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8 steps to finding the perfect salesperson for your team

8 steps to finding the right salesperson
1How to find good salespeople
2Write the salesperson’s job description
3Reach out to the right candidates
4Review your candidates strategically
5Develop a clear interview process
6Interview the candidate with purpose
7Make an offer and negotiate
8Onboarding your new sales hire:
Final thoughts

Your business is growing, you’re enjoying success and increasing your workforce to reach more potential customers. Whether you’re hiring your first salesperson, or just adding to your sales team, it’s essential to know how to spot a successful salesperson.

To ensure continued growth and hire salespeople who 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 challenging to see through charisma and well-rehearsed interview questions, but the best salespeople have certain traits that can’t be missed, which we’ll review in this article.

These include:

  • The ability to meet and exceed sales quotas

  • A proactive, confident approach to work

  • An adeptness at using technology to maximize productivity

To help you improve your hiring hit rate and make your final decision easily, we’ve created an eight-stage template to equip you and your team members with the right tools when hunting for good salespeople.

1. How to find good salespeople

How do you identify the specific needs of your new sales hire?

Creating a job spec isn’t the first step to finding a good salesperson or building 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. Consider whether you’re seeking a new salesperson to complement your team or an experienced sales professional to lead it.

Review your current business needs before drafting a job description and assess any experience gaps in your sales department. Then, look for top sales representatives who could fill those gaps. Be honest about the skill set and experience level you need as a sales manager and consider a realistic budget you can afford to set aside as 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 consider your reasons.

If you’ve previously had employees that didn’t fit your definition of salesperson (e.g., they lacked critical 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.

A high-performing salesperson consistently meets its sales quotas and is a top performer. They approach their work confidently, positively and proactively and understand how to use technology to be as efficient as possible. It’s essential to identify these traits, which include critical thinking and excellent listening skills – qualities that empower salespeople to effectively identify and respond to client needs and obstacles in real time.

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’re 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 two pages, it’s probably too long.

You also need to set clear, attainable and trackable expectations. Be honest about what a typical day might look like (including the potential challenges of door-to-door work if that’s the case) and try not to oversell the more glamorous aspects of the sales position. While this may attract many sales candidates, it can lead to later disillusionment.

Make sure you use clear language when hiring a salesperson. Saying “you’ll be a part of a successful sales team” is okay, but not as good as “you’ll 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 a good salesperson, 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).

Additionally, ensure your job description highlights the importance of empathy and problem-solving skills. High-performing salespeople thrive on understanding customer needs and crafting effective solutions tailored to each client’s unique situation. These soft skills are crucial for building and maintaining strong relationships and should be considered as important as technical sales skills.

3. Reach out to the right candidates

The best sales professionals can sometimes be elusive, so you need to use everything you can to track down your ideal candidate. Advertising your vacancy on several portals will allow you to reach as many candidates as possible.

Your first port of call will probably be looking for salesperson candidates actively seeking a new role. However, don’t limit yourself to this step when trying to find new salespeople (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, you can generate interest in what your company has to offer with a persuasive and personalized pitch.

Active candidates will likely be looking at online job posting sites or job boards such as Indeed.com or Glassdoor. Passive candidates are best reached via social media platforms like LinkedIn or tailored email outreach that reveals the role’s new opportunities 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.

To enhance your outreach, emphasize traits and skills such as optimism, ambition and a proven problem-solving ability. Top performers are driven by competition or commission and deeply committed to their roles. They often set personal goals and seek continuous improvement.

Highlighting these qualities in your communications can attract candidates who are not just looking for any job but are seeking a role where they can truly make an impact.

4. Review your candidates strategically

While being open-minded about experience and backgrounds is essential, you must be clear on the details you won’t compromise on when hiring a new salesperson.

Interviewing someone with five years of sales experience in manufacturing when you’re looking to fill a position in a company that sells property will probably not turn out well. Even if they’re the best sales rep at their current company, industry experience sometimes trumps sales skills. Interviewing and hiring new sales team members can be tiresome, so make sure you’re weeding out candidates 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 you and the new hire. 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 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, you shouldn’t exclude them from your search for the right salesperson.

Be wary of candidates who bill themselves as “successful salespersons” 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.

