Finding and hiring good salespeople is difficult in any industry.
However, hiring a top sales team presents a plethora of unique challenges for the sales manager not found when hiring any other employee demographic. The main reason is that it is extremely difficult to predict who will be a top salesperson. History tells us that the best salespeople do not always come in the form of job candidates who have the most experience or the people who have the best-looking resumes.
The sales profession, like no other occupation, requires distinct yet often un-identifiable characteristics from those who are to succeed at the highest levels.
Selling rewards hard work and perseverance in ways that no other job can and therefore success depends largely on the individual’s personal effort. In addition, because personal effort relies on how much the salesperson believes in the product or service for which they sell, a salesperson can fail at selling one product, yet be very successful at selling another and vice versa.
Some Sales Management Training programmes cover how to hire top sales talent, and some don’t. We’re going to assume that you have had no experience in this field.
Hiring For A Sales Team
Ultimately, sales success depends as much on the individual’s personality and character as it does on experience and knowledge. Good salespeople come in all different packages and recognising them is much like digging for diamonds in a coal mine. Therefore, when hiring a sales team, you must be able to assess the individual’s character traits and personality assets in addition to their work history and experience if you’re going to be confident that they will achieve the sales targets set.
You may have found that traditional hiring concepts and conventional sales personality assessments and evaluation strategies are not as effective when it comes to hiring salespeople.
The successful salesperson possesses a unique set of personality characteristics and life experiences and therefore, to find, recognise and hire good salespeople requires an equally unorthodox hiring process.
This template will give you some tips on how to better recognise people who may possess the variables needed to succeed in your business and a check list to help you make better hiring decisions on a consistent basis.
The information and advice contained in this document is compiled from more than 30 years of practical, real-world hiring experiences and not from scientific Sales Assessment testing or psychological theories. This information represents a study of hundreds of successful salespeople and presents traits that are common in most of them.
This strategy is not fool proof, but it will help you find more of those people with the potential to become sales superstars in your field.
Remember that a “diamond in the rough” first appears as a lump of coal.
Sales Team Hiring: How to Recognise Sales Potential
As mentioned, because a salesperson has shown success with one company or product, does not mean that they will achieve equal results with your firm, which is why we use the term, “potential.”
First, we will examine some tips on how to distinguish signs of “success potential” in resumes and job applications.
Then we will explore interviewing techniques and finally, we will present a checklist for you to use as you build your sales organisation.
The Resume or Employment Application
Often when examining the resumes of good salespeople, issues that appear to be “red flags” or areas of concern may be positive signs.
Conversely, items that first look like positive traits may be clues to potential problem areas. So let us look at some suggestions on how to better discern sales potential from a resume and the logic and reasoning behind each.
1. Unstable or Inconsistent Job History:
A person with an unstable work history is usually the first applicant to pass over when making a hiring decision.
However, this apparent negative trait for most jobs may be a positive attribute for salespeople. Apart from actors and models, entry-level salespeople are the most victimised by unethical companies by misleading recruiting techniques and fraud.
A lot of salespeople have also been miss sold about their new role and especially the commission structure.
Salespeople, especially early in their careers, are easy prey for firms that make outlandish promises and use deceptive hiring practices, and recognising such companies takes many years of industry experience.
Also, many entry-level sales positions, requiring little or no experience, offer a dead-end career path with minimal sales training and no potential for long-term growth.
The result is that many salespeople “bounce around” in the beginning of their career trying to find a quality firm, with a legitimate opportunity that delivers what they say.
This often means that the salesperson, despite constant disappointment and failed attempts, continued to persevere, which can be a very good sign.
Also, realise that the sales profession involves the selling of thousands of products and services and while a person may change the product, they are still in the same profession. Someone who spent six months as a bookkeeper, then invested six months training to be a nurse, then worked for eight months training to sell property, is someone who has changed career paths multiple times and has no consistency.
However, a salesperson who sold water purifiers for six months then sold air filtration systems for a year, then worked for a home carpet cleaning company, is someone who continued the same career path of sales and in the same area of selling home improvement products. Often this is the only way for salespeople to grow their industry knowledge and income. However, such a past will reflect badly on a resume.
Of course, this does not mean that someone with a stable employment history is a bad salesperson. It simply means that you should take a transparent view into the resume of a salesperson and do not be too quick to dismiss the candidate that has the “shaky” resume. Look for a consistent “theme” in the job history.
