The Complete Guide to Hiring the Best Salespeople
It’s become increasingly frustrating for business owners to manage their organizations. You may have been doing fine up until fairly recently, building an impressive client list after working in the industry for years. But things have changed. It’s become harder to attract new clients, while the older ones leave or go out of business. Current sales members don’t seem to be able to keep these long-time clients from leaving, let alone get new ones on board. And to make matters worse, the new “me too” competition is undercutting you at every turn. They’re also stealing your best people, leaving you with no option but to hire new ones. This is why the complete guide to hiring the best sales people was created.
For most businesses, regardless of size or industry, top salespeople are an essential part of growth. In fact, sales positions represent the first priority for hiring managers and acquisition leaders. A professional sales rep will be able to close more deals, drive profitability and productivity, streamline the sales process, and even increase morale for the entire organization. Bad hires, on the other hand, tend to have the exact opposite effect. They can become a burden on the rest of the sales team, have a negative impact on productivity, and lower company morale. Therefore, it’s critical for sales recruiters to make the best decision possible when it comes to their sales hires.
Statistics show that over half of college graduates will end up working in sales. However, only about 100 colleges across the US have dedicated programs or courses that actually teach necessary sales competencies. Somewhat ironically, about 80% of sales turnover rates among sales staff are the highest in the country at 34.7% per year. This rep turnover is a direct result of a bad hiring decision.
Nevertheless, this guide to hiring top performers in sales roles will help you make the best decision possible. Below are several steps you need to incorporate into your recruitment process to guarantee that mostly qualified candidates make it to your job interviews.
Create the Perfect Sales Rep Profile
Before creating a job description for your new sales position, consider developing a hiring profile of your ideal candidate. This profile is somewhat similar to the buyer persona you created of your target market. It should include a set of personal and professional attributes that each sales rep needs to have in order to meet the needs of your organization. Several books, including The Challenger Sale, How to Hire Superior Sales DNA, or Sales Management. Simplified, all provide an in-depth description on how to create great sales rep profiles to suit your needs. This step is critical in fielding candidates and maximizing retention rates.
There are many different types of salespersons out there, with different personalities and professional backgrounds. Nevertheless, several key personal characteristics tend to make for a well-rounded sales professional. These are the so-called soft skills that give a person the potential to become a top sales professional. Some of the most important soft skills for salespeople include the following:
- Intelligence – Having a degree from Harvard Business School or any other distinguished college is a good indicator of potential. But don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that a college degree, no matter how prestigious, will guarantee a perfect sales rep, nor does the absence of a degree automatically indicate a poor sales person. What you should be looking for here is a track record of professional and academic achievement. These, in turn, indicate someone with a motivation to succeed.
- Resourcefulness – Ingenuity and inventiveness are great tools for a sales person to have at their disposal. You will definitely want someone who is able to figure things out on their own. Though relatively hard to determine if a candidate possesses these qualities, you could look for someone who has some past sports experience, has started their own business, or the ability to get out of their own comfort zone.
- Empathy – Being able to sense and anticipate others’ thoughts, needs, and perspectives are great qualities that most sales reps need to possess. This will help them relate better with clients and show a genuine desire to offer solutions to their problems.
- Open to Learning – No matter their past experience, no sales rep will be perfect when they first join your team. There’s probably nothing worse than hiring salespeople who think they already know everything. Look for candidates with a history of being coached or mentored, be it in sports, school, or their past jobs. These denote a growth mindset.
- Competitiveness – You will definitely want someone eager to get ahead and likes to be competitive. People with prior sports activity typically fall into this category.
- Teamwork – That said, you don’t want someone who is over-competitive. An ideal sales candidate is also someone willing to share information and feedback and offer support for the betterment of the entire sales team, not just themselves.
- Leadership and Likability Skills – These two skills typically go hand in hand and make for great sales assets. Look for candidates that have been in leadership positions before or participated in events where they needed to get elected.
- Positivity – Good salespeople are those that remain positive, no matter the circumstances. Failure and rejection are a part of the daily grind in the life of a sales rep. And those that remain positive are also the ones that manage to persist in the long-term. Likewise, positivity also helps them better interact with leads that may not be as friendly during their first encounter.
- Unshakeable Confidence – Similarly, you want a sales rep whose confidence levels remain unaffected by whatever is thrown at them. Every sales technique, no matter how simple or complex, needs to be backed by a confident sales rep able to deliver. If the sales person doesn’t believe it, neither will the customer. In fact, sales reps need to have enough confidence for both themselves and the people they talk to. When they approach a new purchase, most customers lack confidence since this is new territory for them. But they can gain this assurance from interacting with a confident sales rep.
- Passionate – Top-performing sales reps are also passionate. Better yet, they’re borderline obsessed with providing value to their customers.
- Attention to Detail – This skill translates to how well your candidates can organize themselves throughout the sales process. Keeping track of follow-ups and maintaining the sales pipeline organized is a must. During the hiring processes, look for typos in their resume. Also, look for how well they’re able to organize their lives. Do they keep a calendar and to-do list, etc.?
