Hiring Practices: How to Hire the Best Salespeople (Ever!)

September 22, 2015
Hiring Practices: How to Hire the Best Salespeople (Ever!)

When it comes to hiring practices for salespeople, does your team have a system? Do you know what to look for (or avoid) in a salesperson, and how to vet them properly during the hiring process?

I love writing about this topic for a few reasons. First, I find the interview process very exciting—there’s nothing quite like experiencing new people as they put forth their best selves. Second, who doesn’t love snooping around on social media looking for dirt (yes job seekers, we are doing this!)?

However, the biggest reason why I love writing about hiring practices is because I happen to work for a company (that’s right, CFS!) that has the absolute best hiring process I’ve experienced to date. Check it out!

The Chemistry Test

Last week my boss, Charles Bernard, wrote an article about The Chemistry Test. The Chemistry Test is a series of questions that a job candidate is asked not only to respond to, but they are asked to reply using a whiteboard in presentation format. This activity is completely impromptu—no time to think or prepare—it’s all about the candidate’s natural responses.

The results of this “test” are very telling. It allows the interviewing team to discover quite a bit about a candidate—and in sales, it is a glimpse into how the potential employee would speak to a room of strangers when the answers aren’t right in front of them.

What to Look for When Hiring Salespeople

When hiring for sales positions we all want nice, friendly, go-getters. Those traits are easy to spot, right? Salespeople are often very charming, so it’s important to have hiring practices that are detailed and specific—making sure they check ALL the boxes, not just the Mr. or Ms. Charming box.

We asked Maryann Donovan, President and Recruiter of Impact Personnel, for a little advice on hiring salespeople. She shared that “hiring sales professionals can be daunting no matter how long you’ve been doing it,” and stated that she looks for nine specific things when she’s scouting for salespeople on behalf of her clients:

  1. Excellent Interpersonal Skills – Not just an outgoing personality, but someone who has the ability to get along with different people, regardless of level or job title.
  2. Tenacity – The best salespeople tend to be able to pick themselves up and keep going even when things are grim. They always describe themselves as “glass half full” people and feel there’s always a chance to garner new business.
  3. Disciplined – Sometimes deals fall from the sky, but usually they are made by hard work. Of course you need the skill set to be a successful salesperson, but you also need to put the time in. Someone who is looking for short cuts isn’t going to make it.
  4. Resourceful – Successful salespeople are able to problem-solve quickly and have the ability to think on their feet regarding client issues.
  5. Sense of Urgency – Time is almost always of the essence in selling. Procrastinators don’t make it in the sales world.
  6. Focused – Able to keep an eye on the prize and not be distracted by external influences. The best salespeople don’t get involved with office politics because it’s a waste of their time.
  7. Competitive – This is one of the reasons many of our clients like salespeople who played high school or college sports. The desire to win is a strong one and drives a good sales person to succeed.
  8. Communication Skills – The ability to express oneself in written and verbal communications is huge.
  9. Preparation – A successful salesperson studies his or her pitch before the meeting and anticipates rebuttals and questions so he or she is prepared. Every client is different.

Maryann isn’t the only one who agrees that tenacity and quick thinking are pivotal traits to look for when hunting for a new sales hire. Marcus Cohlan, Business Development Director at Gainor Staffing and former Sales Executive at Living Social and Monster, shared some fantastic advice with me on hiring salespeople and Sales Managers last week.

When looking at a resume, does the candidate have experience with any of the following?

  • Fundraising
  • Fraternity or sorority activity
  • Acting

If so, chances are they are quick thinkers, are likely very outgoing, and want to help their communities. Marcus stressed, “A positive attitude is critical. Your energy is everything. You can’t force yourself every day, but leaving the negative energy at the door is important.” I couldn’t agree more, Marcus!

But perhaps the most valuable tip to highlight—one focused on by both HR experts—is hiring a salesperson that doesn’t take criticism too seriously. Maryann noted that anticipating rebuttals is key and Marcus concurred, stating that it’s important to look for people that know how to push through objections.

So, what about a hiring plan? Now that we’ve established some roots and know what to look for in a candidate’s personality and character, it’s important to have the proper hiring system in place. The CFS team is excited to share our process with you (the very same system I was raving about earlier!), so keep an eye out for our newest resource on hiring, scheduled to hit the press in early October.

Until then, hire well, my friends!

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