Hiring a sales team is often an expensive and time-intensive process for companies. Finding the right team is important to meet your company’s goals as well as to reduce the chance of turnover. Fortunately, recruiting and training the right people doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ve created this guide to help you get it right.
1. Evaluate Your Company Goals
As a sales manager, you’ll want to start by considering how your hiring process can help you reach the goals you have established for your business. You should start by evaluating your company’s goals to determine what types of roles, and how many salespeople you’ll need. For example, if your business goals are focused on fast growth, you’ll build a different type of sales team than if your primary goal is to manage your existing customer relationships better.
Understanding the structure of your sales team as it relates to business goals will determine:
- The size of your organization: You’ll need to determine how many team members are required to reach your revenue goals and will your budget support those resources.
- Role Types: Depending on your goals, you may hire inside sales, field sales, account executives, or a business development team. In addition, consider whether sales representatives write their quotes and proposals, or whether a sales assistant is needed.
- Salary and benefits: Your goals will help you determine how to compensate your sales organization. This way, you can make job offers based on a budget and an approved compensation plan, on a timeline that works for you.
- Location: Use your overall goals to determine whether you’ll use territory-based sales teams, or if whether your team will work from your office to follow up on incoming leads.
- Team structure: How will sales leadership be structured? Will you have a sales director report to the sales manager? Will there be senior reps or team leads? Sales teams eventually form hierarchies for added support and opportunities for promotion.
2. Build an Ideal Candidate Profile
Create a picture of who the ideal sales employee is for your organization. This profile is similar to the way companies identify their ideal customer profile, except in this case, you are defining the type of person you believe is a good fit for your sales team. Determine in advance the types of experience and personal qualities you believe will make for the best candidates, and then use that as a filter when you begin your search.
For example, you should look at the following attributes:
- Coachability: The best salespeople are willing to have someone help them achieve their potential and are willing to set their ego aside to improve their performance.
- Desire to learn: No matter how long a potential candidate has been in sales, candidates who have a desire to learn and improve are far more likely to be a good fit with your team and are more likely to be top performers.
- Proven performance: There is a benefit to hiring people who have a record of success. Still, it’s worth it to dig deeper to make sure that success is directly tied to the candidate’s performance, as opposed to simply being in the right place at the right time.
- Motivation: Look for candidates who are passionate about what they do. Ideally, you’re looking for someone who is aligned with your company’s mission and is excited about helping your customers by providing them with the right products or services to meet their needs.
When you evaluate who would be the best fit for your team, think of your product. What type of person will it take to close the deal? Will they be able to apply the necessary amount of pressure and handle objections? For example, the stereotypical “used car salesman” is often used to show how not to be in sales. However, different products require different amounts of “force” or persuasion to guide the customer along.
Let’s use solar as an example. Solar panel sales reps are required to go door to door, canvas style. They aim to get homeowners to agree to a “consultation” so they can prove the savings solar would provide. This “one call close” mentality requires salespeople that aren’t afraid of pushback. In this case, an aggressive and outgoing style is a benefit. Understanding your buyers’ journey clues you into the attributes a successful sales rep should have for the job.
3. Create Job Descriptions
While it may seem like another administrative task, creating the right job description is vital for attracting talent. Time, effort, and forethought must be put into your job descriptions. You’ll want your job descriptions to speak directly to your ideal candidates.
Job descriptions are an opportunity to get clear on your value proposition. Don’t assume that sales reps will automatically want to join your team because they’re interviewing. You still need to sell your company and the role. Help them understand what they will get from joining your company beyond a paycheck. This means creating a sense of what it is like to work for your company, and what opportunities will be available for advancement.
A good job description should have the following components:
- Position title: Believe it or not, the title of the position you post is almost always the most important aspect. Candidates will often make up their minds about whether to consider a position by the title, so it’s important to be clear that the title matches the role you are trying to fill.
- Overview of the position responsibilities: To make sure that candidates clearly understand the position and the expectations you have, this section should walk through the activities and responsibilities you have for this role.
- Description of the ideal candidate: You can help a candidate decide if they are a good fit by describing the type of person you believe will be successful in this role. Paint a picture so that the candidate can tell whether or not they match your ideal candidate.
