Whether you need to hire dozens of sales reps in the next few months or you’re a scrappy startup and need your first three sales hires, building a business will nearly always involve hiring for sales.
Although hiring is the hardest job we have to do as sales leaders, it’s certainly one of the most important tasks to get right. Hiring is also a non-revenue generating activity which some leaders make a second priority; however, this isn’t how we should approach the hiring process as it’s essential to long-term team success.
According to Insightsquared, recruiting should take up to 20% of time for a C-level executive. In order to be as proficient as possible in your hiring process, the first step in the process is to have a structured framework to follow.
Create a structured framework of the competencies you’re looking for
Decide who will be involved in the process and the cadence of interviews and/or if you will have the candidate complete a demonstration or presentation.
The typical interview process for an AE can be three to five interviews plus a mock presentation or exercise. Avoid bringing in an objective third-party interviewer. Why? Well, salespeople can be uniquely different hires than other roles, so it’s better to keep interviewers within the revenue organization.
Assign each interviewer a role in the hiring process
Once you’ve determined the competencies you are hiring for, every interviewer should have a role and should be driving towards questions for their assigned competency. List out questions for each competency. Decide if you want your interviewers to be hitting on all competencies or to focus on just one.
Have a proper feedback system in place for evaluating candidates
Feedback gathering is important and there are many products available (Greenhouse, Workable, etc). Scorecards can work well, too, and can be easily incorporated with or without recruitment software.
Nothing quite beats a pro/con list or reason to hire/reason not to hire list for feedback submissions. Whatever method you choose, make sure everyone interviewing knows what you expect to see in the feedback.
Tip: Use an interview scorecard template to ensure you’re hiring top talent every time.
5 things you should look for when hiring salespeople
The most notable competencies to look for when hiring individual contributors in a revenue organization are: performance, coachability, grit, curiosity, and culture. Let’s go through each of these in more detail.
Getting a sense of where the salesperson ranked in their last position can help sift through what type of rep they will be and how they view their success. Take into consideration what type of “sale” they worked in: ACV, time to close, segment, industry, size of sales team, and composition of sales team. Discuss their ramp time and what type of training they enjoy.
There are many adult learning methodologies, but uncover if the rep is coming from a well-established sales enablement program or if they’ll have to figure things out and take ownership of learning the intricacies of the role.
An element of performance questions you should uncover is how competitive this person is. We all know competitiveness goes a long way in sales, and probing at an interest in sports, general competitions, and awards for academia, sports, or skill can be a way to assess this trait.
Having a solid base of sales knowledge, methodology, and how the candidate runs their sales process is standard. While digging into training and practice, see how open this person adapts to learning, evolving, and gaining efficiency.
Sales is a sport where your competitors are always working on their craft. One can always be improving upon something, like better rapport-building, sharpening negotiating skills, or trying new closing techniques. We can all get stuck in our ways, but you should want someone on your team who wakes up every day thinking about improving and growing themselves, their skills, and the strength of their team.
This is the hardest competency to screen for in candidates. Grit is a personality trait that is inherently either in a person or not. Some might call it the metaphorical fire in the belly. Sales is a grind and can be a struggle at times, but it’s the passion and perseverance to push through that makes salespeople emulate grit.
It’s important to note that grit is different from performance. Performance is numbers-based, but having grit shows in the drive and mentality of getting to that number and far beyond.
How inquisitive are they in the interview process? Are they asking more detailed questions than just about the sales role?
For startups, you want someone thinking of every aspect of the company. How can the product be improved? How marketing can help increase inbounds? Where will the company be in 12 months at its current trajectory?
Make sure they’re the type to think a bit outside of the box. How will they navigate through to get to the decision-maker or buyer? Someone who comes in and just worries about their role isn’t usually a team player and probably isn’t focused on the right things. Find someone who asks the big questions and looks at the long-term – someone willing to take matters into their own hands when need be.
Culture should always be in the back of your mind, and all companies interview for culture in many different ways. Are the questions you are asking directed around your mission, values, and principles?
Asking for detailed, cross-functional experience is a good way to assess collaboration within multiple departments. Also, having a high-performing rep interview candidates helps prospective employees get face time with someone in their role. This helps prospective employees see if they have a good connection to the company via its sales team.
Other considerations to keep in mind
- Don’t compare candidates to other candidates; compare them to your ideal candidate.
- Pay attention. Turn off notifications. If you can’t take 30-45 minutes to talk to the candidate who you may manage or have as part of your team, just reschedule the call. They’ll notice you’re distracted and it’ll make the candidate experience a lot less positive all around.
- Make sure you inform the candidate that you’re going to take notes during the call so they understand if you need to avert your eyes during the conversation.
- Keep the questions open-ended so it doesn’t feel like a Q&A with yes/no answers.
- Have your go-to questions, but keep it fluid. Building rapport is a sales skill; do so from your first interaction onward.
- Stay away from hypothetical questions for sales roles, and ask more situational questions.
Overall, have the candidate’s personality shine, have an interest in who they are, what they do outside of work, and make sure to provide valuable feedback at the end of the interview.