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Hiring the Best Sales Talent [Updated for 2024]

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Whether your star salesperson has left the company unexpectedly or you are launching a new product or service and need to boost sales quickly, rushing to hire a new salesperson almost always ends up being an expensive mistake.

If you have dealt with the hiring process before, you know how easy it is to fall into the trap of hiring a candidate who seems talented and energetic but ends up woefully under-performing.

Every time this happens, you are back to scrambling to find a replacement and wondering how you can make better hiring decisions in the future.

However, chances are there is not just one or two things you could be doing differently to break this cycle ‒ your hiring process is in need of a complete overhaul.

Ready to learn how?

Keep reading to discover the research and psychology-backed method sales managers use to identify and hire the best salespeople. Once you start implementing the strategies outlined in this guide, you will see a drastic difference in the quality of sales candidates you interview and the salespeople you end up hiring.

Key Takeaways

  1. Overhaul your hiring process completely rather than just tweaking small things. The typical hiring process of posting a job ad, reviewing resumes, interviewing, and deciding is antiquated and ineffective.
  2. Clearly outline the standards, requirements, and expectations for the sales role upfront. This helps attract candidates who are a good fit.
  3. Write an engaging job ad that sells the position and company culture to appeal to high-performing salespeople specifically. Avoid jargon and overselling.
  4. Use a validated sales personality assessment like the DriveTest® to screen for the key traits (Need for Achievement, Competitiveness, Optimism) required to succeed in sales.
  5. Conduct a structured behavioral interview using questions tied directly to what the sales role requires. This reveals more than a traditional interview because past behavior predicts future behavior.
  6. Utilize referral programs, tapping your network, and being creative with questions can improve hiring results.
  7. Don’t overly rely on resumes, which can be falsified and watch for red flags.
  8. Once you have an effective hiring recipe, use it consistently and stick to it.

How to Quickly Hire the Best Sales Talent for Your Business

As a Sales Hiring Manager, you likely have a routine you follow when hiring new salespeople, which most likely looks similar to the following:

  1. Create the job posting
  2. Advertise the position
  3. Review resumes
  4. Verify references
  5. Conduct basic interviews
  6. Make a hiring decision

Is it just us, or are you tired of this antiquated way of approaching your hiring? Especially when that hiring process has a failure rate of 20% (the typical turnover in sales). This is likely even truer when you learn that the average cost of replacing a telesales employee can cost your company as much as $90,000.

If you are like other Sales Hiring Managers looking for a way out of this dark hiring hole, you are in luck.  We have the tips and tricks you need to make drastic changes to your sales hiring process that will improve your sales hiring in every way.

Outline Your Standards.

So, you need to hire a salesperson. But what type of salesperson are you looking for? Are you looking for someone who will dive right in and act as a hunter to find new leads? Or are you looking for someone who can nurture and close existing leads already in the pipeline?

If you already have a high-performing salesperson at your company who is also a good culture fit, consider their personality traits. You can look for those same traits in new hires to help make your hiring decisions easier.

You should also make a list of the job requirements and your expectations for new salespeople. For example, you may only want to hire people who have experience selling in the tech industry, or you may only want to hire people who have a proven track record of producing impressive sales results.

However, be careful not to create too many restrictions, or you may unintentionally weed out candidates who have the potential to achieve top sales results for your company with a bit of training on industry and product knowledge. You should focus more on a candidate’s personality traits than anything else when making hiring decisions. 

Write an Effective Job Ad

When your sales job ad is ineffective, you will attract less than ideal salespeople to your business – no matter how fantastic the job opportunity is. That is why you must take the time to position your company and the job opportunity correctly in your ad. 