- Education or experience requirements: If you require a certain level of experience or education, make it clear so that candidates can make a decision about whether they are qualified. Be sure to specify whether there is any flexibility. For example, if you are looking for someone with a certain degree or level of experience in place of that degree, make sure that it is clear to potential candidates.
- Clear instructions on how to apply: Every job description should clearly state how candidates should apply, and what you require them to submit. For example, do you want them to provide a cover letter and resume or fill out an application? Make it easy for qualified candidates to apply by making this clear right on the job description.
4. Job Postings
When it comes to finding great sales candidates, there are essentially two methods you should consider. While many sales organizations place a priority on seeking out candidates through professional networking, it also makes sense to post the job in places where it’s most likely to be found by candidates you may not already be aware of. Your hiring strategy should include both of these to ensure you are finding the best candidates for your team.
For example, start with your network by sharing with other professionals that you are looking for referrals to fill a sales role. Their referrals are extremely valuable since prior success is one of the top determiners in a successful salesperson. Validating past performance of sales reps isn’t always possible in the interview process, but when you receive a referral, you can be more confident that the person has the endorsement of someone you trust.
Of course, no one can fill every sales role solely based on networking. That means you should post your job description on sites that are likely to attract your ideal candidates. Sites like Indeed are an affordable way to put your open position in front of a large audience. In addition, LinkedIn is a great way to attract high-quality candidates. The paid recruiter version even makes it easy to search for people who match your candidate profile and invite them to apply.
5. Select Your Top Candidates
Choosing the best candidates to interview can seem overwhelming. The goal of this step in the process is to find the best candidates by eliminating those that don’t meet your requirements. This way, it’s easier to see which candidates rise to the top. That allows you to schedule interviews with those who are most likely to be a good fit for your company and with the specific sales role for which you are hiring.
Review the Resume and Cover Letter
As resumes begin to come in, take a look to see that first that they meet the requirements you have established for the position. Then, read through the cover letter to get a sense of who this person is. You can discern a lot about a candidate by how closely their cover letter and resume are matched to your position. This tells you that they’ve at least taken the time to understand the job you are hiring for as opposed to sending resumes everywhere.
Select the Best Candidates for an Interview
Generally, your first round of review should eliminate anyone who isn’t qualified, doesn’t seem to have a grasp of the position, or doesn’t have the experience. It’s hard to tell whether a candidate will be a good fit unless you interview them. The goal is to filter out anyone who doesn’t have the required experience or education, and then bring in the top candidates for an interview.
6. Conduct Interviews
Interviews are more than just asking questions. Interviews are an opportunity to find information that you can’t otherwise glean from their resume or profile. It’s your chance to get the “full story” on your candidates. To make your interview process as effective as possible, there are a few things worth keeping in mind.
Establish a List of Interview Questions
It is a good practice to establish a list of questions that you will ask each candidate. That allows you to compare their answers as you go back and review the results of your interviews. If you ask different questions to each candidate, it can be harder to get a sense of how they stack up. At the same time, it’s also a good idea to make notes on their resume so that you can ask specific questions about the experiences they list, or previous roles.
The questions you ask in an interview serve two purposes. First, they help you gain additional information about a candidate. But more importantly, they help you gauge how they present themselves, how well they can communicate their point, and whether they have a good grasp of the skills required for the position. For example, you should ask them about your company. A good salesperson will be prepared and have researched your company in advance.
Some of the best interview questions you should ask sales candidates include:
- What do you know about our company and our product/service?
- Tell me about a time where you were responsible for [a project or task that is common for this role] and how you handled that?
- What are three questions do you would ask a lead to determine if they’re a good fit?
- How would you handle a customer who tells you that they need more time before making a decision?
- How would you go about managing a situation when one of your colleagues dropped the ball on an important project?
Analyze the Impression They Make
You’re hiring someone who will be the face of your company. How did they make you feel during your conversation? How did they treat the receptionist and the recruiter? These are indicators that can give you insight into how they’ll be on the job.
