Five Important Factors to Consider When Hiring Sales Employees

There are many things to consider when beginning a campaign to hire sales employees, whether for inside or outside sales.  In my professional experience, the five factors discussed in this essay are at the core of the hiring process.  Some of these aspects could be broken down even further into several additional categories; however I feel it is important not to convolute the process too much.  Any individual is likely to rise to the top if the right candidate is selected.

1) EXPERIENCE: I began with experience, primarily because experience is a funny animal. Human nature will want to send you in the direction towards the candidate with the most experience; however I have found that I acquire the best results out of applicants who have approximately one to three years sales practice in any environment. This seems to weed out the candidates who do not know what to expect from the sales battlefield, thus reducing sales “shellshock” as I call it, and in the end helps to reduce turnover. It also leaves the candidates still in a moldable stage, or essentially at a point where they have not developed the kinds of bad habits that often develop in more experienced salespeople.

2) QUALIFICATIONS: Again, human nature tends to force the eye to gravitate towards candidates with college degrees, certificates, etc. These types of qualifications can tell you quite a bit about an applicants’ determination, willingness to follow through on tasks, or ability to see situations out to resolution. Nevertheless, I tend to shy away from making this a deciding factor on interviewing a candidate. Some of my best salespeople had never even finished high school, or were still attending college. If an applicant has attended, or is attending college, look for degrees in marketing, advertising, psychology, sociology, business administration, etc. Anything that has to do with business will tell you this person envisions themselves at the top somewhere, more often than not. Anything to do with psychology, sociology, etc., tells you this person understands people. Both of these are great traits to have as a salesperson. Look for applicants that have maybe attended some sales seminars, or received certificates of completion in various different classes for sales. Essentially, look for those individuals who have gone above and beyond simply holding a sales position.

3) BODY LANGUAGE DURING INTERVIEW: Now that you have the resume selection down, it is time to interview. Body language is extremely important in sales, and the interview is a great place to determine if the candidate has the chops to be successful in your firm, whether for inside or outside sales, and whether for face to face or on the phone selling, body language matters. Look for candidates that look you in the eye when talking to you, thus showing confidence, or listening to you talk and they should always sit up straight. I tend to look for individuals that tend to be animated when they talk, such as talking with their hands or emphasizing certain statements.

4) LANGUAGE DURING INTERVIEWS: This is likely the most important factor for me when selecting a candidate for a sales position. I always ask myself if this person assumes control of a conversation, and if they can speak well. Do they speak well, such as: using more advanced terminology, proper grammar, and do they command your attention when they are talking? There is a certain kind of person that carries themselves a certain way, and speaks a certain way as to demand your attention when they are communicating. That is the mark of a good salesperson. When I walk into a board room, I demand the attention of the room, and control it the entire time I am there. I do that intentionally, which is a learned behavior over many years of sales experience. However, it can be taught to the right candidate, and if they are already exhibiting the correct behaviors.

5) TRAINABILITY: The last factor is trainability. Is this candidate going to be able to learn your process, learn your products and/or services, and sell them in the way that will represent your company in the correct way? This should be evident at this point. However, there is also the trainability of someone to learn your company culture, and how to fit in with the other employees of your team. All very important factors when it comes to hiring. Again, these could all be broken down further. Sales will tend to be cut and dry, black and white, either you can do it or you can’t.

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