Top 7 tips for hiring the best salespeople

27 February 2020
4 minute

By Garth Crossley, Sales Manager, Thomas International Australia & New Zealand

At Thomas International, we generated behavioural profiles for 250,000 salespeople in 2018. We helped thousands of companies improve their recruitment in the most important department: sales. I was a sales recruiter for over 7 years, and I have condensed what I think are the 7 steps you should take when considering how to hire better salespeople.

Step 1: Identify

Firstly, you need to work out what you’re looking for. The talent pool is small, and the top sales rep from your competitor will cost big bucks and may only be around until the next competitor offers more money.

Find someone with the ability to learn quickly, who has the right mindset and is hungry for success. They cost less and you can mould them into your perfect salespeople. You can use behavioural/psychological assessments to ensure you’re making the right decision and to ramp them up quicker, even if they don’t have sales experience.

Step 2: Attract

You need to ask (and be honest about!) these questions. Why would someone want to work for you and your company? What are you best at and what do you do differently? What are the development opportunities? How quickly is the company growing?

Remember, everyone has a ping pong table, and other companies will claim to pay even higher commission. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, ask your sales team and other teams in the business. If the answers coming back aren’t great, sort that out first.

Step 3: Advertising

It’s time to get the word out there. Are you going to post on job boards, and if so which ones? If you are going to use LinkedIn and other online sources, write an advert that will appeal to your target audience. Salespeople typically like something short and to the point. Look at it from the candidate’s perspective i.e. “What’s in it for me?”

Recruitment agencies can be expensive but are a great way to find someone quickly or for recruiting more experienced hires. If you are using an agency, use a sales specialist and ask for recommendations from people you trust.

But in my experience, the best method of recruiting is word of mouth. Have you asked who your current sales reps know? Ask them and reward them for helping you find good people.

Top 7 Tips for Hiring the Best Salespeople

Step 4: Interviewing

Have a maximum of two face-to-face interviews. I would also recommend a quick call. Salespeople are going to be pretty good at selling themselves (or they should be). I always believe in starting slowly. Spend the first five minutes or so having a general conversation with the candidate and finding out a little more about them. Then ask them about their current role and work back chronologically, trying to find out:

  • What they sold? Who did they sell it to?
  • What were their targets?
  • How did they hit their targets?
  • What was their biggest deal? What did they do to win the deal? (in depth)
  • What’s their sales process?
  • What help do they get from Inside Sales, Marketing, Product, Procurement, etc.?
  • Where else are they interviewing and for which companies?

Remember to go into as much detail as possible. If something doesn’t sound right, probe by asking more questions. Also find out what salary package (base, commission and other) the candidate is looking for.

Step 5: Evaluating

How do you evaluate candidates? Gut feel? Past performance? I would also recommend thinking about how the person comes across. Will your customers like them? How much do they want the job? I want people that learn quickly and are willing to work hard.

I particularly like to focus on behavioural and speed of learning assessments in helping me to identify what good looks like in a salesperson. I think these two areas are imperative to understand before you hire someone. A bad hire costs too much, and evidence shows that the right candidate produces an extra $156,000 extra revenue per year on average.

Step 6: Offer

You need to act quickly once you’ve made your decision. Good salespeople are highly sought after and you will lose your preferred candidate to a competitor if you’re too slow to make the offer.

Aim to complete the process in a couple of weeks and then a few days for a decision. Remember what package the candidate is looking for and how much it will take for them to move to your business. If you like the candidate, go in with a verbal offer and back it up in writing as quickly as possible.

Step 7: Onboarding

You’ve gone to a lot of effort to attract the right recruit, now you need to ensure that you properly onboard them to give them every chance of success. How are you going to manage your new employee to get the best out of them? In which areas will they need support? How will you tailor your style to ensure that you’re communicating effectively with them?

If you have an onboarding process, make sure it includes identifying how that candidate works best and what challenges they may have in ramping up. Make sure they have an environment that suits them. Are they fast paced? Give them room to run. Do they need to understand everything in detail and write it down? Partner them up with someone who can nurture that. In the war for sales talent, there is no guarantee of getting it right every time, but by following these 7 steps, you can significantly increase your chances of building a successful sales team.

If you would like to find out more about what good looks like for a salesperson, check out our whitepaper.

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