Here are a few tips to help you create an effective job ad:

  • Accurately describe position requirements – Mention exactly what will be expected of the salesperson you hire. By doing this, you will set the proper expectations and attract salespeople who are qualified to work for you.
  • Include an overview of company culture – Hiring for culture fit is important because someone who is a poor culture fit is likely to become demotivated and look for a sales position elsewhere, leaving you to deal with the high costs associated with employee turnover. Be sure your job ad includes a brief description of your company culture, so you attract candidates.
  • Avoid overselling company benefits – The last thing you want is for a new hire to end up frustrated and resentful because they did not receive the benefits they were promised in your job ad. So, make sure you are 100% honest about what it is like to work at your company and what benefits your employees receive.
  • Avoid jargon and complex language. Instead, write the ad conversationally and sell the position in a way that will make your ideal candidates picture your company as a great place to work. However, make sure you do not exaggerate the job opportunity – it is important to set the right expectations so your candidates understand what the sales role entails.
  • Consider using a job role title other than “salesperson.” Sales jobs were ranked as the fourth hardest jobs to fill, and a lot of that has to do with the negative stigma that traditionally surrounds the term “salespeople.” To overcome that problem, you can use a term like “account manager” or “business development specialist” to describe the open position at your company and get in front of a new audience.
  • Approach your “requirements” section strategically. For example, since personality traits – not years of experience – predict sales success, you may not want to disqualify potential salespeople just because they do not have a specific amount of experience.

Write your job ad in a way that entices high-performing salespeople to send you their application. That means leaving out unnecessary jargon and speaking directly to a salesperson’s wants and needs.

For example, to hook the applicant, you might open your job ad with something like, “Are you tired of working at a company with an unimpressive commission structure and bad leads?” Then, you could talk about how you give your salespeople great leads and the ability to earn great commission (only if that is actually true, of course!).

Remember, generic job ads will attract generic sales reps. Your company needs a job ad that is specifically designed to attract high-performing salespeople.

If you would prefer to hand pick you applicants as opposed to creating an ad, perform a LinkedIn search, and pinpoint salespeople who are qualified for your open position. Then, send them a message asking if they would be interested in applying for the position.

Use an Assessment Prior to Interviewing

As a sales manager, you must handle many tasks in the sales department every day. So, you need to avoid wasting any of your valuable time interviewing candidates who do not have the potential to achieve top sales results.

So how do you know if your potential hire really has the ability to be a promising salesperson for your team?

By assessing them with a validated sales personality test.

And, this cannot be any general personality test you found online — it needs to be an assessment that tests for one specific thing: Drive.

Drive is made up of these 3 non-teachable traits that research shows all successful “Hunter” salespeople share:

  • Need for Achievement – The focused desire to reach excellence and meet challenging goals.
  • Competitiveness – The desire to outperform one’s peers and win customers over.
  • Optimism – Undeniable resiliency and certainty that allows a salesperson to withstand the inevitable rejections associated with selling.

The DriveTest® is the only sales personality test on the market that objectively assesses candidates for all three traits that make up Drive. This sales assessment will help ensure that only high-potential candidates reach the interview stage. On top of that, it uses a consistency scale that allows you to weed out candidates who attempt to fake their answers.

If a sales candidate does not possess these traits, they do not have the personality makeup necessary to achieve success as a “Hunter” salesperson. On the other hand, if the candidate does possess these traits, you should bring them in for a behavioral interview.

Conduct a Behavioral Interview

All too often, sales managers make common interviewing mistakes, including:

  • Allowing the conversation to shift to mostly small talk (or a “BS session”).
  • Overusing questions about unrelated hypothetical situations.
  • Falling for a candidate who simply “sells” their abilities during the interview.
  • Hiring someone based on your own personality preferences alone.
  • Settling for a warm body to fill the position quickly, as opposed to holding out for a high-performing salesperson.

To combat these mistakes and help ensure you hire a high-performing salesperson every time, you must conduct a behavioral interview – more specifically, conduct The Drive Interview© after administering The DriveTest© and weeding out candidates who are not Driven.

The Drive Interview©

The Drive Interview© guidelines equip you with the necessary questions to ask and follow up questions to dive deeper into the candidate’s responses to identify top-performing salespeople for your business. The success rate of this interview style has consistently been better than 90 percent, so you can feel confident that it will work for your business.

