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Hiring Competent Salespeople to Grow your Business

young salesperson shakes hands with her potential new boss
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A business is only as good as its employees, and salespeople can make or break any business. You can have the best product or service, but it will not matter when a salesperson is a bridge between you and acquiring a new customer. Low-grade salespeople can get in the way of customer’s buying, whereas competent salespeople open new business doors.

The first barrier to hiring competent salespeople is moving on from the mindset of looking for cheap hires to cut down your overhead or fit salary bandwidths. When hiring salespeople, that is the exact opposite way to think about the process. It’s not about hiring within a bandwidth of salary; it’s about hiring talent that can add value.

We often see human resource departments discard great applications based on the salary bandwidth. For example, we recently observed a multi-national HR department negotiate over $10,000 in a base salary to lose the candidate by refusing to expand the salary bandwidth. A person with industry expertise, a proven track record, and effective sales capability. They are still in the market looking for a cheap hire with a vacancy now open for four months long.

The hardest lesson companies learn is that there are many salespeople who are experts at being mediocre.

It may seem that a mediocre salesperson is all that is available in the market, but it makes no sense to limit your company’s growth. Hiring people who have the right answers in an interview, a welcoming personality, and a good smile does not make a salesperson. Anyone can put on a good show and sales pitch at an interview, and often the top sellers behave opposite to the cultural profile of sellers. They are quiet and won’t sell in interviews – they are assessing your company with more competence than the hiring department.

If you are not getting competent salespeople to apply, you need to take a long hard look at your brand, culture, leadership, and hiring plan. Do not waste your time with undesired sales candidates.

Finding competent salespeople is not easy, but they exist, and there is more of them than people would be aware of. The challenge today is that selling is hard work, and smart sellers are not going to set themselves up in a role that will be harder than necessary.

1.  You don’t know what to look for

2.  The role on offer is out of date

3.  Your brand is dull

4.  You don’t provide enough benefits

5.  You offer no long-term growth

Change is a constant, and in sales, change frequently occurs; changes in buyer behaviour and sales environments. One change that affects you is hiring processes that worked for the baby boomer generation will not work for the millennials and younger generations that make up your sales force today. Sales managers need to adjust their priorities in hiring sales reps.

A new generation of sales employees is entering the workforce and particularly in technology and more new-age industries. What this means is that traditional hiring methods of hiring industry people are no longer relevant.

Talented salespeople use the same prospecting techniques that they use in selling. They research and target companies they want to work for. They are looking for companies that see the value of their sales teams and market directly to salespeople in dedicated environments. You will be most unlikely to catch them looking for a job on a general job board.

Before hiring sales talent, you need to have a strategy and vision of what profile sales hire to attract. Next, you need to get your marketing department involved and promote that profile in dedicated environments where the sales community is prospecting potential employers. The content should convey the culture and brand of your business and be on specialist job boards that provide content, training, and other resources for sales professionals.

Provide competent salespeople with the opportunity to follow your company and be first in line when vacancies are opened. Modernise how you market for salespeople instead of thinking in the old recruitment model.

Buyers have changed, sales processes have changed and the structure of sales organisations has changed. How you manage sales teams has definitely changed and what you ask them to do. But when you read job advertisements, they are rigid, boring and very much yesterday in the mind of the millennials and younger generations. Competent salespeople quickly assess that the company is behind the times.

Recruiters have forever written advertisements based on a job description. A set of requirements that must be fulfilled and an easy option to write advertisements. It makes their job easier, in theory. But, on the other hand, no one wants to take on a role that is outdated, routinely boring and the same they have been doing in their current position.

The same job, a different logo is the death of a candidate’s enthusiasm. However, that is what most companies feel the most comfortable hiring. They disregard like industries, career-motivated individuals and trainability.

Today, the salespeople hold the cards, and they are looking to step up and seek companies that allow them to take that next step. They manage their careers carefully, and career progression is important to them. They want a company that will not grind them filling in CRMs, the number of appointments they attended and the traditional sales activities. They are looking for trust, meaningful engagement, mentoring, winning cultures and rewards.

Your brand matters more than ever to competent salespeople who are millennials and younger generations. They place a premium on experience and online reputation and base their decisions on social media reviews. To attract talent, you need to make sure your company’s culture is seen by many as fun, engaging, and rewarding.

Your company values people over outdated systems. You promote health and happiness, and rewards. Your company culture will define the quality of candidates you attract. Millennials want a place that is more than just work; they want it to be social too.

Competent salespeople know a dull company leads to tedious work and avoid it at all costs.

Often deemed an American philosophy, the payment of larger incentives is a must when hiring millennials and younger generations. They are career-focused and look at retirement and asset portfolios in a shorter timeline than baby boomers. Competent salespeople have crafted their skills to earn commissions and incentives, not a flat salary with a token bonus.

Rewards and incentives are extremely important and one of the highest priorities when looking for a sales job. The objective of hiring competent salespeople is to increase revenue, and you cannot expect them not also to apply that thinking in their earnings. Therefore, your company needs to be flexible and generous with your salary package offer as that is one of the major barriers to getting someone in the door.

Of course, always be honest when it comes to compensation, as your reputation can be tarnished quickly in today’s online reviews and can seriously harm your reputation for years to come. Demonstrate how others are earning rewards and how they can reap more. Provide a salary package that includes a flexible schedule, training, and other perks first. Then surprise them with a handsome base salary and reward plan.

A quick look at the leadership and team members of a company on LinkedIn can provide sales candidates with more than enough knowledge of career progression in a company. For example, if the sales leadership has been in place for 10-15 years and all the reporting roles are stable, that was considered a good thing. But for millennials and younger generations, that is a red flag of a stagnant career.

They are looking for development opportunities, more responsibility, and more complex customer accounts to target and manage. They know that is the career escalation that will deliver the most compensation rewards.

Have it well documented the path upwards and the promotion and rewards possible. Establish some timelines and, where possible, communicate the career progression of others in the company.

You need competent salespeople to deliver growth and forecasted revenue, but they are hard to find and do not come cheap.

To attract the right sales candidates to join your team, you need to be relevant to today’s market. You need to apply a hiring process aligned to your sales candidate’s behaviour and not just follow dated practices. You need to do your part as a responsible employer that values its salespeople and engages with candidates through how modern salespeople operate to deliver results.

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About the Author: Adele Crane

A leader in Implementation Consulting.
CEOs and Managing Directors have relied on Adele Crane to solve challenges with the performance of their sales and marketing since 1990. Her consulting experience in delivering results in 90-120 days is unprecedented by any other known sales and marketing consulting professional in the world. As an author of 3 acclaimed books, appearances on major media, and publications in USA, NZ and Australia, Adele’s experience brings fresh thinking and contemporary practices to business.