5 Steps to Hiring the Right Sales Person

As many of you know, I like to share information from strategic partners who are trusted advisers to my clients. I regularly feature Mark Thacker from Propelis Consulting because I value his knowledge and insight. Consider these tips when hiring for your next sales position.  

A recent Manpower study revealed that the most difficult position to fill is a Sales Representative. Why is finding top performing sales talent so tough?

When recruiting the best salespeople, it is all about the details. Your “gut feeling” about an applicant is no guarantee of success. Carefully defining what you want, asking the right questions, and listening critically for the right answers is the key.

The stakes are too high to fill an open sales position with the wrong person.  On average it takes three to four months to find the “right” salesperson. It may take another two to four months for the new salesperson to be trained and begin producing. If the salesperson does not perform, it may take another four to six months to identify the problem, document poor performance and get them out the door. So conservatively, you are looking at a loss of a good 12 months of sales. When considering the salesperson’s total compensation, cost of recruiting, cost of training, and the cost of a 12-month loss in sales, it becomes shockingly apparent that there is little room for error when recruiting and hiring the right people.

To avoid the common hiring pitfalls, follow these 5 steps.

  1. Develop a structured hiring process.  Before you start looking for the ideal candidate, you must define the job requirements, develop structured interview questions, decide on assessment tools, and clearly define the rest of the interview process until an offer is made.  It is a lot easier to find the right salesperson when you have determined what he or she looks like.
  2. Use assessment tools.  An EEOC validated pre-employment personality assessment test is a great way to verify that a candidate you are considering for hire has the behaviors, motivation, and skills needed for success in the position. They are also great in identifying potential red flags missed in the behavioral interviews, which in turn allows the hiring sales manager to ask more questions and dig deeper to either validate or negate the red flags.
  3. Validate their track record.  We are too eager to believe what we want to believe – that this person seems perfect. You are making a huge investment. Spend as much time validating the track record as you do in the interview process. Have several people interview the person and validate the answers given. Ask about the previous managers that they intend to have us speak to and why. Check to see if they won those awards. Ask, in detail, about their executive contacts.
  4. Don’t settle.  Understand that a key to successful hiring is objectivity. Hiring salespeople on gut feel, the old-fashioned way, doesn’t work.  You want to fill the position quickly, but hiring the wrong person will cost you time and money and in the end you’ll find yourself sitting in the interviewer’s chair all over again.
  1. Hire someone who can “sell stuff.”  The most common mistake I see is companies hiring only those salespeople that have experience with their products and/or industry.  It takes a lot longer for someone to learn how to be a good salesperson than it does to learn a product, industry lingo, or a specific industry.  Hire someone with a successful sales background.  They know how to ask the right questions and they won’t be reticent to get started quickly.

Follow these 5 steps and you will soon find that you are hiring the best salespeople and increased sales won’t be far behind.

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