How to Hire the Right Sales Rep

how to hire the right sales repWhat’s the difference between a great company that outperforms the market and an average company?  Great products, services, strategies and execution … and your employees are responsible for those successes.  A company can accomplish far more with a strong team in place than it can with an average one.

Recruiting is essential for building a strong sales & marketing function.  And like marketing, recruiting is both an art and a science:

  • Art: getting to know a candidate to understand whether s/he is the best fit for the job
  • Science: defining detailed job requirements so you can search for the right candidates; conducting a wide search; using a process for moving candidates through your process; measuring your results

If you’re ready to hire more sales reps, the recruiting process can be time-consuming.  Yet the right reps can make or break your company’s efforts, so give the process the time it deserves. Focus on how to hire the right sales rep, instead of jumping at the first great resume that crosses your desk.

How to Hire the Right Sales Rep

Apply some science to your hiring process, and follow this 6-step process.

1.  Define the position. Know what you’re looking for — different sales positions can require drastically different skill sets.  Start by ranking the key skills your rep will need for success:

  • Prospecting skills
  • Presenting skills
  • Closing skills
  • Product/industry experience & knowledge
  • Industry contacts
  • Listening skills
  • Relationship skills
  • Time management skills
  • Questioning ability
  • Ability to withstand rejection
  • Education
  • CRM/technology experience

Use this information to develop a detailed job description that you can share with candidates and use in your recruiting efforts.

2.  Cast a wide net. Referrals are a great source for qualified candidates, so contact vendors, colleagues, customers, friends, and family about open positions.

Advertise in appropriate publications and websites.  If you’re concerned about cost, measure your cost per applicant and per hire, then use the best-performing sources the next time around.  If you’re not finding qualified candidates, keep looking … don’t settle for mediocre applicants.  It’s far more expensive to hire the wrong person than it is to keep looking for the right one.

3.  Evaluate your candidates against the job description and criteria. You’ll run across talented and successful people that aren’t a good fit for your position.  Keep in touch with them over time, but keep looking for people who meet the criteria you’ve set out – you developed those criteria for a reason.

4.  Find the hunger. Top reps are motivated to succeed, and that drive comes from within.  Dig deep to assess the ambition, motivators and work ethic of each candidate.  Past performance isn’t the only factor, but it’s a major one.

Your compensation plan plays a key role here.   Remember that you’re competing for talent, and a hungry rep who sees a strong opportunity should be selling you on why s/he is the right hire.

When you’re early stage, look for less-experienced reps with true hunger and talent versus more experienced ones who lack the fire.  If you challenge a talented person that’s a good fit, you’ll be happy with the results.

5.  Include your brand personality traits in your hiring criteria. For many smaller B2B companies, sales reps create the first impression with the market.  If you’re trying to project an image that’s friendly, warm and accessible, don’t hire an abrasive, domineering and intimidating rep.  (This recent post about B2B branding talks more about this subject.)

6.  Respect the time and talent of all your candidates. Thank them for interviewing and let them know when you’ve extended an offer to someone else.  You never know when you’ll cross paths again.

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