I recently wrote an article on how to scale a sales team. And this week I want to zoom in and discuss the process of finding the right individuals to hire for sales.
Who are these rockstars? Where are they hiding? And how can you fill your roster with the best salespeople so you can crush your numbers in Q3 and beyond?
I’m going to unpack all of this today, plus I want to share one alternative to hiring in-house salespeople — an alternative that will work for many (but not all) of you.
To get us started, I think the days of posting a job on Indeed, Monster, or BetterTeam are pretty much behind us. You might get 50-100 applicants, but 95% of these people don’t have what it takes to succeed in sales.
So one method I prefer is to headhunt sales heroes directly on LinkedIn. You can see who’s already excelling at sales and reach out to them personally, inviting them to “audition” for your opening.
Another method is to ask your clients and business connections for referrals of standout salespeople that they’ve come across in recent months or years. You’ll get loads of names and contacts, and these often turn into fruitful conversations and sometimes great additions to your team.
OK – once you’ve identified a handful of potential candidates (I’d say 10-15), it’s time for the formal invite to apply. Once someone expresses interest, put them through a simple application process and ask for a cover letter and resume. Then, it’s interview time! Here’s how to find and interview for the perfect fit — the sales superstar — for your sales team.
Quick glance at the resume.
Now, I mentioned the resume. You want to make sure they have actual experience cold calling and/or closing deals. But a resume can be incredibly misleading, that’s why I say a “quick glance” at the resume is enough. A degree from Harvard is great and all, but not at the expense of being able to speak and sell well. What you really want is someone who’s passionate, driven, and ready to make a name for themselves. They might be on the brink of this success, but haven’t had the right product to sell, company support, or any number of things that don’t show on a resume. Which brings us to my next point… it’s time to give them a ring.
Get them on the phone!
Once you have your candidate sales superstar on the phone, just listen to them speak. Does he or she speak with passion and authority? Do they use tonality to keep your attention? Do they exude passion and drive? You can tell a lot from a phone conversation. Just remember, if they don’t impress you and keep your attention on the phone, they probably won’t impress your prospects either. Sales is self-selecting in this way, which is a good thing! It’s not like you’re hiring for web development or something like that. If your candidate can get you engaged and excited about hiring them, they can most likely get prospects engaged and excited, too.
See how they LISTEN.
If you know me, you know that I’m bullish on listening skills. Sales is at least 75% listening. Why? You have to identify needs, desires, and pain points so that you can position your product as the only solution. So during the interview, pay attention to the silence. Yes, the silence. Is the candidate quiet because they’re thinking about what to say next? Or are they quiet because you can see them listening with intention? How do you tell the difference? Easy. Look for empathetic statements — like “I see what you mean there…” or “I agree with your approach” — before they respond to the actual question. You can also tell if someone is listening by how they tailor their answers to your specific questions. This skill is massive in sales. And it’s a trait you must look for in a salesperson.
Ask hard questions.
Prospects ask hard questions all the time. So you should, too. Put them on their heels to see how they perform under pressure. Do they get flustered and jumble their words? Or do they take a breath, gather their thoughts, and then speak with confidence and conviction. So think of some difficult open-ended questions to ask just to see how they handle it. The candidates who can keep a level head will be better on the phones.
Get sales numbers and verify!
Depending on your industry and product price, you might be able to hire newbie SDRs and train them on prospecting (which is sometimes better than correcting bad habits!). But whatever you do, don’t hire closers with no experience. Instead, you want to get cold hard numbers from past employment. How many deals did they close on average each month and quarter? It’s vital to get this and other info before you hire. A candidate might say they were the number one salesperson in their previous company, but you must do your due diligence to find out if it’s true.
Have a probationary period in place.
The probationary period can save your butt right off the bat. The truth is, in most states the employment-at-will doctrine makes it so that an employer (that’s you) can fire any employee at any time and for any reason. But remember, real livelihoods are on the line here. So it’s best to be upfront with your new employees and communicate your expectations over the first 60-90 days of their employment. Then, if they are underperforming in the early going, invest in the new hire if you see promise and a willingness to learn. On the other hand, if it’s clear they are unfit for the role (it happens), then don’t hesitate to fire fast.
A Better Alternative to Hiring Salespeople
Hiring an in-house sales team is thrilling and can certainly help your organization meet its goals, and then some. But it’s not easy, and there are lots of moving parts to hiring and managing employees. So if you decide not to go that route, you still have options. Thankfully, there may be a cheaper and more efficient path forward when it comes to increasing your sales numbers. What is it? Outsourcing your sales to a company that specializes in putting qualified sales appointments on your calendar. Here at C-Level Partners, we specialize at putting you in front of the right people, in the right role, right now. So get in touch!
Until next time…