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Everyone has a goal of hiring a top sales performer but the reality is many don’t succeed.

Making a bad sales hire has a huge cost to a company. They are considered one of the hardest roles to fill and hold the #1 most in-demand role out of all job functions according to LinkedIn Global Recruiting Trends Research*. Global recruitment firm Manpower ranks them as #2*. Overall talent shortages are their highest since 2006 which is a dire situation for employers.

The challenge for companies is not only is it difficult to hire salespeople, but the success of the new hire is not guaranteed. With a reported 65% of salespeople not meeting sales goals, the chances of a bad hire are stacked against companies making it a high-risk hire that has an effect on your company brand, team morale, top-line revenue, and bottom-line profit.

Managing the risk requires carefully planning, stringent process, and deep domain knowledge of top-performing sales behaviours to minimise your exposure to a poor sales hire.

Sales hiring requires a different approach and mindset to achieve a successful outcome. This is the advice that we have provided our clients across Australia, New Zealand, and North America and assisted in thousands of hires.

A shift in mindset

The first realisation for companies is that you need to prepare yourselves to be an employer that top sales performers wish to join.

Top sales performers have more choice of employers than you will have of candidates.

Your brand, your market performance, your culture, and reports from other employees play a significant role in how you will be assessed by potential hires.

The second realisation for companies is you need to build and manage the right environment for top sales performers to deliver. They do not excel despite how the company operates.

The following are key steps you need to take before you start marketing a sales role.

  1. Be prepared

Successful salespeople need the right environment and support systems to deliver their sales goals. Before creating a position description or speaking with candidates, the company department heads need to be on board, to allocate the necessary resources: sales operations support, marketing, technologies and tools, training, and compensation.

  1. Competitive compensation 

Top sales performers are not easy to find, nor are they easy to attract. They are typically already gainfully employed and delivering results in their current role. They have a good pipeline of business and have planned their income rewards from that pipeline.

You will need to offer a more competitive package to attract them and this can be above your usual range for sales employees. This can generate internal discussions, but it is worth the cost to increase the package, as they are more likely to deliver on revenue goals, and often higher sales goals than other team members. It is important to note that their existing pipeline should not be part of the reason for their acquisition. Many companies making those plans find the pipeline evaporates as former employers lock doors around the departing salesperson.

An attractive compensation package can assist bring in this top talent. It can also increase retention and incentivise desired behaviours. With an attractive package in place, you can also include additional benefits such as extended vacation, flexible time, training, and importantly career development.

  1. How candidates will evaluate you

When top-performing salespeople come for an interview, they are evaluating a new workplace for indicators that will support their ongoing success.

They will be discovering:

  • What onboarding processes, playbooks, and documentation is set up and ready to ramp up quickly?
  • What customer base or market are they required to focus on?
  • Is there a well-documented and successful sales process in place? Top candidates will often evaluate a new employer’s sales process as a key indicator of whether to take the sales organisation seriously. A well implemented sales process can increase win rates by 22%, reduce sales cycle length, and increase the average sale price. This directly impacts their earning capacity in the incentive scheme.
  • What is the alignment between sales and marketing? Is there marketing automation technology operating nurturing customers and targets?
  • What systems are in place to minimise administrative work and customer support activity?
  • Who is dedicated to sales support functions, such as territory creation, forecasting, pipeline management, coaching, report generation, technology management, and culture-building?
  • What value does the sales leadership (or executive) bring to the candidate? How do they manage, and does it foster an environment to create success for top-sellers?

We recommend if the proper sales process, sales operations, training, and onboarding resources are not in place, you should consider adjusting the hiring timeline to open the opportunity of hiring a top-performer.

  1. Defining the ideal hire

This is your opportunity to improve the sales team performance or sales leadership and take the business forward. Hiring past employees (metaphorically and actually) does not take a business forward. You need to establish the key attributes and skills that the business will require in the next 2-5 years and hire with that in mind. Do you to generate new business, or upsell existing customers or defend existing markets? Is the business looking to enter new markets or a market segment? Are you taking new products or services to market?

Consider their Sales DNA. These are the characteristics of high achievers and include ambition, confidence perseverance, resilience, and the desire to influence others. Sales DNA traits, sales capability are important considerations and more reliable than ‘gut feel’. These do not appear in a resume and need to be carefully fleshed out during interviews.

According to CSI Insights, a global sales research company, companies that have stringent hiring practices and tools attract more top sales performers. The candidates have more confidence in their sales organisation, and show higher rates of retention. In fact, research by the University of Pennsylvania shows that ‘unstructured hiring methods are so poor at delivering high-performance salespeople that companies may be better off selecting candidates at random.’

  1. Preparing the position description

The position description should provide clarity of the focus areas of the role and the measurements that are applied. It should provide sufficient detail that the person understands the expectations and performance required in the role and guide them on how the company’s sales force operates. It should convey an awareness of the culture and values of the business, the sales team, providing the brand voice and tone.

  1. Detailing Compensation and Incentive Plans

The compensation and incentive plan is an important document that clearly shows the rewards and conditions that need to be met to achieve monetary incentives. Ideally, it should include information of other benefits available giving an understanding of the company’s culture, values, and positive attitude toward employees. Top sales performers identify with positive environments surrounded by excellence and opportunities for advancement.

  1. Create an interview guide

Interviewing needs to be planned with structured questions that will provide the opportunity for the salesperson to demonstrate their capabilities and the company time to evaluate and understand the candidates fit for your requirements and explore their sales DNA.

Top sales performers are difficult to interview as they are accomplished storytellers and they can read what you want to hear often captivating those interviewing them. For companies that are not regularly interviewing sales candidates, you can be enticed into them guiding the interview to their benefit and not fully exploring their fit to your requirements. Not delving deeply enough, often due to lack of interviewer’s skills in sales or regularly interviewing candidates. Outsourced expert sales interviewers can assist in providing an objective view if they understand your role and business requirements.

Final Note

B2B sales recruitment can be tricky to find the right person. Top sales performers are likely to have multiple employment offers, and they use interviews as an opportunity to determine which company will provide the best opportunity for their career and financial reward.

If you would like to discuss your specific situation and hiring top sales performers, please reach out to us to organise a zoom conference or telephone conversation.

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© 2020 Adele Crane – All Rights Reserved.



*LinkedIn Global Recruiting Trends Report

*Manpower Solving Talent Shortage Report