In this guide, we give you a sales representative job description template that’s perfect for finding qualified candidates. We’ll also give you tips on conducting the job interview, including a list of behavioral questions.
Finding the right sales representative for your business can be tricky. It’s easy to measure a candidate’s skills and experience, but it’s not so easy to measure how well they’ll serve your clients or how easy they’ll be to manage.
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To find the perfect candidate, you need to start with a detailed job description – one that invites qualified candidates AND helps you filter out the duds. Next, you need to ask probing interview questions that reveal their sales behaviors and actual experiences.
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Sales Representative Job Description Example
Job Title: North East Regional B2B Sales Representative – Plumbing Supplies
Position Details: Plumbing supplier is expanding fast and looking for an experienced salesperson to join the ranks. Day-to-day activities include prospecting, cold calls, needs assessment and support for our valued clients. You’ll have the freedom to set your own schedule and work alongside a killer support staff. Opportunity for growth and strong commission structure.
About Us: We’re one of the top plumbing suppliers in the North East. We’ve been in business for 15 years and are currently expanding into adjacent markets.
Compensation: $30,000 Base Salary + Commission. Full benefits.
- 5+ years sales experience
- Ability to prospect, network, cold call and sell
- Strong presentation and communication skills
- Customer service experience
- Familiarity with sales in an IT environment (using a CRM system, document management, etc.)
- Market research experience, such as competitor analysis
How to Apply:
Please email your resume with a cover letter that responds to the following question: What was the most difficult sale you’ve encountered and why?
Sales Representative Job Description Template
So how do I wrote one of these for myself? Let’s run through each piece of the job description one-by-one:
- Job Title – This is a short, 1-line phrase that covers all the key facts about the job. Note the location, scope and type of product involved. In our example, the title was “North East Regional B2B Sales Representative – Plumbing Supplies”
- Position Details – There’s a few points you want to address under position details:
- Why is the job open?
- What is the day-to-day like?
- What are the unique opportunities of the position? – i.e. skills they will learn, growth potential, benefits & perks
- What is the team like? List any common interests/attributes
- About Us – Outline what your company does and why someone would want to work there.
- Compensation – There’s a big debate on whether or not businesses should disclose salary in a job ad. Those in favor say it draws more applicants (and potentially better talent if the salary is good enough). Those against it say you get more bargaining power by negotiating later. For a sales position, we think it’s a good idea to post some information, since applicants will understand it varies by commission anyway. For advice on how to set a salary, check out our full guide to writing a job description.
- Required Skills – List top 3 to 5 skills that the candidate must possess in order to be considered for the job. Here’s a few additional ideas for skills you may want to list:
- Knowledge about the product being sold
- Ability to draft invoices & collect payments
- Experience conducting needs assessment
- Strong writing skills for drafting proposals
- Sales forecasting
- Territory management
- Bonus Skills – Skills that are not required, but would be a nice bonus if the candidate possessed them.
- Further Instructions – Tell the candidate specifically how they should apply for the job. Ask them to include a cover letter that answers a specific question (in our example, it was “What was the most difficult sale you’ve encountered and why?”) This makes it much easier to narrow down applicants initially, since you can rule out anyone who misses the step.
For more tips, check out our guide to writing the perfect job description.
How to Filter Applications
So you’ve written your job description, posted your ad and now have a flux of applications filling up your inbox. How do you know who to contact without spending hours reading each resume?
First and foremost, if you followed our last tip, you should be able to filter out many candidates based on the cover letter. A. Did they include one? and B. Did they answer the question you asked in the job description? You might be hesitant to rule out so many candidates off-the-bat. But if they failed to read your job description carefully, the simple fact is they weren’t particularly interested in your position.
Once you’ve narrowed your pool, you can start looking closely at their resumes. Pick out those who are the most qualified, but also pay attention to how they structured their resume: Do they highlight skills and experiences relevant to your position? Do they appear to have written their resume specifically for your job vs. just a generic resume?
Editing their resume specifically for your job not only shows they have a high level of interest – it also shows they understand the different types of sales positions. It can foretell some capacity to adapt and learn in a sales environment.
Initial Phone Interview
Before bringing candidates into your office for an interview, you should schedule a short 5-minute phone or Skype interview. This can be conducted by you or another person at your business.
