When we at BusinesStaff talk to our clients about their challenges, “hiring good salespeople” always jumps to the top of the list. With over 20 years of hiring, placement, and recruiting experience, we’ve developed a five-step sales hiring plan that we use internally; we’ll share it with you here, and we guarantee that it will eliminate many of your sales hiring headaches. Hiring rock star salespeople may seem like a gamble, but it’s not—you just have to know what you’re looking for, and not hire until you find it!
Step 1: You can’t teach hustle
Many companies fall into the trap of prioritizing skills over hustle. They see that a candidate knows how to use a certain CRM tool, or worked for a big-name company in their target industry, and they assume that the person will produce results for them. That’s the wrong way to go about it: you can teach someone how to use software, but you can’t teach someone to be ambitious and competitive if they’re not. So instead of focusing on the candidate’s quantifiable skills, look for a track record of ambition and results. Ask your candidates what they do when they’re not working: do they pursue achievement-oriented hobbies like playing on a sports team or in an orchestra? Did they play on a Division 1 college team?
Step 2: Look for people who like to win
Winners win across all areas of life. A salesperson who is passionate about being the best at everything they do is a person you want on your team. Like learning to shoot a three-pointer or kick a field goal, sales involves a lot of repetitive grunt work: lots of cold calls, lots of introductory e-mails, lots of time working leads that may or may not pan out. The person who refuses to lose is the one you want to snag. Ask your candidates to talk about what winning at work means to them: are they the first one in the office and the last one to leave? Do they continually challenge themselves to beat their own records? That’s when you hire!
Step 3: Look for closers
Sadly, lots of salespeople are only good at beginnings. Making the first contact with a new client is the exciting part. But working warm leads and—especially—closing the deal is where the rubber really meets the road. Ask your candidates how they prioritize new leads, warm leads, and closing deals. They’ll answer the “are you a closer?” question for you.
Step 4: Sort for positive energy
We all know that salespeople must be positive, but too often, we think that “positive” means that the person is bubbly and overflowing with optimism at all times. And they might be! But here’s what we’re getting at: when we say “positive,” we mean that when faced with roadblocks, successful salespeople act like water that meets a rock in a river. They find a way to get around the obstacle. And they know that when something goes wrong, it’s on them to figure it out. Ask your candidates to talk about a time they faced a challenge or failed. And listen carefully to the answer. Is it, “The marketing folks just weren’t funneling enough leads to me,” or is it “I got complacent and didn’t do enough follow-up. That only happened once—now I’ll never make that mistake again.”
Step 5: Check for a thick skin
The hard truth of sales is that sales is hard. Lots of rejections, lots of missed appointments, lots of unreturned calls and e-mails. But a salesperson who is confident in their abilities and the value of what they’re selling won’t give up. You need salespeople who don’t take it personally when they’re criticized or outright rejected. Try this: actively challenge your candidates during the interview. Say something negative about them: “I’m impressed with your technical background, but to be honest, I don’t know if you’re assertive enough for what we’re looking for. Convince me.” Does the candidate crumble, or rise to the challenge?
At BusinesStaff, we know that hiring salespeople is one of the most crucial, and the most challenging tasks that you face. We hope these tips will help you identify what you’re looking for, and we’re here to help when you need great recruiting results you can count on.