Hiring a sales team can be a costly and time-consuming process for businesses. However, recruiting and hiring the best talent is critical to meeting your company’s goal and limiting turnover as much as possible. Fortunately, recruiting and training the right people doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ve created this guide with nine steps to help you create a high-performing sales team.
1. Evaluate Your Company Goals
As a sales manager, start by determining how your hiring process will help you reach the goals you have established for your business. Begin by evaluating your company’s goals to determine what types of roles you’ll need and how many salespeople you’ll need. For example, if your business goals are focused on quickly building a new customer base, you’ll build a different type of sales team than if your primary goal is to better manage your existing customer relationships.
Understanding the structure of your sales team as it relates to business goals will determine:
- The size of your organization: Determine how many team members are required to reach your revenue goals and if your budget is able to provide competitive salaries.
- 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 reps write their quotes and proposals or if you will also hire sales assistants.
- Salary and benefits: Your goals will help you determine how to compensate your sales organization. Make job offers based on a budget and an approved compensation plan that has an established timeline.
- Location: Use your overall goals to determine whether you’ll use territory-based sales teams, remote teams, or an office-based team that focuses on selling via the phone or video conferencing.
- Team structure: Determine what your sales leadership team will look like. For example, a sales manager might report to a sales manager. Decide if you will have senior sales reps or team leads.
2. Build an Ideal Candidate Profile
Construct an idea of who the ideal sales employee is for your organization. This profile is similar to the way companies identify their ideal customer profile, but 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 think will make for the best candidates, and use those criteria 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 will put their ego aside to improve their performance.
- Desire to learn: No matter how long a potential candidate has been in sales, candidates who possess a continual desire to learn and improve are the most likely to succeed.
- Proven performance: Clearly, there is a benefit to hiring people who have a past record of success. However, it’s worthwhile digging deeper to make sure that success is directly tied to the candidate’s performance, as opposed to being in the right place at the right time. Furthermore, every salesperson starts somewhere, so if you find a candidate, such as a new graduate who is bright and eager to learn, don’t pass them up.
- 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 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 bring the customer to a buying decision.
Let’s use selling solar power products as an example. Solar panel sales reps often canvas neighborhoods, selling from door to door. They aim to get homeowners to agree to a “consultation” so they can prove the savings solar panels would provide. This “one-call close” mentality requires salespeople who aren’t afraid of pushback. In this case, an aggressive and outgoing selling strategy is a benefit.
On the other hand, if your business sells cell phone and data plans, most of your customers come to you looking for answers. You want salespeople who can build rapport with customers and convince them your products and services are the right choice and will provide them with the best customer service possible.
3. Create Job Descriptions
Creating the right job description is vital for attracting talent. Intentional time, effort, and thought must be put into your job descriptions. You want your job descriptions to speak directly to your ideal candidates to attract the best talent.
Job descriptions are an opportunity to make your value proposition clear. Don’t assume sales reps automatically want to join your team because they’re interviewing—it’s a two-way street. You need to sell the individual role as well as your company. Help candidates understand the benefits of joining your company beyond a paycheck. Create a sense of what it is like to work for your company, what your mission is about, and what types of advancement opportunities they can expect.
A robust job description includes the following details:
- Position title: Believe it or not, the title of the position you post is almost always the most important aspect that pulls them into reading it. Candidates often make up their minds about whether to consider a position simply by the title, so it’s important to be clear that the title matches the type of job opportunity they are looking for.
- Overview of the position responsibilities: In order to ensure candidates clearly understand the position and the expectations you have, this section should thoroughly describe 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 determine if they’d thrive in the position and the role.
- Education or experience requirements: If you require a certain level of experience or education, make it clear so 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 lieu 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 simply fill out an application? Make it easy for qualified candidates to apply by making this clear right on the job description. Some companies that are looking for acute attention to detail even specify that they use certain words in the email subject title or body to make sure they read the job posting thoroughly.
💡 Pro tip: Videos can be extremely helpful in job postings and candidate applications. Consider including a video in your job description inviting candidates to apply and telling them a bit about your company and mission. One great tool that makes this easy to do is Wistia. Some companies even ask candidates to submit a video introducing themselves and why they think they’d be a good fit for the role.
