Sales reps serve as the business development arm of your company, finding new clients and closing deals. In fact, some may work for commission only, if you offer the right incentives. We’ll share tips on where to look for great candidates, how to interview them, and what kind of compensation to offer when hiring sales reps.
Indeed provides a job board that’s great for hiring sales reps. It lets you search resumes to find top salespeople by keyword, such as by product experience or type of sales. Or, you can post a sales job for free, even if it’s a commission-only position. First time Indeed users get $50 in Sponsorship credit to advertise any open position. Sign up for Indeed, it’s free.
Here are seven steps on how to hire a sales rep:
1. Write Down What You Need Your Sales Rep to Do
Clarifying your sales expectations from the start is crucial to finding the right sales rep. It also helps you assess whether applicants meet your criteria. Further, a good job description can be used as the foundation for your job ad and will entice experienced sales people to apply for your open job role.
Sales Rep Job Description
Most professional organizations create job descriptions to spell out sales rep work requirements. That helps them get clear on what the worker (once hired) is expected to do. It also can be used during the recruiting and interviewing process to weed out unqualified candidates who realize, simply by reading the job description, that they’re not right for the job. That saves you time and narrows your candidate pool to those most qualified.
At a minimum, you’ll want to include information on what the sales rep job requires in terms of experience and education. Here’s an example of a sales rep job description posted on Indeed.
We’ve provided an article on what to include in a sales rep job description along with a free downloadable template if you need help creating one when hiring a sales rep.
In fact, we recommend adding a few details (while keeping the overall job description short and readable), to include the kind of interpersonal skills, product knowledge, and sales volume expected. This ensures that your job applicants understand what exactly it is you’re hiring a sales rep to do.
Interpersonal Communication & Selling Skills
Sales professionals must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. They should come across as naturally likable and trustworthy, as well as have good listening skills. Great sales reps have an ability to empathize with the customer in order to determine the customer’s true needs in a conversation. In fact, selling is more about relationship building than anything; you can always teach someone about your product line.
Here are different industry examples of the kinds of interpersonal skills statements you may want to include in your sales rep job description. Statements like these can help you evaluate whether candidates have the right mix of interpersonal communication and selling skills:
- Empathy: Able to discern the client’s concerns, such as vehicle safety or mileage per charge in order to recommend the right vehicle model from our dealership.
- Listening: Able to restate the customer’s request so that you can offer the right order volume and product mix of our craft beers to restaurant owners.
- Communication: Provide verbal and non-verbal communication cues to ensure the patron feels that you understand their specific advertising needs.
Most sales jobs are product specific. Therefore, it’s a good idea to be clear on what the sales rep will be selling. Is it software? Cosmetics? Radio advertising time? Used cars? Each type of product may require your sales rep to have some product knowledge or experience in that industry.
Here are examples of statements to include in your sales rep job description based on the product/industry you’re in.
- Farm equipment: Familiar with the Mahindra line of products and farm implements.
- Cosmetics: Help client find products with the right ingredient mix for their skin type.
- Cemetery: Knowledgeable about casket, urns, internment, and crypt options for patrons.
- Jewelry: Expertise in gemology, care of precious stones, and methods for pricing gold.
- Software: Experience selling ERP software via webinar and video conference demos.
- Home services: Able to prepare estimates and bids based on customer home repair needs.
- Vehicle sales: Classic vehicle enthusiast, with expertise selling muscle cars.
- Media advertising: Experience selling sponsored show and segment media packages.
- Food and beverage: Hands-on experience selling to busy restaurant and bar owners.
Sales targets are another key data point to include in your job description. Actual numbers and sales volumes help your sales rep job candidates determine what kind of sales production is expected. Then, based on their own experience, they can determine whether they can deliver on your expectations.
Here are examples of different kinds of sales targets to include in your job description:
- Contacts: Identify 100 new small business contacts each quarter.
- Clients: Manage a base of 30 high-volume restaurant clients.
- Ratio: Close 40% of inbound sales calls.
- Revenues: Average $25,000 per month in new business acquisition.
2. Decide How to Compensate Your Sales Rep
Once you’ve decided exactly what it is you want your sales rep to do, you can consider the best way to incentivize the position. There are several ways to pay a sales rep, but the most common is to provide them with some kind of base pay (salary or hourly), along with some pay that’s based on performance, such as a bonus or a commission.
The annual pay range for a sales rep varies widely. Here’s data from Indeed, the largest online job board, to give you an idea of what to pay a sales rep. It runs from $14,000 to $156,000 per year, with the average at just under $65,000 annually. In addition, the typical sales rep earns on average over $20,000 per year in commissions.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each type of sales rep pay so that you can decide what to offer as compensation when hiring sales reps for your company.
Hiring sales reps for commission only jobs means that the employee who works for you won’t be paid anything if they don’t sell anything. Some sales reps avoid commission-only jobs, as they realize that building relationships takes time and they’ve got to have the means to pay their bills in the interim. However, for sales reps who work part-time, those who bring their own book of clients, or for deals that pay big commissions, it may be worth it to a candidate to accept a commission-only job.
Here are the types of industries in which commission-only jobs are common:
- Large commercial or retail products: Examples include furniture or equipment sales
- Large home improvement sales: For example, roofing, solar, garage doors, or siding
- Merchant services: For instance, credit card processing or order management
- Business-to-business (B2B): Includes media advertising, office space rental, or office equipment like copiers
Paying your sales reps a base salary can provide for their income needs, but lacks the sales incentive for them to work harder, better, or to cultivate relationships. These jobs are often inbound sales jobs, in which the sales rep takes and attempts to close deals for incoming calls, but doesn’t necessarily hit the pavement looking for new clients. Average sales rep salaries run about $30,000 per year, but the range varies and you may have to pay double that amount to hire a top-notch sales rep in your industry.
Here are the types of industries in which it’s common to pay sales reps a base salary:
- Timeshare or vacation package sales
- Fitness center or sports medicine
- Software sales and service contracts
Hourly pay in the range of $14 an hour is more typical of sales rep jobs where the items being sold are lower in price but higher in volume. For example, your soap business may choose to hire a sales rep to help customers choose the best products and scents. Or, you may want a sales rep to work with you on weekends selling artwork at craft fairs, or sampling food products at the farmers market.
Here are the types of industries where it’s more likely you’ll pay your sales rep hourly:
- Smaller retailers, selling products such as clothing, electronics, consumables, or gifts
- Home services like house cleaning, plumbing repairs, lawn care, or pest control
- Inbound sales for business services, such as window washing or office maintenance
If you’re unsure of which type of base pay is best for sales reps in your business, read our article comparing salary versus hourly pay.
Bonuses are considered incentive pay. It’s a dollar amount of pay over and above your employee’s salary that’s based on some criteria. It’s used to inspire your sales rep to focus on selling a particular item or reaching a sales target. For example, you may pay your retail furniture clerks a bonus of $50 for every sofa they sell. Businesses of all kinds often use bonus pay to drive desired selling behaviors or to promote certain product sales.
Here are examples of when using a bonus makes sense:
- High margin product: A bonus may make sense for every sale of an in-home water filtration system or a new HVAC system.
- Excess inventory: Perhaps you have excess inventory of a discontinued brand of tire in your service shop; in this case, you can provide sales reps a bonus each time that brand is sold.
- Reach sales targets: You may want to incent your sales rep with a $100 bonus if they book 10 or more new client demos at a trade show.
- Sales rep competitions: Consider offering cash and prizes, such as an all-expenses-paid weekend valued at $1,000 for top producing sales reps each quarter.
Combination Compensation Package for a Sales Rep
A sales rep compensation package is often a combination of base pay (salary and hourly) and performance pay (bonus or commission). The most common mix is two-thirds base pay plus one-third incentive pay. That’s because the sales cycle often starts with relationship building, and it may take some time before your new sales rep is able to close a deal and begin earning a bonus or commission. In the meantime, they’ll need money to pay the bills.
Here are examples of sales compensation combinations you might consider to entice sales reps to apply:
- Hourly plus bonus: For example, you may want to guarantee your newly hired sales rep minimum wage to avoid any labor law violations as they’re getting up to speed.
- Salary plus bonus: Sales reps who you expect to work a standard 40-hour work week at your location are often paid a base salary, with bonuses added based on performance.
- Hourly plus commission: An inbound sales rep may receive an hourly salary plus a small commission for each sale made, such as $5 for each service appointment booked.
- Salary plus commission: A used car sales rep may earn a base salary plus a percentage commission for each vehicle sold, such as 20% of the profit.
- Salary plus commission plus bonus: A sales rep may earn a bonus on top of their salary/ commission if they sell add-ons, like $50 for each warranty or underbody coating sold.
Due to the legalities of minimum wage and overtime calculations that vary by state, consider working with an HR consulting service, like Bambee, to help you establish your sales representative compensation package. Bambee can help you remain in compliance with federal and state labor laws; their HR consulting services start at only $99 per month.
3. Post the Sales Rep Job on a Job Board
Once you’ve got your job description written and are clear on how you’ll pay your sales rep, it’s time to post your job opening where job seekers can find it. New business owners may not know how to hire a sales rep on a job board. Therefore, we’ll provide a link below on how to post a job ad that will get top sales candidates to apply. You’ll typically start with a job ad and screening questions.
Posting a job on Indeed is free. As the number one job board, Indeed makes your sales rep job posting visible to over 100 million job seekers active on its site. If your free job posting fails to bring in the volume of candidates you desire, you can sponsor your post for as little as $5 per day. In fact, Indeed offers first-time users $50 in free job sponsorship credit. Sign up for free.
Write a Compelling Sales Rep Job Ad
A sales rep job ad is a marketing tool to entice talented sales people to join your team. However, it also serves to provide enough information to help interested job seekers to determine whether the job is a good fit for them. We’ve written an entire article on how to write a compelling job ad, so we won’t repeat that information here.
Instead, we’ll simply remind you to leverage your sales rep job description as a starting point, keep your job ad succinct, and use bullets to make it easier for job seekers to read. You may also want to include questions in your job posting so that those applying to your sales rep job are clearly aware of your requirements.
Use Prescreening Questions When Hiring a Sales Rep
To help job seekers self-assess their qualifications when applying for a job, online job boards like Indeed allow you to add prescreening questions. For example, you may want to ask candidates about their years of selling experience, industry expertise, or level of education.
4. Screen the Applicants Responding to Your Job Ad
When hiring sales reps, it’s crucial to make sure they can do the job. Further, your sales rep serves as your business face of the company and they represent your brand. Therefore, it’s best to review their applications and schedule screening calls to confirm whether they fit your culture and style in addition to having the job skills you need.
Review Applications & Cover Letters
Sales reps will often submit an online application and attach a resume and a cover letter. In fact, many employers won’t even bother to consider an applicant who fails to attach these helpful documents, or who leaves blanks on the application form. As you review the job application, resume, and cover letter, check to ensure the applicant has the following:
- Experience in your industry or with your product line
- Basic selling skills including prospecting and closing skills
- Solid communication skills (including a resume and cover letter free of typos)
- Satisfactory answers to any questions asked on the application
Verify the Applicant’s Job History Online
It’s not a bad idea to also do a LinkedIn or internet search of the job applicant by name to see if their social media profile matches what they’ve listed on their job application, resume, or cover letter. If it doesn’t match, you may want to pass on that applicant entirely, as up to 85% of job seekers distort information on their resume.
Schedule Phone Calls With Top Applicants
Phone screening is a quick and easy way to assess your top picks. It’s typically a short 5- to 10-minute telephone call that lets you chat with the job applicant, answer any questions they have, and assess their true interest in the job. For tips on what kinds of questions to ask, read our article on how to do a telephone screening interview.
In fact, if you’re using an applicant tracking system (ATS), you’ll be able to document these screening calls as part of your recruiting process.
If you want to track jobs that you’ve posted on more than one job board, consider using Freshteam to manage all of your sales job postings in one place. With Freshteam, you can submit and manage applicants from job boards like LinkedIn, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Monster, and Glassdoor. Try Freshteam for free.
5. Interview the Most Promising Sales Rep Candidates
Conducting an in-person or video interview with your top three to five candidates is one of the best ways to get a sense of the job seeker’s temperament and people-skills when you’re hiring a sales rep. During the interview, you’ll ask them questions about situations they’ve encountered, such as how have they overcome pricing objections, or what to do when a client says they need to get the OK from their partner first.
Using an online job board like Indeed that offers applicant tracking features, you can schedule your interviews, document your feedback, and even make notes about which candidates appear to be most promising.
Scheduling the Interview
Scheduling the interview with a sales rep job applicant is often the most difficult part. Fortunately, there are new text and email scheduling apps available to help you manage multiple interviews and give your job candidates a choice in picking a time that works for them.
Those wondering how to hire a sales rep are often curious about how to structure an interview or the types of interview questions to ask. In general, behavioral interviews are best when you’re hiring sales reps. Your interview questions should be focused on the job seeker’s interpersonal skills such as listening, as well as their sales experience. Candidates should be able to provide you with examples of how they interact with people and what kinds of sales they’ve done.
Keep in mind that some interview questions may violate state or federal labor law, such as asking about family, marital status, age, or criminal background. No worries, we provide several helpful guides below to give you a starting point for what to ask and what to avoid.
- How to Interview Someone in 5 Steps
- Best Interview Questions for Employers
- Illegal Interview Questions
A best practice to ensure fairness across all candidates, as well as to avoid discrimination, is to use an interview scorecard to keep track of the feedback on each candidate. This is especially true if your sales reps are interviewed by more than one person, such as an HR rep or a department manager. We’ve provided several examples in our article on interview evaluation scorecards that you can download and customize for your sales rep interviews.
6. Put Your Sales Rep Job Offer in Writing
Once you find the best candidate, it’s time to put your job offer in writing. Your sales rep job offer should include more than a start date and job title, as shown below. It needs to be specific and can include the job description as an attachment. Further, the compensation amount and how it’s to be calculated should be included in the job offer letter so that the sales rep understands how they’re getting paid.
Before crafting your sales rep job offer, check out these free downloadable job offer letter templates. In fact, some applicant tracking systems provide offer letter and rejection letter templates to save you time and keep track of all the offers you’ve made.
Here’s an example of an offer letter template provided by Freshteam.
If you’re interested in using a free applicant tracking system that can provide job offer templates and keep track of those you’ve hired, consider using Freshteam. Freshteam offers a free plan for businesses with up to 50 employees and provides a full applicant tracking system as well as an org chart and employee directory. Get your free account.
7. Hire & Onboard Your Sales Rep
If you use an applicant tracking system (ATS) like Freshteam, hiring is simple. You can send the candidate reminders along with forms they need to sign and documents they need to review. Otherwise, you can use our new hire checklist to make sure you don’t forget to gather the proper paperwork for your new sales rep, such as their W-4 tax withholding forms or I-9 documentation.
In fact, onboarding a new hire often requires days, weeks, and months of training and support to ensure your new hire is successful. It’s not a bad idea to assign your new hire a peer mentor or trainer to help them acclimate to the new role and to learn best practices from a more seasoned sales team member. Here’s more on how to onboard your new hire.
Bambee can provide assistance with sales rep job descriptions, onboarding, and compensation. They’ll ensure you’re compliant with labor laws affecting your business size, industry, and location. HR consulting prices start at just $99 per month for employers with 20 or fewer team members. Try Bambee today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About How to Hire a Sales Rep
Because there’s so much variety in hiring staff for sales rep jobs, we’ve answered some of the more common questions that come up.
Are commission-only jobs legal?
In general, commission-only jobs are legal in the U.S., according to the Department of Labor, as long as the employee’s compensation meets or exceeds the state’s minimum wage. In fact, those hired as 1099 contract sales reps may not be entitled to minimum wage, and outside sales jobs are also exempt. Here’s a law firm that provides additional information.
Why can’t I post a commission-only job on a job board?
Some job boards won’t accept commission-only job postings for fear that their job seekers may be the victim of unscrupulous employers. Indeed, as an example, does allow you to post commission-only jobs, as long as it’s clearly stated that the position is “commission only.” In other words, you must clearly list that information upfront in the job posting and not bury it within the text of the job description.
When must bonuses & commissions be paid out?
How often you pay a bonus or commission depends on how your program is set up. For example, if your bonuses are promised monthly, they should be paid out in the pay period after they’re earned. Let’s say your bonus is offered on sales made in October. They should be paid out in the first pay period of November, as it may take you until the end of October to calculate them. Commissions, on the other hand, should be paid each pay period if they’re based on sales within that time frame.
How can I keep track of my sales to pay my sales reps correctly?
If you’re using software like Freshsales, you’ll be happy to know that it interfaces with free applicant tracking software Freshteam to keep all your employee or contractor data in one integrated software system. In fact, as part of setting up an incentive plan, you get to determine whether you pay out based on sales contracts written or only on sales for which the client has paid for the product.
How can I fire a sales rep who isn’t performing?
In most states, under the “at will” doctrine, as long as you’re not discriminating against a person in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), you can terminate an employee for any cause. Non-performance or failure to meet the duties of the job are as valid a reason as any for terminating a sales rep. Of course, make sure you process your termination properly to avoid unemployment liability and reduce your risk of being sued for wrongful termination.
Bambee offers an affordable HR consulting service to answer your company-specific ad hoc questions about sales compensation or how to terminate employees correctly. You can sign up for their service for just $99 per month. Visit Bambee for more information.
Hiring a sales rep requires that you are clear on what the sales rep is going to be selling and how they’re to be compensated. Once you’ve figured that out, you can post your sales rep job online and start getting applications. From there you screen, interview, and select the best candidate. Using an ATS manages these steps for you, saving time when hiring sales reps.
To maximize your chances of hiring sales reps fast, consider posting your sales rep jobs on the largest job board, Indeed. In addition to free job posts and applicant tracking features, Indeed lets you scour its resume database using a Boolean keyword search to find the best sales talent with the exact right mix of selling skills and product knowledge for your company.