Top 7 tips for hiring the best sales people

30 July 2021
5 minute

At Thomas, we have generated behavioural profiles for 156,000 salespeople. We helped thousands of companies improve recruitment in their most important department: sales. A sales recruiter for over 7 years, I have condensed the 7 steps you should take when considering how to hire better salespeople.

Step 1: Identify

Firstly, you need to work out what you are looking for. The talent pool is small. The top sales rep from your competitor will cost big bucks and might 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 develop them into your perfect salespeople. Utilising psychometric assessments will ensure you're making the right decision based on traits and capabilities, and ensure they can ramp up quickly, even if they don't have sales experience. Looking at behaviour in conjunction with aptitude will mean you are identifying who has the right behavioural fit as well as the fluid intelligence needed to hit the ground running and start selling.

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 your business' development opportunities? How quickly is the company growing? 

Showcasing your employer brand is increasingly important in such a competitive market. You should do this through a variety of recruiters and online platforms. Social media and services such as Glassdoor offer the opportunity to promote your company to a diverse range of potential candidates.

Step 3: Advertising

Time to get the word out there. Are you going to post on job boards, and if so which ones? Making sure you understand how technology can help with digital recruitment is key. Consider the online platform you use, ensuring that it is mobile optimised for ease of applying. Make sure that you are utilising all platforms available to strengthen your brand's reputation as an employer of choice.

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. Think about this from the candidate's perspective, who will be asking, "what's in it for me".

Recruitment agencies can be expensive, but are a great way to find someone quickly, and come into their own when you're seeking to make senior hires. If you are using an agency, choose a sales specialist and ask for recommendations from people you trust - all too often Google reviews are works of fiction.

In my experience, the best method of recruitment is word of mouth. Have you asked your current sales reps for recommendations? Ask them! Reward your team for helping you find good people.

Step 4: Interviewing

Have a maximum of two interviews, in addition to your initial screening call. Remember, sales people are going to be pretty good at selling themselves (or they should be). My recommendation would be to start slowly. Spend the first five minutes or so in general conversation with the candidate, find out a little more about them. Then ask them about their current role and work back chronologically. Make sure you 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? 
  • What's their sales process?
  • What help do they get from Sales, Marketing and the wider organisation?
  • Where else are they interviewing and for which companies?

Remember to go into as much detail as possible. If something doesn't sound right, ask more questions. Also, ascertain the salary package (base, super and commission) the candidate is looking for.

Step 5: Evaluating

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

The two Thomas products I use every day to help sales leaders make decisions and identify better salespeople assess behaviour and speed of learning. I think it is imperative to understand these two things before you hire someone. A bad hire costs too much (typically between four and fifteen times their annual salary, and evidence shows that the right candidate, on average, produces an extra $156,000 extra revenue per year.

Step 6: Offer

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

Ensure you can complete the process in a couple of weeks and allow a few days for a decision. Bear in mind the package the candidate is looking for and how much they will move to your business for. If you like the candidate, go in with a verbal offer and be able to back it up in writing quickly.

Step 7: Onboarding

You've gone to a lot of effort to attract the right recruit, now you need to ensure that you onboard them well to give them the greatest possible 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 are likely to have when ramping up. Create an environment that suits them. Do they prefer a fast pace? Give them room to run. Do they need to understand everything in detail and write it down? Partner them with someone who wants to nurture that. During the assessment and selection process, you have amassed a wealth of data and information on the individual. Why not use this to support the new starter?

Still looking for more information? Download our whitepaper, What Good Looks Like for Sales, for more insights into the world of sales recruitment.

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