Expert's Opinion

Hiring Better Sales People

By George Wright, WrightOne Consulting | October 10, 2012

George Wright explains what to look for during the process.

Your organization may have the best products or services in the world, but your sales team still has the power to make or break the company. It's tough, this business of hiring salespeople. When you hire a mediocre (or worse) salesperson, you may find yourself providing paycheck after paycheck and begin to feel like you are running a corporate welfare program. To avoid this scenario, let’s take a look at some of the best approaches and methods that give us the best results.

Use a process. The “trial and error” method of hiring will only frustrate you. Many companies forget that their recruitment process is a sales person’s first glimpse into how the company operates. If it is simple, quick, and thorough evaluation followed by definitive next steps and movement towards an offer, it suggests that would reflect how the company operates. If the process is long, cumbersome, and ill-defined, your organization could be missing out on key sales talent as a result.

There are a few things you can do to tighten up your sales hiring process:
• Clearly define the steps
• Know who needs to be involved and when
• Know what an offer looks like at the beginning of a search
• Set timelines/deadlines and stick to them
• Be ready to act. When you find a great sales person take action and hire them because they may have other options.
Define the job for your Organization: You must know what it will take for a salesperson to be successful in your business, in your market, against your competition, and with your pricing and product. This goes well beyond just industry knowledge and experience.

Give all your candidates the same interview. Develop a standard set of questions and tailor them to meet the criteria that you have pre-established in a successful candidate. You will be less likely to hire someone just because you “click” with him/her and more likely to hire based on your actual staffing needs.

Make them think on their toes. A good salesperson should be able to handle the unanticipated and meet challenges with confidence. Try asking them how they might handle a sales situation that is specific to your industry.

Be firm. We all know that a good salesperson can be charming and will easily engage you in conversation. Don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked. Be straightforward and don’t be afraid to ask hard questions.

Check their homework. Any serious candidate should research your company before the interview. Don’t make the mistake of telling the candidate all about your company and then listen to them regurgitate what you just said. Ask them why they want to join your company.

Be patient. You may want new people in place in two weeks, but be realistic.Six months from now, would you rather be saying, "Sure glad we waited to hire the right candidate!" or, "I wish we waited to make the right hires - this isn't working out and we'll have to do it all again!"

Get a second opinion. If you have a trusted salesperson on your team, consider having him/her sit in on the interview to help determine if the candidate will truly mesh with the existing sales force. Part of any successful sales team is its ability to work toward a common goal together.

Do it now, do it right, and do it objectively.You may also want to consider using an accurate, predictive, sales specific assessment. Assessments have become essential to employers who want to put the right people into the right jobs. Using assessments also results in increases in productivity and helps reduce employee turnover as well as overall human resource expenses.

Many managers, particularly entrepreneurs and small business owners, have an awful track record when it comes to hiring sales talent. But when you hire the right sales professional, you can see results and amazing things begin to happen.

About the Author

George Wright has over 25 years’ experience as a management consultant and he is the Founder/Principal of WrightOne Consulting. He specializes in psychological assessment analysis, organizational assessment as well as leadership and team development. In addition, George is an Adjunct Instructor in Industrial & Organizational Psychology, Social Psychology, and Positive Psychology at Bloomfield College in Bloomfield, NJ. More info: