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sales hiring 3 things you need to knowSales hiring is a challenge. Considering the cost of a bad hire, it’s no wonder hiring managers consistently try to develop the sales hiring process to improve the quality of candidates, promote the retention of strong new hires, and pull ahead of the competition in the race for the best candidates. The sales hiring managers pulling in the best candidates know that the three following principles can fundamentally improve sales hiring results.

1. Look for the Right Type of Sales Person

The common belief that a sales person who has had selling success in one category can readily transition into a new category might not be true with all candidates. While previous sales success is a must-have qualification for candidates for your position, you should also look at the environment in which that candidate was successful. If the offering stage where he or she excelled is radically different from where your business is, you’ll want to make sure that the candidate really can sell for you, too. The three basic types of sales candidates might have experience in include:

  • Exploratory sales, sales at an early stage of product development
  • Process sales, sales with a finished product ready to enter a growth curve
  • Growth sales, sales with an established product following typical sales cycles

Knowing that a sales person who is excellent selling products or services with an established place in the market might not have the different skills and drive required to sell products at a very early stage in the development cycle can help you avoid hiring the wrong sales person for the position you are looking to fill. Before making a sales hiring decision, ask candidates questions to determine how they would translate their skills and previous experience to your business.

2. Good Interview Skills Don’t Necessarily Lead to Sales Success

Relying on gut instinct rather than metrics is a sure way to risk making a bad hire. One of the mistakes hiring managers make is to prefer a candidate based on their personality before determining whether that person has the skills and drive to achieve exceptional sales. This is an emotional rather than a rational decision, and while a candidate’s personality and likability are essential, the sales skills that he or she brings to the table are equally significant.

Role playing during an interview is a great way to test an applicant and gain a better idea of how he or she will really perform in real world sales situations. Many managers avoid using role playing either because it’s uncomfortable for them, or because they simply don’t know how to do it effectively. However, researching, practicing, and deploying role playing scenarios for sales hiring interviews can improve hiring outcomes.

3. Follow Up is Indispensable

For a key sales position, it could be a month or longer after initial interviews before you are ready to make a sales hiring decision. By the time you interview and screen the most promising candidates and call your first choice candidate with an offer, it isn’t uncommon for that candidate to have already found another opportunity. This puts you in a position where you can raise your offer, make an offer to your next choice candidates, or start the sales hiring cycle anew. Regularly following up with top candidates throughout your sales hiring process will ensure that they are still available and interested when you’re ready to make an offer. Even simply staying in contact with a follow-up email letting candidates know that they are on your list for consideration can prevent your business from losing an opportunity.


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Doug O'Grady

Doug is the sales director at SalesForce Search. He has over 10 years of experience in sales and recruitment. Doug works with clients to help them get more ROI out of their sales programs. He specializes in sales recruitment, leadership, and sales consulting (compensation plan design, sales messaging, and sales process). He has an MBA in finance. Doug enjoys playing hand hockey in the basement with his three young boys. As the starting goalie, he goes by the nickname Swiss Cheese. He is also the penalty minutes leader and live play-by-play commentator.

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