Don McNamara

Article Summary:

How to hire top sales representatives.

Recruiting, Selecting & Hiring The Best Sales Representatives

Without question the most vital skills in sales management are recruiting, selecting and hiring the best sales representatives. If your goal is hire top sales performers, then you will want to read on.

Superb sales managers know the value of a solid plan to do the upfront work required to attract, interview and select the best sales performers. They have determined when and where interviews will be conducted, as well as when the identified top candidate will come aboard. Before skilled sales managers begin interviewing prospective candidates they know what they are looking for. A well thought out job description, ideally tested and verified at least one level above in management will provide a good template for selection. In the absence of a formal job description, soliciting the input of the best sales representative currently on your team works pretty well too. Next, identify the critical skills needed to be successful in sales.

Two sets of data will make up the composite picture of the candidate. One is "manifested" skills, the other "abilities and aptitudes". Manifested skills are those that are recognized through interviews, work experience and reference checks. For the most part, they are subjective since they are judgment calls made by you and others regarding the candidates' likelihood of success in your organization.

Prior to interviewing candidates create an evaluation grid that contains all the "manifested" criteria. This will keep you focused during the interviews. Candidly, these are clear indicators of what you value in your representatives. A few examples of these criteria might include:

  • years of successful sales experience in the same or related industry
  • performance compared to quota
  • written and verbal communication skills
  • appearance and general demeanor
  • listening skills
  • basic intelligence - ability to think quickly and clearly while delivering concise answers to your questions.

It would be useful to assign a weighted value to each item signifying the relative importance you place on each one. Use the grid to score the interviewees and develop your short list of candidates.

Prepare a checklist of questions to prequalify candidates during a telephone interview. This step will determine whom you wish to interview in person. Consistently using the same set of questions in both the phone interview and the in-person interview will enable you to determine your best-qualified individuals. Additionally, using a Q & A pattern avoids haloing of candidates. Choices are an inevitable part of life and advisedly we recommend you select at least two finalists based on your "manifested" criteria. Here's why: A written offer of employment that is not accepted will delay the timetable undoubtedly committed to other management.

At this step checkout all finalist references very thoroughly. Have developed a pre-set list of questions that can be posed to every reference. Offer penetrating questions like "rank David on a scale of 1 to 10 in salespersonship, personal qualities, work ethic and sales performance to quota." A question such as "If there is one thing you can think of that would improve the sales performance of David, what would you think it would be?" will open up the reference to tender details you might never have uncovered otherwise. The point is use some imagination at this step, as the more penetrating and thoughtful your questions, the better you are able to validate your prior subjective candidate assessments.

Now go to the second set of skills or objective criteria, which are the "aptitudes and abilities" of candidates. The most progressive organizations have correlated how human style and behavior affect a sales persons' ability to perform in a sales role. These can be obtained through formal assessment tools which are available today.

This type of testing can be used to match the candidate's personality or style with their adapted sales style. They can also determine how the candidate will function in a work environment. The real value lies in the ability to match how your most successful people function and what their styles are with those of the candidate. Tests results that are too far astray from what you need indicate a probable candidate misfit for the position.

To sum up, start the interviewing process fully knowledgeable about what skills, characteristics and work experience you are seeking in your candidate. Then use assessment tools which will provide you a more complete picture of the individual than simply your instinct, experience and reference checks.

Now you have succeeded in attracting the finest candidate you can find in your designated timeframe. This is not the time to rest on your laurels, so to speak. Your introduction of the new representative to your team ensures the assimilation into your group is positive. Attention to this detail is a must! Think about it. If you spent this much time planning, interviewing, doing reference checks and succeeded to this point, this is the time to maintain control of the process. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your genuine concern for your new team member and identify the new representative as a valuable member of your team. Your personal interest in this step will be appreciated and respected by the new representative and your team.

Before your candidate actually steps into this position, put together a "Getting Started Plan". In it you should identify all activities, objectives, responsible parties and dates targeted for completion of each. The list needs to be chronologically prioritized with most important activity to least important. As these activities are completed, use this as an opportunity to discuss the progress the new sales person is making. Your positive feedback will energize the new representative and serve to encourage completion of activities even faster.

A couple of milestones are achieved when you take an active and participatory role in the hiring process. You establish your leadership style. Secondly, you create a roadmap for your representative that can be measured and from which both of you are accountable. You can confidently and knowingly put a "success" plan in place that is realistic, discerned, and from which you can lead from a responsible and authoritative position. Rather than leaving the new employee wandering about aimlessly, you put him or her on a plan so together you can measure progress toward every identified objective.

Superior sales management begins at the time of the initial face-to-face interview. What happens thereafter and throughout your supervision of the representative is directly reflective of the leadership you have previously displayed. Furthermore supervising the sales activities, as well as setting meaningful and cooperative goals for your representative will be smoother thereafter. Delegation and abdication of any of the steps mentioned might require corrections that are time consuming. Not withstanding your new hire attaining quota immediately, it is difficult to imagine any single activity of sales management more gratifying than succeeding in bringing aboard another top performer.

Don McNamara CMC is a Certified Management Consultant and sales management consultant, trainer, coach, professional speaker and expert witness. Don has over 30 years sales experience from the field level to executive sales management. For more information and free ezine visit

Read all advice by Don McNamara ; Find more Sales Management experts

More advice on Sales Management
» How to Retain Top Sales Reps
» Coaching Sales Reps
» all Sales Management articles