Your business is growing, you’re enjoying success and you’re increasing your workforce to reach more potential customers. Whether you’re hiring your first salesperson, or just adding to your sales team, it’s important to know how to spot a successful salesperson.
To make sure you continue to grow, and hire salespeople that will help you do that, you need to understand what makes a good salesperson and attract the right sales talent to join your team and help you scale.
It can be difficult to see through charisma and well-rehearsed interview tactics, but the best salespeople have certain traits that can’t be missed, which we’ll go over in this article.
To help you improve your hiring hit rate and make your final decision easy, we’ve created an eight-stage process to equip you and your team members with the right tools to use when hunting for good salespeople.
1. How to find good salespeople
How do you identify the specific needs for your new sales hire?
Creating a job spec isn’t the first step to finding a good salesperson or building out a sales team. When you’re figuring out how to find good sales reps, start by identifying your sales recruiting needs. Assess what a “good” salesperson looks like for you, your team and your organization as a whole.
Before drafting a job description, review your current business needs and assess any experience gaps in your sales department, then look for top sales representatives that could fill those gaps. Be honest about the skill set and experience level you need as a sales manager and consider a realistic budget that you can afford to set aside for salary for your new hire.
Whether you're recruiting a salesperson to capitalize on your current success or because you don’t have the right people in place to meet the needs of your business, you need to take your reasons into account.
If you’ve previously had employees that didn’t fit your view of how to be a great salesman or woman (e.g. they lacked key sales skills or experience), investigate why they failed, especially if you had a great feeling about them from the start. Learn from your past mistakes so you can pivot and hire a successful salesperson this time around.
2. Write the salesperson’s job description
A common mistake when writing a job description is the “more is more” approach, leaving you with pages and pages of detail. Be clear and concise. This ensures the key factors you are searching for (e.g. experience, skills, traits, culture fit, etc.) aren’t lost in an ocean of text.
Simple rule of thumb: If it can’t fit on one page, it’s probably too long.
You also need to set clear expectations that are attainable and trackable. Be honest about what a typical day might look like and try not to oversell the more glamorous aspects of the sales role. While this may attract a lot of sales candidates, it can also lead to disillusionment further down the line.
Make sure you use clear language when looking to hire a salesperson. Saying “you’ll be a part of a successful sales team” is okay, but not as good as “you will be working within a team of six, using X tools to forecast and deliver sales.” This alternative gives a much clearer picture of the environment and requirements.
When considering how to find good sales reps, define the mandatory skills and experience you’re seeking. This will help you weed out unsuitable applicants from top salespeople. Consider the minimum amount of experience required in a similar role (particularly if the ability to manage others is a central part of the role).
3. Reach out to the right candidates
The best sales professionals can sometimes be elusive, so you need to use everything in your power to track your ideal candidate down. Using several portals to advertise your vacancy will give you the opportunity to reach as many candidates as possible.
Your first port of call will probably be searching for salesperson candidates who are actively looking for a new role. Don’t limit yourself to this step when trying to find sales reps (particularly if you’re seeking top performers for a senior hire). You’ll find it’s often worth the extra effort to reach out to potential superstar candidates who aren’t actively searching.
While these more passive candidates may not be crawling the web for their next job, with a persuasive and personalized pitch, you may be able to generate interest in what your company has to offer.
Active candidates will likely be looking at online job posting sites or job boards such as Indeed.com or Glassdoor. Passive candidates, however, are best reached via social media platforms like LinkedIn or tailored email outreach that reveals the new opportunities the role presents and why you believe they’re the perfect fit.
Sometimes the best salespeople are the passive candidates: They know their worth and wait for companies to reach out to them with a sales pitch.
4. Review your candidates strategically
While it’s important to be open-minded about experience and backgrounds, you’ll need to be clear on the details you won’t compromise on when it comes to a new salesperson hire.
Interviewing someone with five years of sales experience in manufacturing when you’re looking to fill a position in a company that sells property is probably not going to turn out well. Even if they’re the best sales rep at their current company, industry experience sometimes trumps sales skills. Interviewing and hiring sales reps can be a tiresome process, so make sure you’re weeding out candidates that you already know won’t fit into your sales team.
Also, engaging someone very junior to fill a role with a lot of responsibility can put undue pressure on both you and the new hire. Taking this hiring risk can often lead to a costly failure, no matter how much promise the candidate shows.
When it comes to advice on how to find good sales reps, you should absolutely look for a candidate with a consistent track record and impressive results from previous companies. However, remember to keep in mind that sales is a tough business. Don’t use unexplained gaps in employment and the odd short tenure as an absolute deal-breaker. Ask the candidate for their story. There may be a valid reason and if there is one, it shouldn’t exclude them in your search for the right salesperson.
Be wary of candidates that bill themselves as a “successful salesperson” or someone who’s had tons of “sales success” without anything tangible to show for it. Instead, focus on the results they have achieved in previous roles throughout their sales career. A good salesperson should also include a section for sales awards and achievements on their résumé, where they’ll be able to back up any high-quality claims with objective proof.
