A good salesperson can be worth his or her weight in gold to a company – bringing on business far exceeding what you pay out in salaries and bonuses. However, one thing we hear from clients again and again is that they’ve spent time and money on a new salesperson who has shone in interview, but once they’re in the job, they’ve failed to live up to expectations and had to be let go.
Unfortunately, this cycle of hiring and firing can give companies (and sales jobs in general) a bad name, which can make it harder to recruit the best candidates in the future.
A bad hire can cost more than 3 times someone’s salary to a business as well, not just from missed opportunities, but the time and resources spent training and assisting too.
But, CVs and job interviews is all about selling yourself, so even the most average performers in sales can talk the talk and navigate the process to try to fool HR or hiring managers into taking them on.
So, with all our experience of recruiting sales people (externally, and internally too!) here are our top tips for making great sales hires.
Good salespeople need to be money motivated. After all, the whole point of the job is bringing revenue into a business, so they need to be on the same wavelength! But we’d all like to earn lots of money, so how do you identify the people where it’s their biggest motivation?
Ask about the specifics. If someone is truly money motivated, they’ll remember because it’s important to them. You don’t need to see a P60 to know how much someone too home above their basic pay, because it will be at the forefront of a top performer’s mind how much commission they’ll usually bring home each month, what their biggest sale was and who is their most valuable client.
Know the sort of sales job you’re dealing with
Not all sales roles are the same. There is a big difference in the skills required to bring on new business from start to finish compared to nurturing and growing key accounts, or converting inbound leads and referrals. Make sure you know which of these skills will be most important to the role you’re recruiting for, as well as which most applied to the prospective new recruit in their old job. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone good at all three!
Many salespeople will inherit a portfolio of existing clients when they start a role, and that can serve them well in hitting targets consistently from renewing contracts and cross-selling products. This person might make a stand-out account manager, but if you want them to seek out new clients then they’ll fall flat. The reverse can apply too. Someone who is great at acquiring new business will be bored by managing their existing portfolio and if expected to manage accounts is likely to start looking elsewhere without the thrill of the chase to keep them entertained.
Watch their language
No, we don’t mean to see if they swear in an interview! That should always be a red flag regardless of the role you’re hiring for. Instead, pay closer attention to the words candidates use in interviews. Did they consistently meet targets, or did they surpass expectations and overachieve them? The former implies that they see targets as a measure of their performance, while the latter sees them as a challenge and a motivator.
Also listen to how a candidate talks about things that went wrong in their job too – big sales that fell through or clients they lost. Are they quick to place blame on external factors, like a competitor undercutting on prices, or do they reflect on the part they played and things learned from the experience? Sales means dealing with a lot of knockbacks – if someone isn’t willing to learn from their mistakes then they’re unlikely to have the drive to improve and keep surpassing targets.
Sales can be one of the hardest roles to recruit for – and getting it wrong is more risky too as missed business opportunities mean money you’re missing out on. And if you are struggling to find a great salesperson to help grow your business, don’t be afraid to turn to the experts!