales Talent Inc

Chris Carlson is the founder and President of Sales Talent Inc, a Seattle based National B2B sales recruiting firm. You can click through to sign up for and follow his Blog or view Sales Talent’s current Sales Openings.