Allow them to build rapport. Managers often do this by strategically placing personal items in their office. If there’s a framed photo of your dog sitting on your desk, a good salesperson will take that as an opportunity. Salespeople look for an “in” to relate and connect. Gauge how your candidate reacts to a displayed item or sharing something personal. High performers know that selling is about relationships.
Allow Them to Ask Questions
As you wrap up the interview, provide them an opportunity to ask any questions they may have. While this may seem unimportant, it tells you more about their level of interest, and whether they’re diligent and did their research. Make a note of how they followed up, if all, after the interview. How timely was their follow-up, and what did they say? This shows their level of interest in the role.
7. Post-interview Evaluation
Interview scorecards are an excellent tool for post-interview evaluation. As the human resources (HR) world becomes more aware of bias in interviewing, scorecards are rising in popularity. To create an interview scorecard, management must identify the qualities and skills needed for the role. During each round of interviews, team members are responsible for asking different sets of questions. These questions allow them to assess the required traits.
Instead of relying on gut feelings or other biases, the scorecard highlights what traits the candidate possesses. It also shows the characteristics they do not possess or what remains unclear. Scorecards create a more evidence-based decision-making process. It also creates a systematic way to collect candidate feedback from the interviewers.
8. Make an Offer
After reviewing the candidates and their interview scorecards, the final step is to make an offer to your top candidate. Making the offer may seem like a no-brainer. However, getting your ducks in a row is essential to the speed and efficiency of this process, and you want to make sure it’s done with some forethought.
Gather the information needed for the offer letter. You will need a breakdown of compensation, benefits, and bonuses. Make sure you have a set limit for how long the candidate has to make a decision. Generally, it makes sense to make a verbal offer before sending a formal offer letter. This conversation allows the candidate to accept, negotiate salary, or bow out verbally. Based on your conversation, then write up the offer with the negotiated compensation and start date.
You’ll also save time by automating this process with technology. Sending offers via email is old-school. Instead, by using contract management software, you can streamline the process. Software like DocuSign makes it easier with automated sending, digital signature, document tracking, and storage.
9. Train and Equip Your Team
Knowing how to retain sales talent is just as important as hiring. Once the offer is accepted, the job of building your sales team is far from over. You must successfully onboard your sales team, engage them, and set them up for success. The average cost of sales rep turnover is $97,690. The average time it takes to replace a sales team member is 3.69 months for inside reps and 5.42 months for an outside rep.
Part of the pre-planning for your hiring process should also include how to retain. How will you keep your sales team engaged and motivated? How will you train them and ultimately set them up for success?
Setting sales reps up for success begins with proper onboarding. Your onboarding process sets the tone for the employee’s experience at the company, yet it’s often overlooked. Don’t let the mentality that sales is “sink or swim” become an excuse for lack of training and onboarding. The more confident and knowledgeable a salesperson feels, the quicker they’ll become profitable. Invest the time and resources into creating a stable onboarding process.
Sales training is another overlooked aspect of this process. Many sales leaders think that since they hired someone for their sales skills, nothing else is needed. This is far from true. Some people are naturally skilled at connecting, but it’s rare to find a sales rep who’s also proficient in everything else required in sales. Besides, there’s a good chance your sales process is far different than what they’ve done in the past. As a result, investing in training always pays off.
Promotion and career development are an important part of investing in your employees. Showing investment in your sales reps’ success is a great way to keep them around. This can include seminars, conferences, or spending time out in the field with team members. Sales reps need to feel they are invested. If there’s potential for advancement, let your sales rep know early on what the path is, which will allow them to envision a prosperous future with the company.
Hiring a sales team is a multistep process that requires time, money, and efforts of multiple stakeholders. Since sales is directly responsible, knowing what to look for in sales, talent is key to the success of your business. While there’s no one-size-fits-all hiring plan, proper planning can help you to avoid regrettable hiring decisions.
Finding candidates for your sales team doesn’t have to be difficult. Indeed is the world’s largest job board and allows you to create a free account and then pay to sponsor to your job postings so that more candidates see it. The first job post that is sponsored gets a free $50 credit. Visit Indeed for more information.