The idea is not to ask probing questions, but just to confirm the information on their resume and tell the candidate a little bit more about the position. This way, you gauge the candidate’s interest in the job and give them a chance to rule themselves out if they decide they’re not a good fit. You might be surprised how many candidates do this, and how much time it saves you had you brought them into your office.
To book your phone interviews, consider using an online program like ScheduleOnce. You can create a “booking page” where candidates can view your openings. This saves you the time of having to go back and forth confirming timeslots with candidates. Once a slot is “filled” it’s unavailable to other candidates, so you don’t have to worry about double bookings.
How to Conduct a Sales Interview
Now it’s time for the big interview – you bring a handful of qualified candidates into your office for a face-to-face meeting.
Interviewing salespeople comes with a unique challenge: If they can sell to clients, they can also sell to you. In other words, a good salesperson will also be an expert interviewee. While this is a good quality to have, you don’t want it to blindsight you from the important questions, like, does this candidate’s personality mold well with my business?
Experience and skills are important, and they should definitely be something you ask about and confirm during the interview. But ultimately, skills can be taught and acquired. What cannot be taught is behavior. For example, if a sales person is averse to exploring new techniques, no amount of coaching is going to make them a person who is “eager to learn.”
This is why Hank Boyer, a sales recruitment expert, recommends asking behavioral questions – questions that reveal more about how they approach a sale; what situations stress or challenge them; what things might they avoid doing; and so on. This not only gives you answers like “how well can I manage this candidate?” But it can actually be more revealing about their skills and experience.
For example, a candidate can tell you they’re a cold calling expert with 10 years experience. But if you ask them to outline their sales process and they don’t place much importance on researching prospects, this raises a red flag about their actual experience.
Sales Interview Questions
Here are some good behavioral sales questions to ask that also reveal a candidate’s actual experience:
“What is a complex sale and tell me about one of your experiences conducting one?”
- This is one of the key questions recommended by Hank Boyer. Because the candidate first has to define what a “complex sale” is, there’s no cookie cutter response as there might be if you asked “what was your most difficult sale?”
“What type of client is the easiest to sell to? What type of client is the most difficult?”
- This is actually a simple question to answer: An easy client is one who’s ready to buy, a difficult client is one who is not. But some candidates might reveal biases or inhibitions – like a distaste for selling to enterprise clients.
“What is your least favorite part of the sales cycle?”
- You’re not asking for the most “challenging” part of the sale, but their “least favorite.” A sale can be challenging due to external factors, but this question focuses on their internal preferences and/or weaknesses.
“What creative ways have you used to meet quotas?”
- This is reveals a candidate’s actual experience and tells you about their capacity to learn. If they’ve found many different solutions, then they’re probably willing to adapt and explore new strategies.
“How do you respond to a rejection?”
- There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer here. If your business has a high volume of leads, you might prefer a candidate who shrugs and moves on. If you have fewer, larger accounts, you might prefer a candidate who spends some time reflecting and learning from the experience.
None of these questions have a general right or wrong answer. But they do tell you how a candidate approaches sales and whether or not their behavior is a good fit for your business. Also, remember that an effective interview will likely stray from your prepared questions. When a candidate brings up an interesting topic, don’t be afraid to explore. Side-tracked conversations can sometimes be much more telling than prepared questions.
For more questions, see our full list of 35 Interview Questions from the Pros.
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Should I Use a Sales Assessment Test?
A sales assessment test is a questionnaire that measures an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses in selling. It can be useful for business owners that are hiring a salesperson for the first time and aren’t quite sure which qualities to look for. It’s also a good option for businesses who have a more complex sales cycle, as the test measures proficiency on each stage of the cycle. In other words, it can tell you if an employee or candidate would need more training on prospecting, performing a needs assessment, presenting, closing, etc.
A sales assessment test does cost money, so if you’re comfortable enough with your interview questions, you may want to pass on this. For those interested in giving out a sales assessment test, however, we recommend these tests from Boyer Management Group.
For additional hiring resources, check out our 18 Creative Ways to Find Employees or our guide to making the most out of your job posting. You can start by posting on Indeed.com, the top site for job seekers and employers looking to hire.