Gut feeling is not a recruitment strategy. Yet, many organisations still rely on it to recruit their salespeople. It’s a hit and (mostly) miss strategy, and it can severely impact a company’s ability to grow. Onboarding an ineffective salesperson is not going to help you hit your growth targets. However, a solid sales recruitment strategy will.
Why have a sales recruitment strategy?
As a sales manager, you want to hire candidates who are better than the people you had before. The best way to ensure you hire the right people is to use a recruitment strategy that employs science and process for maximum effect.
“The single fastest way to grow sales is to recruit the right person for the role,” says Paul O’Donohue, SalesStar’s Founder and Global CEO.
5 ways to recruit the right salespeople
If you’re looking to revamp your recruitment strategy, these are the must-have elements you should include:
1. Identify the profile of salesperson
Do you need an account manager, a farmer or a hunter?
“Get clear on the type of salesperson you are looking for. This will relate back to your sales plan,” Paul says. “Having a solid sales plan will mean that when it’s time to recruit, you know exactly what capabilities candidates need to have, as well as the capabilities your team needs to maintain and grow its sales.”
Also, get clear on the markets they are selling to. Do they call on CEOs, managers, technicians or mums and dads? Are they selling in a competitive market or are you the only game in town? Does your business sell a conceptual service or a product that you can demo? Is it a long, complex process or transactional? Will candidates be expected to sell on value or price?
These are just some examples of what you need to be clear on. Lastly, don’t forget to check that your candidates has experience in the areas you need!
2. Make it a process, not an event
Sales recruitment is not a one-off event, you will always have to hire new people from time to time. Where many sales managers go wrong is not making it an ongoing process.
“You should be recruiting all the time,” says Paul “That doesn’t mean you have to hire all the time, but you should be always networking, looking for salespeople who will fit into your culture and have the capabilities your business needs.
“You need to build a solid candidate bench and always be top-grading.”
3. Use pre-hire assessments
If you want to hire the right sales rep, start with science. It is the key to making good, strategic hiring decisions. Not all salespeople or roles are the same. Science is the first step to assessing whether a candidate suits the type of sales role your company needs.
“It comes back to your sales analysis,” Paul explains. “When you assess your team, you know what best practice looks like. You know the benchmarks and what skills or deficiencies your team has.
To succeed in sales, candidates need the right mindset & skill set. It’s not always apparent at the first meeting, and a lot of sales managers miss it.
That’s where a pre-hire assessment comes in—it removes the guesswork. A pre-hire assessment tests for the essential psychological traits that candidates need if they are to succeed in the new role.
“The willingness to sell is critical,” says Paul. “Salespeople with this mindset will do whatever it takes to be successful. If the willingness to sell is missing in your new hire, you’ve got problems.”
Tip: Hire attitude over aptitude
“Time and time again, attitude beats aptitude,” says Paul. “Hiring someone with the right mindset is key.”
4. Qualify candidates according to sales process and target market
Look for candidates who have experience selling in a similar target market to you, along with those who have used a sales process that matches yours.
“You’re looking for sales people who can execute on your process, or the part of the process you’re hiring them for,” says Paul. “A common mistake sales managers make is they see that a candidate was the top rep at CompanyABC and hire them for their own business. Only their business uses a different sales methodology and process, so the candidate’s skills aren’t compatible.”
Tip: Ask behavioural-based questions in your interviews
Use behaviour-based questions to encourage a candidate to demonstrate: their experience in using a similar sales process to yours, and how they define success.
Questions could include:
- “How did you bring on a new client?”
- “What was the most successful client you brought onboard and how did you do it?
- “Tell me a time where your sales were in a slump and how did you come out of it.”
- “Tell me how you dealt with a client that pushed back on something they didn’t want—how did you handle that?”
Lastly, don’t forget to validate what candidates tell you. As the saying goes, salespeople do their best selling at the interview!
5. Set up a 90-day onboarding process
Do you have a plan for when a new recruit joins you? How do you contribute to their success in the first 90 days? Not having an onboarding process can be just as damaging as hiring the wrong person.
“Giving new hires the keys and saying: ‘You’re a salesperson now. If you don’t hit your targets in 90 days, you’re gone. Good luck.’—that’s setting them up for failure,” says Paul. “Instead, look at how you can set them up to succeed. That’s what a good leader and a good manager would do.”