How to Hire a Successful Salesperson

Here are five tips for finding a rep who’ll bring you more business.

Sales superstars can be extremely valuable to any organization. A good rep can support the salaries of dozens of other employees.

Whether you are looking to add your first salesperson or upgrade your current team, you face a difficult and sometimes risky venture. Recruiting a proven top performer to join your team can easily cost you six figures, and finding a young diamond in rough can be a difficult challenge.

Follow these five steps when hiring your salesperson to increase your chances of making a profitable hire.

Profile the Job

There are four main types of sales roles, and it is important to know which one you need before you look for candidates.

» Account Sales or Inside Sales builds existing relationships or fulfills the needs of prospects already coming in your door or website. Reps in this area typically work a long sales cycle.

» Commodity Sales is a tougher version of demand fulfillment. People in this area work in a higher pressure, shorter sales cycle. They are typically negotiating on price, not building relationships.

» Consultative Sales is process-oriented problem-solving in a long sales cycle to create demand from new prospects or new problems.

» Finally, Unique Value Sales demands creativity, problem-solving and a short sales cycle. These hunters work quickly to close sales based on value, not price or relationships.

Once you have established the type of sale that fits your business model, you will need to outline the skills necessary to be successful in that role. Use these skills as the “must-haves” in your job description and evaluate the candidates based on who can and will be able to succeed in that type of sale.

Recruit a Pool of Candidates

It is extremely important that you get a long list of applicants. Most sales hiring mistakes happen because the manager fell in love with one of the candidates and didn’t start or complete the hiring process. This mistake usually happens when the manager is recruiting a candidate away from another job, or trusted employees or customers referred the candidate.

Your goal should be to get enough candidates that you can disqualify them vigorously. Passing on a good salesperson is not a fraction as costly as hiring a bad one. Your goal in the hiring process should be to eliminate bad candidates.

To find your pool of candidates, you will probably need help. Recruiters, job boards, social networking and employee referrals are all good options to add to your list.

Assess the Candidates

Once you have your pool of candidates, you will want to run them through a series of qualifications. The more tests you can run before you meet them face to face, the better your chances of hiring a successful salesperson. Typically, hiring directors are bad judges of salespeople.

Disqualify candidates by resume, an objective hiring assessment and a phone interview before you set up any interviews. Your list should get smaller at each stage, and only the top candidates should do the face-to-face interview to avoid human error and bias. After that, you can narrow down your top three and use a sales-specific, objective assessment. Finally, bring back your top pick for a second interview.

Hire for Attitude

It is extremely important to put the candidates to the test in the interview. You are hiring for a sales position. That means if candidates cannot keep you on the phone, follow up promptly or sell you on why you should hire them, then they are not the right person, and you should keep looking.

There has been exhaustive research by Objective Management Group involving more than 1 million salespeople to isolate the characteristics of the top 1 percent of sales performers, and the overwhelming answer was attitude.

It should be blatantly obvious that your final candidate has the positive outlook, personal responsibility, internal drive and trainability to be successful.

Properly Onboard Your New Salesperson

Your hiring process should not stop when the contract is signed. For most sales positions, a proper onboarding process should take at least 90 days. During that time, you can help them learn the business and gain product knowledge, learn how to sell your product or service, learn the common problems and best practices, and most importantly, learn your expectations for successful sales behavior.