A great, in-demand product is only one part of a successful sales organization. Talented, motivated salespeople are more often than not the secret to sales success.
But finding that talent isn’t easy. Skilled applicants may get overlooked because of a resume with gaps or unconventional experiences, while all-talk no-walk interviewees can dazzle during an interview, only to disappoint on the job. Not everyone is cut out for the cold calls, the small talk, the pitching, the schmoozing, and the rejection. Frequently replacing employees is expensive and time-consuming.
Before you embark on your next round of hiring, consider the following tips to help you hire the best salespeople.
Don’t wait for applicants to come to you
The best salespeople for your organization might not be actively looking for a new role. So hunt for hires like you would for prospects. Use LinkedIn to find sales professionals who communicate the kind of experience, qualities and achievements you’re looking for, consult those in your professional and personal networks, and ask your top performing employees for recommendations. Keep your eyes open for candidates in your day-to-day life, too. Blown away by the sales savvy and service of the car dealership employee? Ask for their card and give them a call.
Consider diverse backgrounds and experiences
It’s natural to want to seek out candidates who have experience selling in your industry. But that requirement narrows the candidate pool and may eliminate talented, versatile sales professionals who would otherwise be a perfect fit. Some sales managers may insist on candidates with nearly identical professional experience, but the quality of experience, rather than the specific type, is often a better indicator of future success. For example, a sales rep who had the highest numbers three years in a row selling branded apparel may be just the person to peddle your education software.
Some hiring managers are even getting rid of sales experience as a requirement all together, instead looking for a professional history that delivers the kinds of personal characteristics that a sales team needs, such as people skills, resourcefulness, positivity, proactiveness, organization and creativity. Qualifying candidates without sales experience requires much more legwork and poses a greater risk, but it could pay off by imbuing your team with a fresh perspective and approach.
Look beyond charisma and confidence
Strong salespeople are often characterized by their confident nature and charming, charismatic personalities. And while those are good qualities for any employee working directly with customers, they’re not the only qualities that matter. What’s more important than confidence and charisma? Coachability and resilience.
As many longtime sales managers can attest to, an overly confident sales rep often finds it difficult to accept and implement advice, making them difficult to work with and to position for success. Look for a candidate who expresses an interest in learning and adapting. Coachable salespeople make for better employees and more effective team members.
Resilience is equally important. Rejection is to be expected in sales jobs and reps who consistently react with anger, self-pity or resignation waste time and energy. Set out to discover how a candidate has dealt with challenges and defeat before. The ability to learn from lost sales and quickly rebound is key to sales success.
Ask these five questions
You don’t have to get rid of the sales rep-customer role play (“Sell me something”) but do consider asking these questions in your next interview with a prospective hire:
How do you research prospects and what information do you look for?
Why: to find out how resourceful your candidate is, and how they use research to tailor their sales approach.
When do you declare a deal lost? What do you do with lost deals?
Why: to get a sense of how persistent the candidate is, and if and how they analyze lost deals.
What tools, apps and platforms do you utilize in your sales career?
Why: to discover how digitally engaged an interviewee is, and how they’re making use of social media and other tools to help them sell.
Would you ever turn a prospect down, or walk away first?
Why: to make sure your candidate knows the value of walking away from a prospective client who won’t truly benefit from their product or service, or whose business isn’t the best fit for the organization.
What’s your own secret recipe for successful selling?
Why: to get an explanation of what personal or unique tactics an interviewee has come to rely on in their career.