- Determine whether you need a sales representative or an entire team
- Determine when you need to hire them
- Strategize to hire people who align with your organization’s values and can further your objectives
Selling is an art. If a salesperson can convince you to buy the moon or even the dirt on the floor, it is a sign of a successful sale. It takes grit, determination, and a lot of conviction to be a good salesperson. While they claim to be a dime a dozen, it isn’t easy to find and hire the best one for the job.
When customers approach a product or service armed with a lot of prior information, they do not need to be sold the basics. They do not need to be educated about a particular product or service. What they are looking for is a knowledgeable and trustworthy guide. They want someone to supply that missing piece of a puzzle which will help them confirm their decision.
So how do you build a team capable of doing precisely that? Here’s the answer.
When to Hire a Sales Team
The answer to this may seem like a no-brainer. Hire a sales team when you want to expand to newer territories or when your customer base increases. You can’t do everything yourself, after all.
While the above may be true, a few more considerations go into this decision.
- Your readiness to put time and effort into onboarding and training new hires is the most important factor
- Create sales, structures, scripts, and processes to make it easier for your new team to start being effective
- The nature and behavior of your customers, the time they take to make a decision, and the amount of assistance or nudges they require to make that buy decision
- Your growth strategies determine the size of your team
- The number of leads that your organization generates needs to be considered. Salespeople can’t do much without effective leads
- Consider hiring more salespeople when you are coming out with new products or services. Or when you are expanding into new territories
- When your current sales team is getting stretched thin
What to look for in your Sales Team
An ideal sales rep is customer-centric. Alongside their product knowledge, they display empathy for their customer’s needs and objections. They build relationships with their customers and genuinely want to help them with the best-suited products and/or services.
Another important trait is self-awareness. Too few people are able to convincingly answer the standard interview question, “Tell me something about yourself.” Yet it is the most crucial of answers.
Self-awareness leads to knowing one’s strong points and shortcomings. It leads to growth. It entails celebrating wins and accepting failures. These are all crucial skills for a sales rep.
Having said the above, a stellar sales team would comprise people with the following qualities. They
- Love sales. Working in sales is a conscious choice for them and not just an option
- Show awareness about their own strengths and weaknesses. They know situations in which they excel
- Are, and can present themselves as, an expert in their domain
- Display understanding of soft skills
- Exhibit high Emotional Intelligence
- Display high awareness of diversity and cultural norms
- They are skillful communicators
- Are persistent without being annoying
- They are creative enough to have multiple approaches up their sleeve till they succeed. They can salvage adverse situations and turn them around in their favor
- Can convey the value of your product or service in an irresistible manner
- Display good analytical skills and are quick decision-makers
- Anticipate the objections that prospective buyers might have and are prepared to address them
- Preferably have a track record of excelling in this role
- Have the organization’s long-term best interests at heart
- Earn customers’ loyalties by serving their best interests
- Do not take rejections personally. They bounce back every time to continue their work
- They are a team player
- They are eager to learn, unlearn and relearn
7 Great Strategies for Hiring a Superstar Sales Team
Reflect on the following 7 strategies to build a sales team that will consistently deliver stellar performance.
#1 Build a Job Profile
A job profile outlines what and how the incumbent is actually going to carry out their duties. It focuses on the practical aspects and daily routine of the job, like, what is the value of the product or service being sold, how long the sale will take to be finalized, what level of executives will be involved in the transaction, will higher management be involved too, etc.
A job profile helps to understand whether the candidate is a good fit for the role.
David Mattson, CEO and president of Sandler Training, quotes an example:
“….there was this one bank that found a salesperson who [outperformed] his quota by about 500% with a competitor, so they hired him….. To everyone’s shock, the salesperson performed badly. Why? Because the bank wanted the new sales rep to bring in new business, but he wasn’t able to do that because all he did at his previous job was renew and upsell existing clients. To avoid this, you need to look for a match with the job profile.”
#2 Look for the ideal candidate
Sales positions typically receive a lot of resumes. However, most of them are just out to try their luck or look at a filler job till they get something better. Your job is to pick out the handful of applicants who are genuinely interested in the role.
David Mattson has a useful system here, which can be summarized as SEARCH. It takes into consideration the job profile and matches it with the candidate’s profile, skills, experiences, etc.