Here is what the Drive Interview© process entails:

  • First 5-10 minutes: The interviewer makes small talk with the candidate to establish rapport and create a relaxed environment.
  • Next 15 minutes: The interviewer and the candidate discuss career history. The interviewer also finds out why the candidate accepted/left each previous job.
  • Next 60-90 minutes: The interviewer asks experience and aptitude questions. These questions are directly related to what is required for success in your sales position.

Here are some examples of questions asked during The Drive Interview©:

  • What kinds of sacrifices have you had to make to become successful? This question will help you uncover whether or not the candidate possesses a Need for Achievement by prompting them to describe past sacrifices they had to make to excel at work.
  • What was the most fun you ever had winning a customer over? This question will help you uncover Competitiveness by prompting the candidate to describe how much they enjoy the challenge of winning customers over.
  • Think back to a time you lost a deal. What did you do to recover? If the candidate describes themselves putting the situation in perspective and quickly bouncing back from failure by working on another sale, you can feel confident knowing that they are probably Optimistic.

As you can see, these questions are asked to help the interviewer determine whether or not the sales candidate possesses the 3 non-teachable traits that make up Drive.

Once you collect the necessary data to assess Drive, other required skills for your sales position and determine if the candidate is a good culture fit for your company, you can make an informed decision about who to hire and who to avoid.

Only Hire High-Drive Salespeople

No matter what you do, it is critical for you to determine whether or not candidates are Driven before you even bring them in for an interview.

If you fail to do so, you will be unable to pinpoint sales candidates who genuinely have the potential to generate a large amount of revenue for your company.

Remember: If you are looking for a candidate who can hit the ground running and produce from day one, look for a candidate with Drive and industry experience.

If you have time to train the candidate on your specific industry and sales process, Drive is the only thing necessary. Most everything else can be taught.

5 Additional Ways to Dramatically Improve Your Sales Hiring Process


1. Create an Internal Company Referral Program and Reach Out into Your Network

Relying on job boards to attract applicants can get exhausting and can honestly be a waste of your time.

So, why not go right to the source?

Look to the best salespeople in your company to have them help you find new top salespeople.  Chances are good they have friends or previous colleagues who are sales superstars and could be a good fit for your position.

The best way to do this is to establish an internal referral program.  In order to make this worth not only your time but your current employees’ time, you need to be prepared to offer employees worthwhile incentives – whether that is a financial incentive, additional vacation days or even prizes, such as an iPad.

By offering incentives to your current salespeople for quality referrals, you improve your chances of finding top-notch potential new sales hires.

Additionally, do not be afraid to reach out to your network to see if anyone can recommend a candidate who may be a good fit.

Tell your family members, friends and colleagues about the open sales positions at your business, and let them know what you are looking for in a salesperson. When you receive a great recommendation, contact the candidate and ask them to take an objective sales assessment to determine whether or not they are a good fit for your open sales position and whether or not they are truly Driven to succeed in sales.

2. Don’t Place Too Much Value on The Resume

Though the resume is a key part of the sales hiring process, it is not something you should rely too heavily upon.

Why is this?

Because resumes alone are not the best indicators of how well a salesperson will do for your company.

Resumes do a great job of highlighting the candidate’s past experience — education, previous jobs, etc.  However, they fail to really paint a picture of how that translates to the specific position you are looking to fill. It is important to understand a candidate’s past experience beyond what’s listed on their resume to determine if they will be a good fit for your open position.

Another reason you do not want to rely too heavily on a candidate’s resume is that many people lie on their resumes.  In fact, a study conducted by HireRight found that a whopping 85% of applicants falsify information on their resumes.

With statistics like that, you have to be paying close attention to potential red flags on someone’s resume.  Here are some of the top ones:

  • Inflating job titles
  • Unknown (or nonexistent) colleges
  • Vague job descriptions
  • Gaps and inconsistencies in employment
  • Name dropping overkill

If any of your potential sales hires seem to be doing one of the above, you may want to reconsider hiring them.  Resume falsehoods are often indicators that this candidate is likely to continue lying, or at least overstate facts.