5. Develop a clear interview process
If you’re looking to hire a salesperson, make sure you have a structured interview process to follow before you begin. Every company has unique requirements and expectations for how to be a good sales rep, but there’s a standard best practice for interviews that can be broken into three key stages:
Informal chat. First impressions matter, but formal chats can sterilize personalities. By starting with an informal chat, you can more easily gauge things like culture fit, emotional intelligence, active listening skills, et cetera. Have an icebreaker up your sleeve or a series of personality-based questions to get the conversation rolling. Great sales reps shouldn’t simply tick all the right boxes, their personality must also fit with the culture you’ve built in your sales organization.
Formal meeting. Follow up with a more formal meeting to stress test their sales training and industry expertise. This is an opportunity to ask more pointed and specific questions regarding all areas of the business. Effective salespeople should be able to give comprehensive answers to difficult questions, like how they would handle X type of objection on an important sales call. You can also invite key members of the team the potential candidate would be joining to give them a chance to evaluate the candidate themselves.
Presentation. Finally, ask the candidate to prepare and deliver a sales presentation for key stakeholders to give you an opportunity to assess how they perform under pressure. Sales is dependent on people that can be persuasive and engaging, so keep an eye on their body language, ability to make emotional connections with the “potential clients” in the room, product knowledge and so on. A faux sales presentation can offer you a deeper level of insight into whether the candidate is suitable for the role.
6. Interview the candidate with purpose
Before starting your interviews, design them in a format that guarantees you’ll get the answers and information you need. Clear expectations are key to hiring a salesperson who fits your requirements and definition of how to be a good sales rep.
Not sure what your list of ideal qualities should include? Check out our article on successful salespeople, or have a look at these examples of questions you can use to generate the type of answers that make your decision easier:
Responsibility. Tell me about a big mistake you’ve made in the past. What did you do about it? What was the outcome?
Being goal oriented. What do you plan on achieving in your first 3 months of this role? What are your sales goals? How will you make sure to hit your sales quotas?
High motivation. When was the most recent “No” you got from a prospect? What did you do next?
Adaptability. Tell me about a time when your boss changed the sales strategy, processes or tools you used. What did you do? And what happened?
Knowledge of the company. What is it about this company that makes you think you’d be a good fit here? What about this role makes you feel you’ll be a good salesman or woman and close deals on par with our most effective salespeople?
Persistence. Tell me about a time you got told “No” but still ended up converting a prospect? How would you stay motivated to close deals with prospects that have long sales cycles and tons of pain points?
Time management. When do you know a lead is dead and no longer worth pursuing?
Trainability. Tell me about something you learned in the last year that you applied to your current sales practices. What do you think you still need to learn to become a better salesperson?
Tools. Are you familiar with the tools (e.g. a CRM) we currently use (or similar alternatives)? Given you do have experience with the tool, how would you go about performing X tasks on the platform? (This answer will help you understand how long you will have to invest in ramping up a rep.)
7. Make an offer and negotiate
The interview process can take a long time, but the best candidates may well be speaking to other recruiters, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Don’t wait to give an offer to a great salesperson as you might miss out on hiring them before someone else does.
If you think you’ve found a potential top performer and want to hire them, make sure they know you are keen. Keeping candidates in the loop will prevent them from accepting offers elsewhere before you make yours.
A great salesperson can be judged by their ability to negotiate and you can see this first hand when you make them an initial offer. A successful salesperson will expertly negotiate the best salary possible. There’s a good chance your candidate may refuse your first offer.
In the end, if they can convince you, a seasoned expert in sales, to give them what they want then they may be the perfect addition to your sales force. Winning you over here is a great example of how to be a great salesman or woman.
8. Onboarding your new sales hire
Integrating your new salesperson into the team doesn’t happen automatically after the contract is signed. You’ll need to familiarize them with the company culture and help them understand what they’ll need to bring to the table to meet business demands, your prospects’ and customers’ needs, and so on.
Don’t take any shortcuts with onboarding. If you want to build a team with a high retention rate, take the necessary time to bring them up to speed, train them on company-specific processes, explain your business’s mission and values and ultimately empower them to want to be a positive contributor.
Within the first month, make sure you:
Clearly define objectives: Make sure your new salesperson understands their objectives and your expectations. If you need them to be productive by their second month, make this clear, so they can work within your expectations.
Share company values: Make sure the sales representative clearly understands your company and values. This should get them jazzed about being part of something great, and help them properly represent your company during sales conversations or sales meetings.
Go hard on training: Focus on delivering the sales training required for your new hire to understand your sales process and cover what they need to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Include common sales metrics you measure, your buyer personas and segments, your team management and leadership approach. Set job and culture expectations up front to get ahead of questions, confusion or push back.
After the new candidate has settled and the onboarding process is complete, make sure you keep them challenged and stimulated with online and offline training courses. This includes your top performers. How to be a great salesman or woman 101 – they (and you) shouldnever stop learning.
Our Sales Pipeline Course email course is a training series consists of 11 bite-sized lessons and best of all it’s completely free!
We know that hiring the salesperson you need for your team can be time-consuming and stressful, especially if you’ve hired people in the past that haven’t matched up to your expectations. Follow these eight steps and you’ll bolster your chances of finding the perfect candidates.
Also, make sure you add our Sales Pipeline Course as a step in your training and induction process.
Find the best new hires with this Sales Interview Checklist
Download this checklist complete with all of the best questions to ask during an interview with a sales candidate.