How to Hire for Sales: A Guide

Aashish Gururaj for Outplay

By 

Aashish Gururaj for Outplay

Published 

September 22, 2022

How to Hire for Sales: A Guide

If you’ve been in the sales game for a while, you know that several factors affect your sales. One of these factors is your hiring. You need to hire the right people for your sales team to ensure your sales operations run seamlessly and your conversions go up consistently.

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of B2B sales hiring, mistakes to avoid during your sales hire, best sales recruiting strategies and practices, and the steps to follow in your sales hiring process. 

Can anyone be good at sales?

Before we get into how to hire people for sales, you need to know why you need to hire specific people to do the job. Here are the primary reasons to prioritize your sales hiring: 

Sales skills and industry knowledge

This is a no-brainer. Sales is one of those skills that take a significant amount of time and experience in the industry to solidify. While you could train some of your aspiring sales reps and get them started, you’re far better off hiring experienced salespeople to help train reps and boost your overall conversions in a relatively shorter timeframe. Experienced salespeople have industry knowledge and years of experience under their belt. 

Easier to maintain client relationships

In this day and age, customers want more than a reliable product or service. They want an excellent customer experience. In other words, you need to maintain a solid relationship with each customer. Customers have unique backgrounds and situations, which can make it difficult for your current team to deal with them. Since salespeople have years of experience, they can manage various types of buyer relationships with ease. 

Mistakes to avoid while hiring for sales

Here are the most common mistakes you should avoid while hiring for sales:

Writing unclear job descriptions

Writing unclear job descriptions is a surefire way to get fewer applicants or the wrong ones (or both) to apply. As a result, you will lose a lot of time interviewing unqualified salespeople. Instead, keep your job description as accurate and concise as possible. Include the following:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Skill, personality, and experiential requirements

In the next section, we discuss precisely what you must include in your job description. 

Lack of structure and time management

When dealing with numerous applicants, it is vital to manage your time and interview them such that you are sure who to go for.

The last thing you want to do is ask your applicants a bunch of random, improvised questions with no way to choose between them at the end of all the interviews. Instead, come up with an outline for your interview, a uniform set of questions, and a scorecard to compare their performance. 

No step-by-step sales hiring process

If you want to consistently boost your sales and conversions, you need an excellent sales team in place. However, as is the case with every company, you are bound to lose salespeople along the way.

The best way to remedy this issue is to follow a reliable sales hiring strategy. This is what it looks like: 

Sales Hiring Strategy

Create your sales hire persona

Before anything else, you need to build your sales hire persona or hiring profile. In other words, you need to be clear about what kind of salesperson you are looking for. You need to be as selective with hiring salespeople as you are with working with prospects. So, be sure to identify the skills, experience, industry background etc, your sales hires must have to qualify as a perfect fit for your company.

An excellent way to get started is by taking a close look at your current top performers in the sales department and deconstructing their expertise, skills, background, aptitude, etc, and using this information to create your ideal hiring profile. 

Be sure to look for salespeople with the following traits:

  • Diligent and hardworking: Is your sales hire willing to carry out their tasks diligently? 
  • Coachable: Is your sales hire coachable and open to feedback? (absolutely crucial)
  • Curious: Are they curious about your prospects?
  • Successful track record: Do they have a successful track record in sales?

Create a job description

Have a sales hire persona in place? Write a job description to make it easier to find your ideal salesperson. A well-written job description will determine both the quantity and quality of your sales candidates.

Your job description must:

  • Accurately describe the role(s) and responsibilities of the sales hire 
  • Clearly explain why they should join your company

Here are mistakes you should avoid while writing a job description:

  • Creating a generic job description or copy that's written by other companies
  • Writing a vague job description that causes confusion and can potentially mislead your candidates
  • Not mentioning the salary/pay structure
  • Not mentioning why they should work with you


However, you should: 

  • Explain the benefits of working with your organization, company work culture, and pay structure
  • Describe the roles, responsibilities, and the typical workday for someone who takes up this position 
  • Mention skills, traits, and other requirements

Look for your ideal sales hire

Now that you have your job description ready, start posting it on as many channels as possible. You can post your job description on:

  • Job sites like Glassdoor, Monster, Indeed, Angellist, etc.
  • Industry-specific communities on forums like Reddit and Facebook groups
  • Social media accounts like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can post it on your social media accounts and run paid ads to reach a larger audience. 
  • LinkedIn jobs. Post your description in the LinkedIn jobs section and post the same on your feed. 

You can also contact people in your network for recommendations. Consider asking your former employees, colleagues, industry contacts, etc. if they know of any suitable sales hires for your company. 

Consider asking your top-performing salespeople to check their networks and spread their word on social media to increase your chances of hiring the right salesperson. 

Screen your candidates

If you’ve written an excellent job description and spread the word on as many online channels as possible, you’re probably sifting through dozens of job applications. At this point, you will need to screen your applicants to:

  • Increase your chances of landing the right sales hires
  • Save your time

You can screen your candidates the way you want. Consider incorporating phone and screen interviews, and tests into your screening process. Ideally, you want to test them on: 

  • How they speak
  • How they build rapport
  • Their problem-solving skills
  • Their personality

Essentially, you need to test them to see if they have all the traits we’ve mentioned in the first section.

We also suggest you get them to do a mock demo. As part of your mock presentation or demo, get your applicant(s) to sell your company a product. Essentially, they will need to treat it as a real sales role - from start to finish.

Screen for the following:

  • Creating and sending invites for meetings with all the necessary details 
  • Do they know everything they need to know about your company?
  • Excellent objection handling skills
  • Confirming the meeting and sending reminders
  • Following up with a prospect and sending proposals
  • Closing properly
  • Periodic and probing questions

Interview your candidates

Assuming you’ve managed to screen applicants (i.e, they cleared the phone or screen interview and the mock demo), you need to put them through a standard set of questions. You also need to have a scorecard to track their performance.