3. Get Creative with Your Sales Interview Questions

Resumes are not the only thing candidates can fake in the sales hiring process.

 Did you know that 81% of candidates often lie during the interview process? Couple that with the fact that we have all been asked the same interview questions a hundred times, candidates have perfected canned responses to feed you during the interview in the hopes of “wowing” you.

So, avoid overused questions like:

“Why do you think you are the best person for this job?”

“Describe a time when you were faced with a challenge.  How did you overcome it?”

“What is one of your biggest weaknesses?”

And instead opt for questions which dig deeper. 

Asking specific behavioral questions requires your candidate to give specific answers, which allows you to have a better understanding of whether they will be the right fit for your open sales position.

We published a blog with 51 specific sales interview questions to help you improve your sales interviewing skills. Here are some of the highlights:

  • How much time do you spend nurturing customer relationships vs. looking for new clients?
  • Have you taught yourself something lately? If so, what was it?
  • How have you turned around a streak of bad calls?
  • If we had a magic wand and could improve three things about your previous job, what would those three things be?
  • Name a time you received criticism and how you handled it.

These are just a handful of the questions you should be asking your potential candidates to gain more insight than you would from traditional sales interview questions.

4. Check for Culture Fit During the Interview.

Besides vetting for Drive, you want to hire candidates who are a good culture fit for your company. After all, if you hire someone who is a poor culture fit, they will likely become demotivated and look for a different job in an environment that is more suited to their preferences.

Here are a few ways to determine whether a candidate is a good culture fit for your company:

  • Ask them to describe their ideal work environment. If they describe something similar to your sales department, there is a good chance they will fit right in.
  • Ask about their hobbies. The way a person spends their free time says a lot about their values and personality, so it is a great way to determine if they will be a good culture fit.
  • Ask them which personality traits they tend to dislike in others. If they mention traits that are common among members of your sales team, you should approach hiring them with caution. The last thing you want is a new salesperson who creates a toxic environment because they cannot get along with anyone else in the department.

Of course, you will want to come up with your own additional questions based on your specific company values. Think about the qualities you are looking for in a salesperson, and ask questions that will help you uncover whether the candidate possesses those qualities.

5. Be Consistent With Your Hiring Process.

Once you have begun administering a sales personality test and using an improved behavioral interview that consistently allows you to identify high-performing salespeople, stick with it. 

As a busy sales manager, you may be tempted to skip over some steps in the process, but you should avoid doing so since your sales hires have such a big impact on how much revenue your company brings in.

That being said, do not be afraid to make strategic improvements when necessary. Just make sure you are not leaving out steps due to time-constraints or changing your process so frequently that it becomes difficult to execute.

Things to Remember

A sales manager’s responsibilities can get hectic at times, but ensuring you have the right supporting cast can improve your chances of success. To improve your sales hiring process, step away from the ineffective, outdated approach and incorporate new, modern-day strategies including:

  1. Getting specific with your job ads
  2. Taking the resume at face-value
  3. Assessing all candidates with a sales personality test like The DriveTest®
  4. Asking unique behavioral interview questions that candidates are not likely to expect
  5. And being consistent with your new hiring process.

Some bonus tips:

  1. Consider culture fit
    Evaluate how well a candidate’s values, work style, and personality align with your company culture. Hiring individuals who fit well within your team will contribute to a more cohesive and productive working environment.
  2. Provide a realistic job preview
    During the interview process, be transparent about the challenges and expectations of the role. This will help candidates better understand the position and allow them to self-assess their fit, reducing the likelihood of future performance or retention issues.

This more in-depth approach to hiring will enable you to weed out potential sales pretenders and will leave you considering only high-potential sales candidates for your open position.

Start improving your sales hiring process today with a free DriveTest® assessment.


Sales Hiring Simplified!

Hire top-performing salespeople with The DriveTest®. Get started now with one free test.

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Sales Hiring Simplified!

Hire top-performing salespeople with The DriveTest®.

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