- Never Take NO For an Answer – The best salespeople never take “no” for an answer – they take it as a challenge to show others what they’re capable of and what they can do. In any negotiation, “no” can mean many more things other than a simple refusal.
Professional Experience Red Flags
While the skills mentioned earlier are typically enough when looking to hire rookies for your front lines, there may be cases when you may need more experience on your side. So, when you want to hire more senior sales staff, you may also want to consider their professional expertise. Equally as important is that you also look for any potential red flags that may indicate a poor hiring decision.
- The Right Industry – Just because a candidate sold a product similar to yours, that doesn’t automatically mean that they will be able to sell your products. Different products have different sales cycles and value propositions. Therefore, it’s best to look for people that worked with the same decision-makers in your target market.
- The Right Role – You should also consider the role they had during their past employment. A former account manager – someone who’s been taking care of existing customers – may not do equally well as account executives – someone looking to acquire new business.
- Same Sales Cycle Experience – Being familiar with all the processes that go into a lengthy sales cycle is highly important. A sales rep that’s used to one phone call per sale will typically fall short when it comes to multiple follow-ups and other sales tactics that go into managing the sales funnel.
Focus on Potential
In addition to the skills and experience mentioned above, you may also want to consider the following best practices to help you find ideal sales candidates faster.
- Get to Know Your Sales Team – When looking to create the ideal sales rep profile and hire the right salesperson, it’s best to take a closer look at your top performers and see what makes them tick. Not only will they appreciate the extra attention from their sales managers and business owners, but it will help you determine what traits to look for in future candidates.
- Don’t Focus Too Much on Experience – More experience can be a deciding factor between two similar candidates. However, the quality of that experience should also be brought into question. In some cases, you may end up having to break some bad habits and behaviors.
- Examine Your Organization – It’s estimated that only one-third of employees are in the roles that best match their personality types. As such, it’s entirely possible that your next top sales performer may be hiding in your HR or finance department.
- Always Get a Second Opinion Before Deciding on Someone – By their very nature, people are typically drawn to those that most remind them of themselves. So, if you have your eye on someone, ask a reliable third-party to give their opinion as well. This human-inherent bias can cause trouble down the line, especially when hiring salespeople.
Create an Attractive Job Description
Once you know what your ideal sales candidate looks like, it’s time to create a compelling and attractive job description. There are, however, several key considerations when communicating with sales staff. In general, sales reps are more energetic and action-oriented than other employees. It’s a good idea to be clear with what you want to say in your description. You should also try using more active verbs that describe the position.
Don’t forget to highlight all of their responsibilities in an enthusiastic manner, as well as mention the company culture and all the career growth possibilities they can expect from your company. Be as transparent as possible and provide all the relevant information that applicants need to know beforehand. That same level of transparency should also be used during the following stages of the sales hiring process.
Provide the Right Benefits and Incentives
Today’s workforce, salespeople included, are no longer as drawn to cash incentives as they used to. Millennials and Generation Zers have a greater interest in the social impact of their work as well as the personal fulfillment their job brings into their life. It’s pretty well known that these working generations, unlike Baby Boomers, are more interested in benefits and incentives. They’re looking for things like flexible work hours, travel vouchers, gym memberships, gift cards, wellness benefits, subscription boxes, lunch with executives, preferred parking, and more.
Above all else, personal and professional training will tend to generate even more benefits for both your sales employees and your own organization. By offering them the opportunity for professional development in the form of sales training programs, they will be more inclined to join your company. According to the statistics, 93% of them will also be more willing to remain with your organization for longer if they have the option to take part in learning programs that help them develop their career.
Training your staff and training them often is probably the best way to attract and maintain top sales performers over the long term. And it’s not like companies across the US don’t offer training opportunities for their sales staff, but they only do so once or, maybe, twice a year. This is problematic for a couple of reasons. For starters, nobody can really expect their salespeople to master the art of the elevator pitch or upsell their clients after a single, one-hour-long seminar. Second, that information will probably change from one year to the next. So, what can anyone really expect in this scenario?
What you want is a weekly workshop that’s both easy to understand and execute, and that teaches and reinforces the basics over a period of several months. It’s like what Chet Holmes says in his book The Ultimate Sales Machine; “I realized that becoming a master of karate was not about learning 4,000 moves but about doing just a handful of moves 4,000 times… It’s the same with business; there are basics that you can do over and over again until every aspect runs like a machine.” And once every six months, or so, you can switch to a more advanced topic. This way, your sales staff will have fewer reasons to under-perform and will also make them feel more appreciated and looked after.
You can find more information regarding what are the benefits to outsourcing sales training, here.
