For many startups, hiring their first salesperson can be stressful, as there are many risks when hiring a seller. So, how and where do you start to find a good seller that suits your needs, without putting your reputation and investment at risk?
When recruiting sales talent there are two recommended options, these are to search within your immediate network or search outside of it. However, not only is the source of the candidates important but also making sure it’s the right time to hire someone.
Look inside and outside your network
Is there anyone within your network who possesses the skills you are looking for? Identify the people in your network with an entrepreneurial spirit and talk to them about how to join your company. If you can’t find anyone in your immediate network, ask for references. Explain what you are looking for in a salesperson and ask your contacts to introduce you to potential candidates.
Instead of focusing on looking for sales expertise, focus on finding talented people in sales. Here are some of the key characteristics of a good salesperson:
- Charisma and charm
- Excellent communication skills
- Compassionate and competitive nature
- High rejection tolerance
And the best place to find these features is right under your nose, in your immediate network. If this doesn’t work, start looking outside your network.
It may be tempting to take a look at job listings like Craigslist or look for a qualified salesperson with over 10 years of experience, but no, our goal is still sales talent, not experience.
If you didn’t find anyone in your immediate network, find a business in your market that is only a couple of years ahead of you that has an established and successful sales team, contact one of their junior sales representatives, and propose a telephone conversion. Take that opportunity to explore whether or not they would fit in. If the person matches the profile you are looking for and is interested, suggest a formal interview. If they are not, thank them for their time and ask them one last question.
However, it is also not impossible for the person on the other side of the telephone to reject your proposal. If this happens, turn your rejection into a reference, some of the best hires start as references. If the person rejects the interview offer, that’s fine. Thank them for their time and, just before hanging up the phone, ask for a referral, ask for an extremely talented acquaintance who might have a good profile for the job.
But… is this really the right time to hire a salesperson?
Hiring your first full-time salesperson is a big step. Are you sure it’s the right time? If it’s too soon, you risk losing contact with your market. There are two questions that need to be asked to know if your company is ready to hire a salesperson:
Does the sales process present complexities for you when it comes to your largest sales? Hiring a salesperson probably won’t make much difference in a frictionless sales process.
Is my customer lifetime value (CLV) enough to hire someone? You must have a substantial CLV before hiring a full-time salesperson.
In case you have answered both questions yes, and you do need to hire a salesperson, here are some tips that will be useful during the selection process:
- The best place to find the ideal candidate is everywhere. Use more than one recruitment tool. There are many potential vendors and they all use different means to find opportunities, be it in the newspaper, at job fairs, referrals, etc. Exhaust your sources.
- During the interview, don’t waste time asking the candidate how his or her personality would fit into your company, that’s something you can probably find out in the first few seconds without asking. However, there are thousands of potential questions to ask a salesperson that you should consider; here are a few questions you might consider adding to the interview:
- What has been your biggest sales success? Why?
- How would you feel if a purchasing manager said he would give you a very large sale in exchange for a small commission?
- What do you like to do the most? Sell or manage?
- Do you like our product?
- Would you be able to sell a product that you are not passionate about?
- Telephone interaction with a candidate is also important, maintain a telephone conversation with the candidate. What is his or her voice like? Is it strong? Authoritative? Is the impression you want for your company? After the telephone conversation, suggest a physical interview where you will meet face to face, become an expert in body language and study whether the salesperson is confident, makes eye contact, etc.
- If you decide not to do it yourself, but to hire a recruiter, find recruiters who specialize in your industry, know more about the field and the profile of candidates who tend to apply makes a big difference in finding new talent for your company.
- Consider the probationary period. Salespeople can also be good at selling themselves. This can result in salespeople over-selling themselves during the interview and then not delivering enough when hired.
And remember, recruiting is the most important aspect of growing your business and achieving new profitability standards, so never stop looking for salespeople. The market is competitive.