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October 9, 2017

So, you think because of your great sales ability you know people?  You think because of your experience in the industry you know who you should hire as a top performing sales person?

I have news for you.  It isn’t that easy.

Hiring effective sales people and training them not only to sell your product but also to adhere to your company’s sales culture is perhaps the most difficult job you have.  However, if done right it will make your job easy.  If I have one regret it is not spending the time to hire the right people for sales territories which affected my job.

Realize that the average turnover rate of salespeople is between 53-68% in the first year. Just think what a tremendous cost that is to any organization and the time spent by sales management bringing someone on board.  The axiom of hire slow and fire quick is most important for salespeople because they are the face of your company.  There is nothing more important to you personally than making a great hire.  It will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.  Spend the time and the money to do it right!


A Carnegie Foundation study once found that only 15% of a business person’s success could be attributed to job knowledge and technical skills.  A whopping 85% to one’s success could be determined by the “ability to deal with people” and “attitude.”  Hiring because of experience frequently leads to mediocrity.  Smart motivated salespeople will quickly learn your business and the needed technical skills to be successful.  Attributes like customer focus, competitiveness, solving problems and the desire for self-development are hard things to teach and are much more valuable than experience.  They may also be difficult to establish during the interview.

Do yourself a favor.  Make a list of the top 10-20 characteristics that you feel are important to be a successful sales person in your company.  Sadly, many candidates are knocked out of contention by Job Descriptions that demand years of experience and education.  Here are my top attributes that I think are often more valuable:

  1. Belief in the products and services that you are selling.
  2. Self-accountability and a continuous improvement mindset.
  3. How well they prepare.
  4. Maintaining a high activity level.  A need to hit a high percentage of targets.
  5. An enjoyment of the monitoring and measuring for tracking progress.
  6. Customer focused question asking at least 80% of the time.
  7. Relentless Follow up.
  8. Courageous.  Not afraid to challenge, negotiate and do the right thing for your company and the client.


Behavioral assessments like TRIMETRIX, OMG, and MySalesTest can help you determine some of the characteristics listed above.  Make sure that these assessments are customized for your business.  Although, I strongly suggest that you use these tools, only 30% of your decision should be based on what those reports uncover.

Before even starting the hiring process here are some critical points to consider.

  1. Can you weigh the importance of the following parts of the process and their effect on the selling of your products: Cold calling, networking, qualifying, closing, maintaining.
  2. Can you measure the key behaviors necessary to be a successful sales person in your business? (E.g. cold calls/day, quotes/day, talk time on phone, $ sales, face to face meetings)
  3. Do you have a written sales process and expectations of how fast deals close?
  4. Is your sales compensation plan reflecting the corporate objectives and culture, or is it just reflecting revenue?
  5. Can you accurately describe the culture of your company and why you do business? Do you really know what your company’s most critical values are and how it fits with the potential hire?
  6. How are you supporting your salesperson internally?
  7. How much supervision can you give to a new sales hire?


The first step is to write an excellent job description.  If you have an HR department solicit their knowledge.  Make them your business partners.  Do not abdicate the function totally to them.  If you do not have an HR department go on-line, and get some ideas.  The Job Description must reflect the company’s culture, ideals and mission, key responsibilities, and expectations.

Whether you post on the different job sites, LinkedIn or go through a recruiter reviewing the resumes will be an arduous task.  The average HR person spends only 11 seconds looking at a resume.  The only thing you are really looking for is ACCOMPLISHMENTS.

Since the phone is one of the most important points of contact for the majority of sales people, qualifying with a Phone Interview can save a lot of valuable time.  One of the tricks I like to do is when setting up a phone interview make them leave a voicemail.  Do they have energy? Do they sound positive and enthusiastic when leaving the voice message?  Are they sort of rambling and dull?  What does it tell you about this person? Here is a list of 12 questions I like to ask in the phone interview:

  1. What can you tell me about our company?
  2. What made you apply for this position?
  3. Describe the type sales position you are presently in?
  4. How are you getting leads and prospecting?
  5. What is the most important thing you are looking for in a company/position?
  6. What is the most significant accomplishment or sales you have made in your career?
  7. Describe the best sale you ever made?
  8. Describe a situation where you had a conflict with either bosses, peers or clients and how did you resolve it?
  9. How do you see yourself in the next 5 years?  What do you want to be when you grow up?
  10. When would you be available?
  11. What is your salary/compensation expectation?
  12. Do you have any questions for me?

If they do not have any questions for you at the end of the interview I seriously suggest that you do not consider them as a candidate.  Purposeful questions and listening intently are key characteristics of top sales people.


Make sure that you have several team members involved.  Even your receptionist can be a vital qualifier.  After all, the candidate may give a great interview, but their true colors may be shown when they are talking to an Administrative Assistant or a receptionist.  How a sales person treats them may give you an indication of how they will be received by other companies.

You should not be the only interviewer.  The other team members will be people that will have continuous contact with a new sales hire.  Give each team member specific questions to ask that they can rate on a scale of 1-5.  In this way, every candidate will be asked the same questions.  Hold a follow up meeting with team members to discuss each candidate.  Your team members will help you narrow down your choices.


Now that you narrowed down your choices, have a second interview.  By this time, it is strongly suggested that you have given them a behavioral assessment.  Give it to them before they come into the meeting and share the results.  This will alert you and them to differences between what they are saying in an interview and what the assessment says.  Be direct and be honest.  These assessments are there for a purpose and are accurate upwards of 90%.  They will show behaviors, drivers and what their true skills are.

By this time, you will have a good overall picture of your potential sales person.  Now you have to make sure that you have a great on-boarding process to assure their success and yours.



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