In other words, you need to employ a structured interview process to ensure there’s no bias or confusion. Have a fixed set of questions for an entry level position and a different set for experienced candidates that cover the following:

  • Reason for motivation
  • Personality, communication, and behavior
  • Technical know-how and experience
  • Dealing with hypothetical and real-life scenarios

Score your candidates based on their answers and compare their total scores to determine who fared the best. As you do this, you also need to be prepared to answer questions if you decide to onboard some of your candidates.

If they are interested, they will probably question you on the sales and onboarding process, the work culture, pay structure, work model (office, work from home, hybrid), sales metrics, opportunities to advance their careers, and so on. 

Make an offer

Once you have your scores ready, discuss who you plan on hiring with everyone involved in the entire recruitment process. Since hiring and training the wrong salesperson can cost you a significant amount of time and money, be extra cautious and welcome everyone’s perspective.

After you’ve decided who you are going to hire, make an offer via phone or email before sending them a formal offer letter to save time. Give the applicant some to decide and expect them to negotiate their salary and benefits with you.

Then, send an email to everyone who came up a bit short telling them that you are considering working with them in the future. Maintaining a positive relationship with them will make it easy to work with them in the future if you wish to hire them. 

Onboarding

A seamless onboarding process is necessary to get your new sales hire up to speed quickly. Furthermore, this increases your chances of retaining them. 

According to Mindtickle, “organizations with a standard onboarding process have 50% greater new hire retention than those that don’t.” 

To help them hit the ground running on the first day, give them a head start. Consider welcoming them into the company with an outline and the resources they will need to catch up. This way, you can be sure that your sales hire will be familiar with:

  • Your company’s vision, mission, and history
  • What you have to offer
  • What differentiates your company from your competitors
  • Any other vital information you want them to know

Also, follow a formal onboarding process. With a formal onboarding process, you will be able to:

  • Establish your expectations for each new sales hire
  • Goals and their respective timeframes 
  • Metrics to measure progress

Once you establish expectations, be sure to provide adequate training and support to help your sales hires meet those expectations. This means you need to put a training program and resources in place.

While you do this, get your new hires to shadow senior sales reps. In other words, let them observe the senior sales reps in action so that they know how to implement the processes and systems in real time.

Finally, evaluate their early performance and work to see consistent progress. If they are meeting expectations and excelling at their job, be sure to provide them with additional resources and advanced training. However, if they aren’t progressing, you can intervene and identify your next steps. 

Best Sales Recruiting Tips

Here are a couple of sales recruiting tips to keep in mind: 

Think long-term

Hiring for sales is often a costly and time-consuming affair. So, if you find yourself having to choose between hiring less-than-ideal salespeople today and potentially ideal clients in a few months, choose the latter.

Sure, you might end up saving time and money in the short term if you hire the wrong people today. However, their performance will likely be average or below average, which means you will have to invest extra time and resources to train them properly. 

Treat your interviews as pitches

Ultimately, you want to assess your candidate’s sales and communication skills. What better way to do this than by treating the interview itself as a sales pitch? By treating the interview as a sales pitch, you will find out how your candidate is likely to respond to a potential customer. 

Prepare a bunch of interview questions

As mentioned earlier, you need to have different sets of questions for different types of candidates. In other words, you need a fixed set of questions for entry level candidates and another set for experienced candidates.

Here are a few interview questions you can add to your arsenal: 

  • What would be the ideal activity for you in your first week on the job? 
  • What are you passionate about? 
  • What do you want to know about me?
  • What kinds of sacrifices have you had to make to be successful? 
  • Why do you think a career in sales is the right choice for you?
  • Tell me about a recent sale you lost. What happened and what did you learn from it? 

Be prepared to answer questions

As you interview sales candidates, you must be prepared to answer some of their questions. They might question you on: 

  • Your approach to training
  • What challenges do your salespeople face (newbies and veterans)
  • What differentiates your top performers from the average salesperson
  • What the promotion path is like
  • What your sales process looks like
  • How your salary and commissions work

Motivate your salespeople

Motivating your salespeople is vital to keep your sales operations running seamlessly. There are many ways to do this (without having to spend money). Here’s how you do it:

Give them opportunities outside of their line of work. Your salespeople probably would not get a chance to pursue other opportunities while working their current jobs. Giving them a brand new opportunity gives them a chance to try something new and rise to the occasion. 

Work with them once in a while. Help them run some cold calls, answer some emails, etc. Acknowledging their jobs and joining them to keep things light and fun will eventually pay dividends.

Give them direct access to you. Everyone wants to be on the inside. They wanted to be included and get a piece of the insider’s information. Get your CEO to spend some time with one or more of your sales reps, showing them where the company is headed, planning new products, etc. Doing something like this will make the sales reps feel seen and valued. 

If you want to motivate your salespeople, you need to acknowledge their presence and value their work. It’s one thing to give them a raise, but it is another thing to celebrate small wins, and acknowledge and value their work. You need both elements if you want to keep your salespeople motivated and willing to work for your company in the long run. 

Conclusion

As you can see, hiring for sales doesn’t have to be as tedious a task as you are probably making it out to be. All you need is to know what mistakes to avoid and a step-by-step process to get started. 

Since this is a process and you are dealing with multiple applicants, you will have to ensure you have a structure in place for interview questions, scoring, onboarding, job descriptions, screening, and so on. Oh, and you will need to equip yourself to answer questions that your salespeople will have for you. Remember that good salespeople will ask your questions that you need to be prepared for. If you want to know more about sales, be sure to give our blog a quick gander.

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