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How to Hire the Best Sales People

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Hire Best SalespeopleWhile many companies talk about finding and developing, few deal with it systematically. The costs for you and your company are enormous.

Consider the following facts:

  • The average turnover in sales is 25-30%
  • The cost of hiring is roughly $50,000 -$75,000 per rep (It’s much more in a B2B environment)
  • Over 50% of all employees are disengaged from their jobs and are seeking new and better opportunities

So, what skills do you look for and how do you conduct powerful interviews to ensure the right talent is hired from the onset?

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review maintains that the sales attributes needed today, as opposed to a few years ago, include qualities such as:

  • The ability to learn the business
  • A controlled work approach
  • Embracing the strategic vision of the company, and
  • The ability to respond quickly to customer objections.

In short, memorizing scripts and tips aren’t nearly as critical in today’s fast-paced, transparent environment. We need to hire sales professionals for skills such as motivation, reliability, self-regulation, tenacity, and agility. These so-called soft skills produce hard results.

When interviewing prospective candidates, consider the following:

  • Allow the candidates to do most of the talking. Too many interviewers attempt to sell the salesperson on their company and the position, rather than listening for their candidate’s qualifications.
  • Hold a minimum of three interviews. This is for two reasons: People want what they can’t have (We all love the posh new restaurant with a waiting list). Second, you can observe your candidate’s motivation, reliability and ability to answer questions under pressure. Are they on time? Do they send a follow up email? Are they nervous? Do they respond spontaneously and authentically?
  • If appropriate, take them out for a cup of coffee; or better yet, lunch. Observing how your potential new hire interacts with the public and observes basic manners will give insight to how they will treat your customers. I once invited a candidate to eat with my executive team at a fancy club. She not only insulted the server for overcooking her tuna in the salad Nicoise, she requested a takeout box for her leftovers, as well as mine!
  • Make certain to ask questions that reflect your company values. For example, if you value a culture of growth and learning, ask your potential recruit for specific information on what they’ve read lately. From what types of books, magazines or newspapers do they receive information? What do they like most and why? You may remember the famous Katie Couric interview of Vice Presidential hopeful, Sarah Palin. Watch how Palin responds when asked how she keeps abreast of world issues.
  • Consider giving an assignment to newly hired employees, just prior to investing in them with thorough company training. An online course or a reading assignment is a magnificent method of assessing your new recruits’ drive and follow through. What happens in the hiring process will be duplicated in the sales process.

Oh, and keep learning yourself. We can only teach what we know.


Shari Levitin is a Sales Strategist, Writer, Keynote Speaker, Entrepreneur and founder of Levitin Group and Levitin Learning online sales training. Shari Levitin has an unwavering commitment to improving people’s lives through education, inspiration, and experiences.

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