4. Post Your Job Opportunity
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 qualified candidates. Your hiring strategy should include both of these to ensure you cast a wide net to recruit the best talent.
For example, start with your network by sharing with other professionals that you are looking to add a new person to your sales team. 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 is endorsed by someone you know and trust.
However, no one can possibly fill every sales role solely based on networking. 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 Talent Solutions 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 makes it easier to see which candidates rise to the top and 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 you are hiring for.
Review the Resume & Cover Letter
As resumes begin to come in, first look to see that they meet the requirements you have established for the position. Then, read the cover letter to get a sense of the person’s personality and professionalism.
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 simply sending resumes everywhere.
6. Conduct Interviews
Interviews are more than just asking questions. Job 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. In order to make your interview process as effective as possible, there are a few things worth keeping in mind.
Create a List of Interview Questions
It is a great best practice to establish a list of questions 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. More importantly, they help you gauge how they present themselves, how well they communicate, 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 most beneficial interview questions you should ask sales candidates include:
- What do you know about our company and our product or 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 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?
- Tell me about a time you made a professional mistake and how you handled it. What did you learn from it?
- What’s your proudest professional accomplishment to date, and why?
💡 Pro tip: Scheduling interviews by playing phone tag and emailing back and forth to find a good time can be cumbersome and time-consuming. Use a scheduling tool such as Calendly to make it easy for candidates to look at your availability and pick a mutually convenient interview time.
Analyze the Impression Each Candidate Makes
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 give you valuable insight into how they’d perform 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 something personal in your office. High performers know that selling is about crafting intentional relationships.
Allow Candidates to Ask Questions
As you wrap up the interview, provide each candidate an opportunity to ask any questions they may have. While this may seem unimportant, it actually tells you more about their level of interest and whether they’re diligent and did their research. It can actually be a red flag if they don’t have any questions—it indicates they didn’t do any research or they may be desperate to take the first job they are offered, even if they know it’s not a good fit.
Make a note of how they followed up, if at all, after the interview. How timely was their follow-up, and what did they say? This shows their level of interest in the role. For example, you should expect a thank-you email within 24 hours, and sending a handwritten thank-you note is even better.
7. Perform Post-interview Evaluations
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 competencies for the position.
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 allows for 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, but you need to be prepared with what you are going to say and make sure you give the candidate all the information they need to make a decision.
Gather the information needed for the offer letter. You need a breakdown of compensation, benefits, bonuses, and expected start date. Make sure you set a time 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 discussion, 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 works, but you can make it easier with newer technology. Try using contract management software to streamline the process. Software such as DocuSign makes it simple with automated sending, digital signature, document tracking, and storage.
9. Train & Equip Your Team
Knowing how to retain sales talent is just as important as hiring. Once an offer is accepted, the job of building your sales team is just beginning. 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. Therefore, it’s critical to onboard them effectively and give them the support, training, tools, and resources needed to do their best work.
Onboarding & Ongoing Training
Your onboarding process sets the tone for the employee’s experience at the company. Don’t let the mentality that sales is “sink or swim” become an excuse for lack of training and onboarding Furthermore, there’s a good chance your sales process is far different than what they’ve worked with in previous roles. The more confident and knowledgeable a salesperson feels, the quicker they’ll get up to speed, become confident, and start generating revenue.
Ongoing sales training is just as important as effective onboarding. Many sales leaders assume that since they hired someone for their sales skills, nothing else is needed, but this is far from the truth. 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.
Showing that you are invested in your sales reps’ success is an excellent way to retain them and keep them from being recruited by competitors. Remember, high-performing sales reps are always in high demand.
This can include seminars, conferences, or spending time out in the field with team members. If there’s potential for advancement, let your sales reps know early on what the path is, which will allow them to envision a prosperous, long-term future with the company.
Hiring a sales team is a process that requires time, money, and the efforts of multiple stakeholders. Since sales teams are responsible for generating revenue, 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.
While it’s important to find the right candidate for each sales role, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Job boards can help you grow your sales team by attracting top talent to your job posting. Indeed is the world’s largest job board, and allows you to create a free account with the option to pay for sponsored job postings so more candidates can easily find your open opportunities. Visit Indeed to learn more and sign up today.