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In a Recruiting Rut? Tips to Identify Top Sales Talent for 2016


As crazy as this sounds, it’s time to think about 2016 already. We’re almost through the third quarter and each individual on your team is working to plan the year ahead. As a sales manager, you need to be thinking ahead too, and that includes thinking about recruiting sales reps and hiring top talent for your sales team.

Getting hiring decisions right is important. A new sales rep can make or break your team’s ability to make quota, not to mention the time you’ll invest in the hiring process in the first place. Yet the right hire pays off in spades: For every additional year a closer works for the same sales organization, deal size increases by 30%.

And how are you doing on recruiting sales reps who are top performers? Sure, you’ve been investing in incentives, best practices and even top technology for your existing team, but hiring the right sales reps in the first place is a key ingredient in successful sales. As sales guru Anthony Iannarino says, you need to “hire the very best team you can.”

Which begs the question, how can you ensure that you’re hiring the right people to join your sales team?

The answer is, you can’t—well, not exactly. However, there are steps you can take to help guide you to finding the perfect fit for your sales team, including: being clear on your needs, creating a support system, and asking your existing team for input.

  1. Get clear on your organization’s needs
    So, you’re ready to start recruiting sales reps. Let’s put some ads on LinkedIn and see who we get! Or not! First, let’s do some internal work to ensure we don’t waste time on potential employees who aren’t a good fit. Let’s start the sales recruiting process with a solid idea of what you’re seeking in a candidate to avoid hiring the wrong person.

    Inside sales departments come in many different shapes and sizes and, although they’re all working towards the sales goal, the roles within each organization will vary. That’s why you need to look at your organization specifically as opposed to using someone else’s cookie cutter approach when defining your needs.

    You also need to know what’s really important in a candidate. Anthony Iannarino says there are certain attributes you have to have in a candidate, but there are other skills you must be prepared to teach your new sales reps. In short, he says: “You hire for attributes and train for these skills.”

    The attributes he’s referring to include the “old school” skills of prospecting, negotiating, closing, etc. The new skills he’s suggesting you need (and must be prepared to teach) include things like business acumen, change management, and leadership skills.

    You as a sales manager have to be crystal clear on the old school skills you’re looking for, as well as the new school skills you’re hoping for. Any potential candidate must possess the former and be capable of developing the latter. Consider the top performers you already have on your team. Ask yourself, what kinds of characteristics do they possess? For example, sales reps who challenge customers’ assumptions make up 54% of high performers in a complex sales environment, while only 4% of high performers are relationship builders.

    Also consider the experience they have, the skills and qualifications they brought to the table when hired vs. those they have learned since starting at your company. Knowing who your top performers currently are and the skills they had when hired will help you to spot other similar candidates when recruiting.

    94% of sales professionals say that base salary is the most important element of the compensation plan, while 62% say that commission is. Ask yourself…

  2. Plan for a support system and training
    As we’ve said above, you need to be prepared to do some training and coaching of your new hire. If you hire a coachable individual with the right traits, they can be taught the skills they need to succeed as a member of your team. You can help this to happen by putting a support system in place for your new hire ahead of time. Consider issues such as:

    • What kinds of challenges will your new hire likely face?
    • Who on your current team is best suited to train them?
    • How long will you need to train the new recruit?
    • What kinds of resources will be available to the new hire?

    Think ahead and anticipate possible challenges and obstacles a new hire might encounter. In thinking this way, you’ll fast track your new team member to success by eliminating obstacles before they appear.

    In addition to creating the support system, make sure you think through training ahead of time too. Training is incredibly important. Most companies don’t invest in training. The average company spends $10,000 to $15,000 hiring an individual, and only $2,000 a year in sales training. You can create a competitive advantage for your team by investing in training. 

    On the other hand, don’t assume training will turn any potential candidate into a rock star. They will need mentoring and coaching too, so think carefully since a new hire can take up lots of leadership time. Which takes us to step 3, because sometimes your existing team can help with that…

  3. Ask your team for input
    Your third step in ensuring you hire smart when recruiting sales reps involves your existing team. Solicit information from your current sales reps who are already working in a similar role. Ask them what traits they’d look for in a teammate.

    In doing so, you’ll get a clear picture of what type of person will be most likely to succeed on your team. And, your current sales team will also be more likely to welcome the new rep, doing their own part to coach and mentor!

    Knowledge is power, both in sales and when hiring sales reps. Open up to the resources around you before you begin conducting interviews. Looking internally into your business is the quickest, most concise way to helping you find the right hire. If you can align your business goals with your prospective candidate’s goals, you just might have the right fit. 

And, the more you know about your prospective candidate, the better the likelihood you will find the right person…and the better your results in 2016.

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