It’s essential to also consider that high performers know when to walk away from an opportunity, which is an essential skill in sales to avoid wasting time on unlikely prospects. This strategic decision-making capability reflects their understanding of sales dynamics and ability to prioritize effectively.

In addition to evaluating a candidate’s industry experience and sales achievements, it’s crucial to dig deeper into their sales capabilities and work ethic. Look for complex data and concrete results from their previous roles to gauge their effectiveness.

Assess their understanding of a sales cycle and key performance indicators (KPIs), vital for success in a targeted sales environment. Determining if candidates are open-minded and adaptable to our company culture is crucial, ensuring they’ll integrate well with our team and contribute positively.

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 and more. Have an icebreaker or a series of personality-based questions up your sleeve 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 comprehensively answer difficult questions, such as how they would handle a specific type of objection on an important sales call. You can also invite key team members 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 allow you to assess how they perform under pressure. Sales are dependent on people who 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 deeper insight into whether the candidate is suitable for the role.

Also, consider their ability to handle rejection and adapt to different sales situations. This can be assessed by discussing scenarios where they faced significant challenges or resistance in their sales career, highlighting their resilience and adaptability.

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.

What should your list of ideal qualities 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 three 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 when your boss changed the sales strategy, processes or tools you used. What did you do? And what happened?

  • Knowledge of the company. What about this company makes you think you’d be a good fit? 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 with long sales cycles and many 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 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 your experience with the tool, how would you perform [X] tasks on the platform? (This answer will help you understand how long you’ll have to invest in onboarding a rep)

In addition to these questions, assessing a candidate’s strategic approach to sales is crucial, which includes their ability to prioritize and focus on high-impact activities. This can be gauged by asking how they plan their day or manage multiple deals simultaneously. Understanding their approach to these aspects of the job can provide insight into their organizational skills and potential to drive sales effectively within your team.

Encourage candidates to present metrics and data points that highlight their sales performance in previous roles. Ask them to discuss specific challenges they have overcome in their sales careers, which can provide insights into their problem-solving skills and resilience.

Understanding why they’re passionate about sales and their long-term career goals can also help you better understand their motivation and potential for long-term growth within your company.

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 keeping the lines of communication open is essential. 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’re 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 firsthand 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, they may be the perfect addition to your sales force. Winning you over here is a great example of how to be a great salesperson.

Furthermore, observe how candidates handle the negotiation itself during the negotiation process. Their strategy and tactics in this phase can provide a window into how they’ll deal with future client negotiations. Do they come prepared with data and evidence to back up their requests? Are they flexible and willing to compromise to reach a mutually beneficial agreement? These behaviors indicate how they’ll negotiate with clients, reflecting their preparation, foresight and understanding of their value to your company.

8. Onboarding your new sales hire:

Integrating your new salesperson into the team doesn’t happen automatically after signing the contract. 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.

Do the following within the first month:

  1. 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.

  2. Share company values. Make sure the sales representative understands your company and values clearly. This should get them excited about being part of something great and help them properly represent your company during sales conversations or sales meetings.

  3. Go hard on training. Focus on delivering the sales training required for your new hire to understand your sales process and cover what they must do daily, weekly and monthly. Include standard sales metrics you measure, your buyer personas and segments and your team management and leadership approach. Set job and culture expectations up front to get ahead of questions, confusion or pushback.

You should also encourage active participation in team meetings and shadowing sessions with experienced colleagues as soon as possible. This direct involvement helps new hires see firsthand the dynamics and techniques that successful team members use, which can accelerate their learning and integration into the team.

Regular feedback loops should be incorporated in the first few months. This allows the new salesperson to adjust and refine their approach based on real-time input from managers and peers, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and adaptation. This feedback is crucial for reinforcing good practices and promptly correcting any missteps, ensuring the new hire quickly becomes an influential team member.

Final thoughts

After the new candidate has settled and the onboarding process is complete, keep them challenged and stimulated with online and offline training courses. This includes your top performers. How to be a great sales rep 101 – they (and you) should never stop learning.

Our Sales Pipeline Course email course is a training series consisting 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 who haven’t matched up to your expectations. Follow these eight steps and you’ll bolster your chances of finding the perfect candidates.

Also, ensure 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.

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