SEARCH stands for:
- Skills: The skills required of the candidate that will help them give peak performance
- Experiences: The learnings that they bring from their previous jobs and assignments
- Attitude: What kind of mindset do they bring to their work? Do they have a growth mindset? Can they be creative? Are they able to play as a part of the team – internal as well as external?
- Results: What results are they delivering in their current position? With whom are they dealing? Who are they selling to?
- Cognitive: This includes analytical skills, planning skills, pre-emptive skills, etc. ask questions like: How detailed is their plan before picking up the phone or starting a meeting, can they pre-empt their prospect’s objections even before they are raised, are they ready with the answers to such objections, how fast can they look for alternative solutions, how quickly can they make decisions, what kind of systems and software are they using, etc.
- Habits: Habits can make or break performances. They compel people to behave in a certain way, sometimes against their own good. Final outcomes are affected by the daily habits of salespeople. Pay attention to the habits of your team members, and those of the people you are hiring
Besides the above, Integrity is an important trait that can never be ignored. While meeting a candidate, some experienced recruiters and senior salespeople recommend asking this question to yourself: Would I like it if one of my children worked for such a person?
If the above traits of the candidate are in sync with the job profile, then you know you have found your person.
#3 Aim to hire long-term team members
An HBR report suggests that in the U.S., the annual turnover of salespeople is as high as 27%1. This entails a huge cost for the organizations. Besides the hiring costs and loss of time invested, this also results in a loss of sales. At times, customer loyalties become a casualty of this churning among the sales team.
Hoffeld Group CEO and Chief Sales Trainer David Hoffeld has this to say,
“On average, it takes seven months to get a new hire from a starting level to a high level of competency and performance.”
When personal values don’t match with the organization’s values, it results in failure and, ultimately, churning of the sales team.
Salespeople leaving the organization within the first 18 months due to a mismatch between personal traits and attitudes, and those of the organization, amounting to 89%. This by no means implies that they lacked the technical skills or know-how. Simply that they could not adjust themselves to the organization’s culture.
Considering these factors, short-term fixes in the sales team are not an option. Take your time, but hire team members who will stick with you long enough to bear the fruits of all the training and learnings that they have received from your organization.
There will always be pressure to get a person in sales “now.” But do not just pick the ‘best of the lot’ from a bunch of resumes that you received. This will do more harm than good, besides wasting your efforts and time.
It is ultimately worth your while to wait for the right person to join your team. The right salesperson will need minimum handholding and start delivering results fast. And these results will be sustainable over the longer term.
Communicate your organization’s core values throughout the organization.
For instance, Salesforce values Trust, Customer Success, Innovation, and Equality. Now whenever they want to make a new hire, they measure and look for these values in their would-be team member.
#4 Get information flowing from the candidate
Frame interview questions in a way that makes the candidate talk as much as possible. Besides the usual suspects, ask them to talk about their biggest successes and their biggest failures. Encourage them to share their learnings from these. Then dive deeper into these by asking them to share how they implemented their learnings in their work.
Avoid leading questions that provide hints as to what you want to hear in their answers. For instance, avoid asking something like, “We want strong communicators in this role. How do you rate your communication skills?” or “How comfortable are you with calling up and meeting new people? Do you like to socialize?”
Always go one or two questions deeper into their answers. Only genuine candidates will be able to answer satisfactorily here.
#5 Involve the Sales Team
When you are hiring for a sales role, it only makes sense to involve the sales team. It works both ways. The candidate gets an idea of who they will be working with and what to expect in terms of values and culture. The same is true for the sales team. They get to evaluate early on whether the candidate has what it takes and whether they (the candidate) will be a good fit for the team.
Steven Benson, Founder and CEO of Badger Maps relates a hiring situation wherein involving the sales team helped the candidate convey in a better manner why they were a strong fit for the role. Benson could sense the increased excitement in the candidate to join the team.
He recalls another situation in which a sales team member had put forth reasons why a particular candidate was not a good fit. The candidate was hired nonetheless. This new hire ended badly for precisely the reasons that were pointed out by the team member earlier.
Involving the sales team early on in the hiring process may avoid any potentially wrong hires and avoid adversely impacting the morale of the team.
