Revenue is the lifeblood of any business. Without money, you can’t keep your doors open. There are a lot of ways to avoid that fate. For small businesses dependent on sales, one of the best ways is to hire exceptional salespeople.
Hiring any new employee for your small business is easier than done. And masterful salespeople, in particular, don’t magically show up on your doorstep. You have to find, court, and interview them. This guide will help you best identify and hire the talented salespeople you need to grow your business.
Where to Find Good Salespeople
For certain types of roles, posting your opening on the major online job search sites is a tried-and-true way to find potential employees. When it comes to sales people though, you need to look beyond Indeed, Monster, and GlassDoor. There are several sites for sales positions that you should bookmark. They include:
You can’t just rely on job board postings, however. A joint survey from Adler Associates and LinkedIn found that 83% of employees with a full-time job aren’t actively seeking work. That means you can’t wait for a great salesperson to come to you. You’ll have to go recruiting.
Becoming Your Own Recruiter
Because commissioning a professional recruiter may be prohibitively expensive for a small business owner, you may have to act as your own recruiter. That may sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. A great place to start is to research companies with large sales teams. Sales Benchmark Index compiles a handy Top 100 list you can use to identify potential sources of working sales talent.
From there you can, for example, go LinkedIn and search for the company’s page, which will include a link to their employees who are members of LinkedIn. If you’re viewing a larger organization, you may want to search on “sales” and a specific location to shorten the list of individuals. You can check out the profiles of the salespeople you like and then reach out with an InMail message to gauge their interest.
Because you may be allowed only so many InMail messages, depending on your LinkedIn account, another option is to figure out the person’s work email address. Once you know where an individual salesperson works, see if you can determine what email address format the company uses, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Then send an email until your message goes through. If you hear back and the individual expresses interest, then you’re on your way. If they’re not interested, you can still turn your efforts into a win by asking them to recommend someone who might be.
Face-to-face recruiting through networking is another important option, especially depending on the type of small business you run. But don’t rely only on your personal network — colleagues and friends — for referrals. Be more active about targeting networks where salespeople will be found. A great way to do that is to attend sales conferences, like INBOUND or AA-ISP Digital Sales World. Use the time before keynotes, or during mixers, to strike up conversations with those around you. You may find yourself a viable candidate — or someone who can recommend one.
How to Woo Top Salespeople
Whether you’re writing a job posting, or making your pitch to someone in person, you need to know how to court a prospective salesperson. And you have to do it well. After all, you’re trying to sell a salesperson. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Be authentic. Avoid empty corporate speak (“core competency”) and ditch the buzzwords (“synergy”). Steer clear of fake casualness (don’t describe anyone as a “ninja” or “samurai”).
- Avoid using the passive voice. Salespeople are action driven. Echo that with your language.
- Use short sentences, and get your points across fast.
- Like any employee, salespeople value upward mobility. If your small business can offer that, stress it in your pitch.
- If you can’t emphasize upward mobility, advertise your financial incentives. Competitive commission structures or base salaries especially appeal to salespeople.
- Familiarize yourself with why salespeople leave jobs. Emphasize that prospects won’t encounter challenges like difficult quotes, or poor sales tools, if they work with you.
- The top five things sales professionals care about? Compensation/benefits, good work/life balance, long-term strategic vision, challenging work, and a strong career path. Make sure your job pitch stresses at least three of these top five.
Work these elements into your job postings or conversations, and your courtship will be much more effective.
Spotting Your Next Hire
Once you’ve learned how to find and court a job candidate, your next step is to learn how to identify a good salesperson. You need to be able to spy the qualities and talents that will make them a valuable addition to your small business.
There are several attributes that distinguish great salespeople, including verbal acuity and an achievement-oriented personality. Scour resumes and cover letters for evidence of both. A salesperson who demonstrates verbal acuity is able to express themselves clearly. Look for an achievement-oriented personality in how they list their accomplishments and successes. These will offer hints on who to narrow in on.
Now, while experience is always important, be cautious about placing too much weight on it. Potential is important, too. That’s partly because, as a small business owner, you may not be able to afford an experienced veteran. And, also, finding someone with potential means finding someone who can grow and develop with your business. They’ll be more adaptable to what your business needs, and less conditioned by experiences from past jobs.
Identifying “potential” can be challenging. It’s almost an instinctual reaction to a combination of personality, energy, and skill. Trusting your gut is rarely bad advice. But keep an eye out for the qualities above, and you’ll be able to back up your instincts with something more concrete.
Effectively Interviewing Candidates
Job interviews are the time you can ensure candidates practice what they preach. For hiring salespeople, there are pre-interview tools you want to consider using. Assessment programs like TriMetrix and SalesAssessment.com help establish a baseline of selling skills, so be sure to take advantage of them to make sure you’re getting what’s advertised.
Beyond assessments, there’s the interview process itself. In addition to following general tips about making any job interview a good one, there are ways also to specifically evaluate salespeople. The interview is where you can further assess both experience and potential. You can do this by asking questions like:
- “Tell me about a time you lost a sale and what you learned from it.”
- “Was there ever a time you were about to lose a sale and then turned it around? How did you do that?”
- “What methods do you use to track your sales success rates?”
Don’t only ask prospects about past performance (such as sales records), but also about what they’d like to improve on. Their answers will give you a glimpse of how they see their own potential and ambition. At the same time, it will also help you imagine how they’ll help your business down the road.
Be sure to ask about market knowledge and trends. Ask about what magazines, newsletters, or podcasts they consume. Inquire about what conferences they attend. Prompt them to predict where the profession will be in five years. If a candidate is keeping an eye on current and upcoming best practices, you’ll know their abilities will keep pace with changes. Not just that, but it means they’ll be able to bring some of those changes to your small business.
Finding and hiring a new employee can be an intimidating process. That can especially be the case when you’re looking for someone whose skills may be very different from your own — like a salesperson. But if you search in the right places, learn how to best court them, become familiar with how to identify top salespeople, and become a master at interviewing and assessing them? You’ll find yourself with an exceptional salesperson working for you in no time, which can help your business — and its bank account — achieve success.