2. Income History and Requirements
You should always ask applicants to report past salary and earnings history as well as their present income requirements on their resume. Earned income is the primary common denominator in the sales profession.
Since products and services vary widely, the only true measurement of past success is income.
A true sales professional is also aware of this and will openly and routinely state income and needs on his or her resume. Be careful of applications that leave out salary history, even though it was requested. Give special attention to those who not only display past earnings openly, but also break the earnings down into the percentage of commission verses base salary.
Contrary to popular belief, most sales positions do not offer an unlimited income. As a top sales manager, you should know what an average salary is, what an expected is and what exceptional means. If a salesperson requires an income that is beyond the capabilities of the position, the manager should make this clear.
Therefore, in addition to past income, you should ask applicants to include their income requirements on their resume or application. Be careful of the applicants who leave this out, people who have trouble stating what they need often have trouble asking for the sale.
3. No Experience needed
If you’re hiring for an entry-level position where salespeople need no experience, here are a few things to look out for:
1. A good aptitude for maths and numbers 2. Commercial knowledge via a university, college or online course 3. Part time experience where they needed to communicate with people 4. Participation in sports or other activities 5. A history of reaching goals or winning contests and awards of any nature
4. Other Resume Tips
• Positive reports from past employers • Moving up, reasons for leaving • Neat and well organised • Achievements listed rather and responsibilities • Excellent grammar and spelling • Resume is tailored based on the role
Not So Good
• Too much usage of I, me or my • Negative talk • Dissatisfaction, problems, reasons • Careless errors • The resume is just a standard stock CV
Now that you have some potential candidates in mind, it is time to meet them and make some decisions.
Sales Team Hiring: Interviewing Techniques
You should view honesty and integrity above all else when it comes to hiring salespeople. You must find people who will NOT do anything for money.
You must find people who CAN NOT and WILL NOT sell anything to anybody.
Find people who are honest and who believe in your product, company, and mission, and you will build a strong sales team.
Here is a process:
1. Sell the Salesperson
You must first sell the candidate on your company and product/service just as strongly as if they were a prospective customer.
2. Verify the Sale
When you have made your case, ask the applicant questions as to their belief in the product and company and industry. Ask the applicant if they can understand why customers NEED the product.
3. Executive Summary
Ask the applicant to give you a general overview of their experience and history.
4. Ask Specific Job Qualifying Questions
Verify whatever technical qualifications the successful candidate must possess.
5. Ask General Questions
Ask many simple personal and job-related questions:
What were your responsibilities at ABC Company?
Why did you leave?
What didn’t you like about the product, company/management?
How do you set up your daily/weekly work schedule?
How do you set sales goals? Give some examples of personal goals you’ve set yourself?
In making your final decision for hiring a salesperson, ask yourself this question:
Would you take total responsibility for this person’s success or failure?
As a sales manager, you must take the success of your sales team, personally. If the salesperson fails, you fail. Would you take personal and financial responsibility if the person you hire does not obtain at least average success with your company?
Would you pay the salesperson’s rent, food, and bills out of your own pocket if they cannot?
Of course, such things are not required of you.
However, this is the attitude you should have when hiring salespeople.
You should only hire those whom you believe in your heart will be successful in your firm and take their success personally. If you follow this thinking, you will make very few hiring mistakes.
Let’s put it all together.
Hiring Top Salespeople – Check List
Resumes and Job Applications
Do not dismiss an unstable job history
Look for themes and links in past jobs
Ask for “Salary History and Requirements” on resumes
Watch for those who omit salary history and requirements
Look for those who break down history in terms of base and commissions
For Entry-Level Sales Positions look for:
A good aptitude for maths and numbers
Part time experience working with others and customers
Participation in organised sports and activities
A history of reaching goals or winning contests and awards of any nature
Check resumes for:
Positive reports on past employers
Positive reasons for leaving last job position
Neat, organised document
Watch out for those who have long gaps no gaps between jobs: it is only natural for there to be small gaps between jobs. People who say they left job A one day and started at job B the next, could be dishonest or someone who takes any job that comes along without thought.
Sell the salesperson
Ask questions to ensure the salesperson believes in the product & company
Ask for personal history
Verify technical qualifications
Ask general questions, mixing personal and job-related topics
Ask ethical based questions or role play
The Hiring Decision
Assume complete and sole responsibly for the new hire’s success or failure.
Only hire salespeople that you believe in so strongly that you would bet your own personal income on them succeeding.