Today, the sales representative is one of the hardest positions to fill. If you’ve never hired for the position before, it’s easy to make a wrong turn and bring the wrong candidate on board.
We'll show you how to hire the right salesperson—where to look, how to conduct your interviews, how to pay them, and much more.
How to hire a salesperson, in a nutshell
While hiring a salesperson can be challenging, there are steps you can take to set yourself up for a good hire:
Determine what you want in the perfect candidate
Much like any job opening, you need a vision for the role and the type of candidate you want to fill it. Spend time identifying the different abilities and traits that are needed, and hash out the responsibilities the role requires.
Hire a rock-solid recruiter to help you with the hiring process
Some candidates (certainly not all) present as the stereotypical salesperson—making you think you’re getting one thing, but in reality, you could be getting something entirely different. For this reason, you might need to lean on the expertise and experience of a top recruiter.
This person or agency will not only help you navigate the hiring process and lure better candidates but they will also provide a discerning eye capable of wading through all of the candidates who may be unfit for the role.
Create a compelling job ad
As most companies need sales leaders in their organization, your job posting will likely be competing with a bevy of other businesses. If you want your business to stand out among other sales opportunities, you have to craft an enticing job ad that will attract great candidates.
If you don’t already have in-house experts who can handle this, partner up with a top-notch copywriter or marketer to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward with your job ad.
Conduct thoughtful interviews
If you’re looking to separate the good from the bad during the interview process, you’ll need to choose interview questions that require thoughtful conversation and responses. Stray from the generic questions and implement questions that give you better insight into the candidate’s personality, thought process, and approach to sales.
Make your expectations for the role clear
One of the easiest ways to hire the wrong sales candidate is to provide ambiguous details about the position or to misrepresent your company’s goals. The best leaders set clear expectations—including the responsibilities for the role and the goals that need to be met.
Follow up quickly
As sales opportunities are plenty and salespeople frequently change organizations, a great candidate could easily slip through your fingers if left waiting. Once you identify an ideal candidate for your open position, be prompt in following up and communicating with them.
How to find salespeople
Knowing how to hire a salesperson is only half the battle; you also need to know how to find them:
Search common hiring platforms
Even top recruiting agencies will scour some of the most common hiring platforms to ensure that no stone goes unturned. You can often find strong candidates on some of the following platforms:
- Online job boards
- Networking events — on or offline
- Existing candidate database
- Social media networks
- … and many more!
Leverage the power of referrals
You might find that popular job boards and hiring platforms can be hit-or-miss, whereas referrals often produce better candidates. Ask company employees and, more specifically, your sales department, for referrals.
Because referrals are important and so often yield the best sales candidates, it might be in your best interest to hire a referral-based agency. These firms have relationships with industry professionals who can refer top candidates for your position. Having hundreds of sales leaders referring your next sales representative isn’t too good to be true.
Should you hire on commission or salary, or a mix?
There are a few different ways that salespeople are compensated, and you’ll want to carefully consider which method makes the most sense for your business and your sales candidate:
Commission rewards high performance and hard work, making it an attractive compensation method for your business. While many salespeople may embrace the challenges of commission-based pay, others might grow frustrated during down periods or tough economic times.
Salary provides employees with reliable, consistent income. While your business might prefer to pay commission, consider that a quality sales candidate might prefer the stability of receiving a salary. Not to mention, extending salary pay to your salesperson signals job security and loyalty on behalf of the organization.
Mixed compensation combines the security of salary with the upside of commission. Typically, the salesperson will be given a baseline salary, and this will be supplemented with financial incentives that reward high performance.
Hiring your first salesperson and hiring the right salesperson can be different things
Any employer or hiring manager can screen a few salespeople and extend a job offer to their favorite candidate. This doesn’t guarantee the right hire, though, and there are a few reasons why:
Don’t shy away from tension
Intuition should be used throughout the hiring process. It can often help you avoid bad fits and personalities that won’t jive with your company culture. But don’t rely on instinct alone. Your inexperience in hiring might lead you to reject a candidate at the first sign of discomfort or conflict.
But know this—tension and conflict are essential for real progress and growth. Don’t disqualify a candidate solely because you disagree on something or because they bring a different perspective. This perspective could be just what your organization needs.
Know what to look for in a candidate
Salespeople often present well on resumes and in interviews. If you’re serving up generic interview questions, you might find that you get great, well-rehearsed answers across the board—answers that give you no real insight into your candidates. You’ll want to dive a little deeper to determine what you’ll be getting in a particular candidate:
- Create a hypothetical situation for a sales pitch. Note how your candidate navigates it. This will give you a better idea of their abilities and tendencies.
- Ask about sales experience. Sales experience is important but sales experience in your specific industry is worth much more. Someone who knows the market and is familiar with your products and services is often a better fit.
- Find out where they excel. There are different types of salespeople. One candidate may have a knack for relationship management, while another might be a natural “closer.” A third candidate might specialize in business development.
What you should have in place before you hire a salesperson
While you may have an immediate need for a new salesperson, it’s unwise to rush the process. Having the following systems in place before hiring will not only help you lure better sales candidates, but also provide opportunities for a new employee.
Sales training programs
No two jobs are the same and your new hire could be coming from a company with different processes and protocols. Developing a sales training program for your business will help you onboard your new salesperson and set them up for success.
You may even consider adding programs that provide ongoing training throughout the employee’s tenure. Not only will this make your salesperson feel that they are constantly being invested in, it will also help raise the performance of your sales department over time.
Values and expectations for your company and sales goals
Values differ from company to company, and this is especially true with sales. You don’t want your new salesperson misrepresenting your brand out in the field or on the phone, so you must create and provide a clear set of core values to follow.
Similarly, you’re likely to receive consistent production from salespeople who aren’t working towards company goals. Be sure to properly convey expectations for the role and provide a clear set of goals that you want to achieve at all levels—individual, departmental, and company-wide.
A recruiting agency
If you find yourself rolling the dice when hiring for a sales position, it may be that you don’t know how or where to find the right candidate for the role.
By working with a recruiting agency, you’re able to not only tap into a larger pool of top sales talent but also rely on the expertise and insights of professional recruiters who have experience filling open sales roles.
Hiring salespeople for a startup
If you’re a startup, how does the process of hiring a salesperson change?
A bad hire could have a devastating financial impact on your budding business. After all, this person is responsible for generating significant revenue for your company.
These factors make your hiring decisions that much more important. Beyond education and experience, give plenty of weight to personal characteristics that are essential for a sales role at a startup:
- … and others
Need help finding the right salesperson?