Hiring the right sales reps for your sales team

Posted in Sales team management.

Hiring the right individuals with the right skills is the key to creating a cohesive sales team. The better your sales team the more effectively you can reach your sales goals. The quicker you reach your sales goals, the more skilled sales reps you can attract and the better your team will become and so on.

Here are some tips and tricks for getting near-perfect sales hires for your team:

Know exactly what you want

Before you even write up a job description or put out an ad, you need to know exactly what you want from a sales rep before letting them join your team. What soft skills do you feel is important? What traits, like self-confidence or good public speaking, do you value the most? Research ways in which you can test whether the candidate has the skills you require during the interview process.

What hard skills would they need to have? Do you want someone who is proficient in knowing how to use a tablet or electronic product catalogue? Should the person have existing knowledge of your industry or are you willing to train them once they are hired?

Think about what areas you are willing to be more flexible in than others. In other words, what are non-negotiable traits? This will help you determine whether a candidate is a good fit right off the bat and help you to eliminate applicants who are not well-suited. This saves you time both when it comes to scheduling interviews and training once the person is hired. Knowing what you want is also crucial for writing up the perfect job description. The more specific you are means you will attract the right type of person for the job almost immediately.

Look for candidates everywhere

The farther you spread out your feelers for new sales hires, the better the likelihood is of you getting exactly the type of person you want. Here are some areas you need to explore when looking for candidates:

*  Internal – look at individuals already working for your company who have the potential to become great ambassadors for your products. The advantage is having already worked with the individual so you know more about them than you would someone simply handing in an application.
*  Employee referrals – current sales reps already know what is expected and will thus know who will be a good fit from people they know in their personal life. However, be aware of their potentially biased opinion.
*  Network of suppliers, customers, colleagues and your own social contacts – within these groups of people there are bound to be someone who knows someone who would be a great fit.
*  Professional associations and industry magazines – with this approach you are more likely to hit your “target market”. In other words, you will find people who are experienced in a particular industry or who have a genuine interest in your business.
*  Online ads – this is a no-brainer but it is essential to advertise on your website, on social media, on Google and on sites that have been specifically created for job-seekers especially since businesses are moving online more and more.
*  Local universities and colleges – if you’re willing to take on a graduate and provide training, then learning institutions are a good bet. Graduates are often enthusiastic and willing to work hard to get into the job market.

Take note of potential red flags during the interview process

There are certain warning signs (aside from lateness or a lack of preparedness) you need to look out for when considering a B2B sales candidate:

*  The candidate moves from one job to another quite often. Sales reps often only gain traction in the first six months of a new job so if they leave frequently, there is no way to gauge their skills properly. Ask them about these frequent moves, what the reasons were for them leaving so shortly after starting and try to figure out whether the same will apply to your position. Many job changes isn’t always due to bad reasons but it is something to pay attention to.
*  Poor listening skills during your interview can be an indication of how the prospective sales rep will handle customer interactions. Being able to string together a cohesive sentence and being persuasive are good traits, but if they’re not listening, they are not customer-focused.
*  They talk badly about previous employers. No matter if it is true, the candidate should have the awareness to know that it is unprofessional behaviour. They should be able to learn from past experiences and try to focus on the positive, which are good traits to have in sales in any case.
*  He doesn’t engage with the interviewer. This means that the candidate is not asking questions and adapting the conversation to include what has already been discussed. This can show that the potential sales rep is lacking the ability to create meaningful rapport with customers. It also shows that they may not come across as personable enough when out in the field.
*  After the interview, how proactive was the candidate? Did they give you a call after the interview or send an email following up? If not, that might show that they are lacking initiative which is essential for sales reps to have in their quest towards building solid customer relationships.

Be a good interviewer

The interview may not be your first impression of the potential candidate (the resume is) but it is vitally important to get it right to get the perfect fit. Here are some tips on what to be conscious of while conducting an interview:

*  Look at how the candidate is dressed for the interview. Do they seem to know what the conventions are when it comes to dressing appropriately? Do they look professional? This is essential, especially for field sales reps who come face-to-face with clients on a daily basis.
*  Only ask open-ended questions. This means that any questions that can be answered with only a “yes” or a “no” are off-limits. Questions that give the candidate a chance to elaborate is perfect. For example, avoid “How often …” questions and rather ask “How do you …”.
*  Always follow the same questioning during each interview. This way it is easier to compare candidates with each other and differentiate their styles according to how they answered a specific question.
*  Ask them at some point during the interview to explain something to you. This will showcase either a helpful or impatient nature. It will also show you what technique they use to explain things to people, something they will have to do regularly with new clients.
*  Questions you could consider asking during the interview include, “Tell me about a difficult situation you had to face with a client and how you turned it into something positive”, “How do you research prospects?” or “What steps do you take to build a relationship with a customer?”
*  Try to ask a few non-traditional questions so as to keep the candidate on their toes. If you throw a few curve balls at them, you will be able to see how they handle situations where they need to improvise or change their course unexpectedly.
*  Remember to also sell yourself during the interview. Yes, you are the one looking for a good sales rep to add to your team but the candidate is also thinking about whether they feel comfortable to join your company. A great sales candidate can easily slip through your fingers without you even realising simply because they don’t feel like you’re a good fit for them. Good sales reps are in demand and more likely to be picky about whether to accept an offer or not.
No candidate will ever be absolutely perfect but using these tips will ensure that you weed out the candidates who are definitely not a good fit. Even if you can only find candidates who are almost there, make sure that those candidates are coachable with a willingness to learn and a history of participating in training.