7 Tactics to Help You Hire the Best Salespeople

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Today's Question: Almost every company needs salespeople – which means competition for sales talent is especially fierce. What tips do you have to help our readers source, recruit, and hire top salespeople? What's your secret?

1. Get Referrals

I've helped build out and grow sales teams at a number of successful startups. Without a doubt, I've found the best method is employee referrals. Employees understand the culture of the company, they have a real in-depth knowledge of the friends/colleagues they refer, and unlike other sources, they have to make sure the new employee is going to be successful in the long term.

— Judah Ross, Sales Consultant

2. Understand and Emulate the Salesperson's Mindset

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One of the most effective ways to recruit top salespeople is to understand and emulate their mindset. Salespeople are motivated by money and a need to win. This isn't something you'll clearly see by running Boolean searches and reading LinkedIn profiles, so the best way to understand whether someone is a fit or not is to have a live conversation with that person. Some of our most successful recruiters call everyone, regardless of how their resume looks.

For that reason, we've found that the most productive conversations aren't the ones that focus solely on career progression, but those that focus on intangible qualities: how a candidate deals with rejection, how they communicate with clients, how they build a sales strategy from the ground up. We also focus on our candidates' career wins, such as percentage to plan, revenue generated, and company awards, to give us a better understanding of their sense of drive.

— Sabrina N. Balmick, ACA Talent

3. Hire Entrepreneurs

Stop looking for good employees; start looking for entrepreneurs. The people you need in sales are the people who don't need you – the independents. Sales is a self-starter's game, meaning any successful salesperson sees the company as their own and acts accordingly.

— Ross Andrew Paquette, Maropost

4. Test Candidates' Attention to Detail

We use a three-hurdle technique. Every application has an email call to action, such as candidates having to include their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles within the body of their email to us. We set up an email rule that any emails that come in without the words "Facebook" or "LinkedIn" automatically go to the dismissed folder.

We set an autoresponder to congratulate the candidates who pass the first test and to assign another task for which we can set another rule similar to the first one. Our email eliminates all the people who have not followed direction on this round as well.

We send out one final request that is subjective, and we analyze it personally. Then we set up interviews.

This process may eliminate some people who can sell, but it also eliminates people who have poor attention to detail and focus. If our salespeople can't listen when it comes to landing a job, how are they going to listen to the needs of our clients?

— Carrie Wood, Lease Ref

5. Mix and Mingle

A great way to recruit and hire the best salespeople for your company is to actively attend your local industry-specific events. Whether it is a mixer or a seminar, attending such events will put you in contact with hundreds of sales people in an open but professional environment.

The sense of community that surrounds industry events will allow you to speak freely and get to know potential recruits long before you even think about extending a possible follow-up or interview invitation.

Simply by being at the event, the potential recruit is already showing strong initiative. You will also be able to learn about their skills, how they feel about their current role, and what their goals are. In addition, you will be able to share information on your company's open roles, goals, and expectations to see if any of the salespeople you meet align with them.

— Matt Edstrom, BioClarity

6. Look for Raw Talent

My secret is kind of a different approach. I don't recruit in the traditional sense. I avoid the experienced. Degrees are not required – and I typically prefer people who don't have degrees. I look for raw talent, untapped and untouched by any person, employer, or education. Then, I look for someone who needs the money and needs it now. Then, I look at how relatable they are.

Where do I find these amazing beings? Out and about throughout my day. They kind of come to you, and as a business owner, you need to be ready to snatch them up and train them your way. If you can pull this off, you'll have the best salesperson on the face of the planet.

— Beth Anne Ball, B, Your Business's Secret Weapon

7. Focus on Adding Value

We all know that being a successful recruiter requires quite a bit of sourcing. Top salespeople have done quite a bit of their own outreach, so when you're looking to recruit them, be sure your initial contact is strategic.

Something that has been enormously helpful in my own work has been continually adding value every time I reach out. Instead of just blasting out a generic email to a pool of candidates, I will send an applicable article, bring up a mutual connection, or mention something that stands out on the candidate's LinkedIn profile.

Building the foundations of a good relationship based on being a quality resource will ensure candidates come to you, even if they aren't ready to make a career change initially. Building trust can also come from following up on previous conversations in a timely manner, setting clear expectations from the start, and being an expert on market trends.

— Lauren Crane, Betts Recruiting