#6 Widen your sourcing network
Many organizations target and recruit candidates only from certain premier educational institutes. Others insist on candidates having work experience of a certain number of years. At times hiring managers have insisted on candidates having experience working with organizations that have grown beyond a certain size or have an annual turnover of more than a certain number.
Implementing such restrictive conditions necessitates compelling justifications due to their numerous consequences. These limitations can:
- Cause you to miss out on potential talent
- Raise your hiring expenses and prolong the process
- Negatively impact perceptions of your organization’s culture
Employee referrals are always one of the best sources to find and hire top talent, well aligned to the organizational vision and culture.
When company leaders and top management participate in conferences, or sponsor industry and social events, it increases the credibility and visibility of the organization. Arranging webinars and seminars is another tried and tested way of attracting more candidates to apply.
#7 Tap into a pool of Passive Candidates
Many top-performing salespeople are passive candidates, content with their current roles but open to conversations when approached. They may be inclined to accept new positions if the offer aligns with their expectations or demands.
Revisit your databases for previous applicants who may not have completed the hiring process, as they have already demonstrated interest in your organization.
Motivate current employees to refer qualified candidates by offering incentives, and encourage them to search within their personal and professional networks for passive candidates.
Seek recommendations from industry associations and professional forums, and consider engaging renowned instructors and trainers from educational and training institutions.
The perfect salesperson – is a myth. Just like anything with the prefix ‘perfect.’ Don’t waste your time and energy chasing that.
Having said that, do not rush into hiring the first somewhat decent resume you come across.
Look for a candidate who is the ideal fit for your goals and values. Wait for the right candidate, as the costs of a wrong hire are enormous.
A customer-centric, long-term-oriented candidate is the right place to start. Provide the necessary training and tools to them, and see your loyal customers bring in more customers.
FAQs on Hiring an Ace Sales Team
What are some of the effective strategies for hiring a Superstar Sales Team?
7 Effective Strategies for Hiring a Superstar Sales Team
- Build a Job Profile
- Look for the ideal candidate: David Mattson’s SEARCH is a useful system to follow. It stands for Skills, Experiences, Attitude, Results, Cognitive skills, and Habits.
- Aim to hire for the long term
- Get information flowing from the candidates. Start conversations that can help you get more information from them.
- Involve the sales team early in the hiring process
- Source candidates from as many sources as possible
- Use referrals for sourcing quality candidates
- Find out ways to get in touch with the passive candidates
How much should a sales team cost?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on the industry you are in and the size of your organization. Accordingly, the number may vary from 10% to 50% or more of the organization’s revenue.
The compensation you pay to your sales reps should grow with revenue.
The following steps can help formulate a general approach:
- Freeze your sales goals, and expenditure budgets
- Consider the factors and constraints – internal and external – under which your sales team will operate
- Calculate fair remuneration as per industry standards, considering qualifications and experience
- Construct a compensation structure incorporating salary, commission, bonus, and other benefits
What is the sales-per-employee ratio?
The sales-per-employee ratio is obtained by dividing an organization’s annual sales by the total number of its employees. The higher the ratio, the better the business is considered.
Businesses that employ a large number of employees, most of whom also face the customer, find this metric useful. Examples: Airlines, retailers, restaurants, hotels, etc.
Outsourcing certain aspects of the business can boost this ratio.
What are some of the ways to recruit independent sales reps?
Employ the following methods to recruit independent sales reps:
- Hire a consultant or online Sales Rep Search services
- Attend trade shows, exhibitions, and conferences to network with sales reps
- Advertise your requirements online
- Dig deeper into LinkedIn
- Ask your customers for recommendations
- Offer more value than just an attractive compensation
Is it a good idea to outsource my sales team?
This decision varies depending on the industry, and size of your business, and the sensitivity of your processes. The nature and behavior of your customers should also be considered.
Outsourcing sales can give you access to specialized sales professionals at lower costs than your internal team. You are free to focus on your core business. It reduces the burden on your recruiting team too.
Outsourcing sales may be most effective when you are changing the direction of your business and/or want to raise your total sales number.
However, outsource your sales function only when you are convinced that the service vendor understands your products/services and systems as well as you, if not better.