Create a Company Career Page
Lastly, it’s advisable to create a company career page on your business website. This page should integrate with your social media profiles and contain all the details of the job description. This page will also be part of all of your recruiting strategies, portraying the company culture, and making it easier for all potential candidates to apply for your job openings. If the career page is also integrated with an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), it will make it that much easier for the candidates to apply, providing them with a customized application process. In addition, it will also eliminate the need to post your job opening manually.
Sourcing for Top Salespeople
The next phase of your hunt for the perfect sales team is to know how and where to look for them. Below are some of the most efficient ways and sources to find higher-quality candidates. There is additional information regarding where to find qualified sales people, here.
These types of organizations will provide you with qualified candidates who are seeking employment. Typically, staffing agencies will take a 15 to 30% fee of the candidate’s first-year salary. Even though this is a more costly approach to finding good candidates than the other alternatives, it does provide you with some additional benefits.
For starters, you should look to work with a sales-specific recruiting agency in your area. These organizations usually have the best salespeople, as far as staffing firms are concerned. The benefit here is that you will have access to pre-qualified candidates right from the start. That said, you should present them with your ideal candidate profile so that they know exactly what sales rep to send. Keep in mind that, even if someone came from an agency, that doesn’t automatically make them an excellent fit for you. As such, you should also conduct your screening.
A good tip when working with a recruiting agency is only to accept one candidate at a time. Not only will this allow you to learn more about the candidate and determine their capabilities, but it will also incentivize the agency to send you their best.
Generally, employee referrals are one of the most cost-effective recruiting strategies. On average, referred candidates are 55% faster to hire and tend to cost $3,000 less. They are also more likely to generate 25% more profit for the organization and have a higher retention rate. Some 88% of employers consider referrals as being the best source for above-average applicants.
There are several steps that you need to take to ensure that your employee referral program is running smoothly. First of all, you need to provide your employees with the necessary recruiting marketing materials. This is where that company career page we mentioned earlier comes into play. This page can be easily shared with others or on social media. Also, you would want your employees to know exactly the type of candidate you are looking for (i.e., the ideal sales rep profile).
Second, you will want to have some form of bonus/incentive in place for this program. Depending on the size of your business, as well as the seniority of the role you are looking for, this bonus can take many shapes and sizes. Regardless, the purpose of this bonus is to keep recruiting top of mind for your employees. You need to remember that they have their own work to do and can’t keep thinking about this all the time.
Lastly, you need to remind your employees about your recruiting needs continually. You can even take this a step further and sit down with your staff and browse their LinkedIn and Facebook connections to highlight anyone that may fit the criteria. Also, whenever this approach provides you with a new hire, you must make it known across the company, proving to everyone that employee referrals work.
Similar to employee referrals, you can also ask your personal networks like friends, partners, connections, or even customers for potential recommendations. Though you don’t need to provide them with any incentives, you should tell them with a detailed description of what you are looking for, as well as provide them with the career page. In most cases, people will put their own reputation on the line and will try to give you references to candidates that they think will be a good match for your organization.
Job Boards and Recruiting Sites
Job board sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, or Monster can also help you source great candidates. But for a more targeted approach, you should try sites such as SalesGravy.com or SalesHeads.com. Generally, people coming through job boards will be highly motivated.
Nevertheless, you should be more mindful when screening these candidates as you may encounter plenty of poorly-qualified people. Make sure to mention your hiring profile, required skills, and qualifications, as well as what they can expect from the screening process. This will incentivize the right candidates to come forward while keeping the poorly-qualified ones away.
These job boards are also an excellent way to determine the effectiveness and accuracy of your ideal profile and job description. If you’re not getting enough resumes, it might indicate that your description may need some fine-tuning. If, on the other hand, you get too many unqualified candidates, you may need to redefine your ideal candidate profile. If you would like more information, checkout our article on how hire top sales people online.
Direct Sourcing with Social Media
The majority of today’s recruiters use social media to source candidates. Platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, among others, can be used in this regard. The issue with this process, however, is that it requires more time and energy than other recruiting methods and will typically involve a dedicated recruiter.
That said, you should start by building your brand’s reputation on the social networks you intend to use. Next, you need to connect with thought leaders, experts, and influencers in your industry. It’s also a good idea to use and follow the hashtags that salespeople also tend to follow.
LinkedIn Talent Solutions, for instance, is a tool that lets you match your job postings to the most relevant candidates based on a wide range of variables such as years of experience, hard and soft skills, etc. Over 95% of Fortune 500 companies included this feature in their recruiting strategies in 2018. Facebook Ads can also be used to target and recruit new hires, while Instagram is great for providing a more informal, behind-the-scenes preview of your organization and company culture.
Finding good sales reps is an ongoing process, and you never know where the ideal candidate may be. As a business owner or sales leader, you should always be on the lookout for potential sales hires, whether it’s in a professional or a casual setting. You could be at a tradeshow, conference, or even in line at the bank or during happy hours and may come across the perfect fit. Whatever the case and wherever you end up being, keep an eye open for those specific qualities you look for in an ideal sales rep.
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