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6 Tips for Hiring Salespeople

When you hire a salesperson for your team, you can never be sure whether you’ve made the right choice. A mistake can cost the company a lot of money, yourself a lot of sleep, and waste everyone’s time. So taking a few precautions during the hiring process is a very wise decision. Here are some steps you can take to help prevent hiring disasters.

Check the Job Description

When you decide to bring on a new salesperson, odds are that you just grab the old job posting out of the drawer — or off your hard drive — and use that. But before you do, give it at least a quick read-through to confirm that your posting actually says what you want it to. If you’ve been using the same job description for years, it may well be obsolete in several areas. Needless to say, it’s also a good idea to check for spelling and grammar issues. These seemingly minor typos can be a major turnoff for some very good candidates.

Review the Qualifications

After you’ve publicized your job opening, you’ll probably get more than your share of resumes. So before you start wading through the blizzard of applications you can save yourself a lot of time by determining exactly what you want. Write down your minimum requirements for the job, and under that list any desired requirements that you don’t require but would consider a bonus. You can then use your list to narrow down the application pile fairly quickly. Such a list is also useful for prioritizing the ones that do qualify at a minimum level.

Use Consistent Interview Questions

Write out your interview questions well in advance, and use that same set of questions for every interview you conduct. That gives you a chance to compare apples to apples, since you can see how each of your top candidates answered the same questions. Of course, if something else occurs to you in mid-interview, go ahead and ask. But the core set of questions should be the same for everyone.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

A job interview definitely counts as a sales situation, and just as in a sales presentation, open-ended questions help you to extract more information than close-ended ones. In fact, you’ll often end up finding things out that you’d never have though to ask for specifically. These unexpected tidbits are often the bits of information that help you the most in making your final decision. At least one or two of your questions should be “story” questions that elicit a long response. For example, you might ask a candidate what his sales process consists of from beginning to end, or ask them to show you their current sales pitch.

Gauge Overall Appearance

A good salesperson needs to present a professional demeanor. Her clothes should be professional, neat, and not overdone. Her body language should project confidence but not arrogance. She should above all seem likeable, and be able to build rapport with you. Someone who uses bad language, is unkempt, or generally seems off is probably not going to be successful selling for your company.

Test His Sales Skills

An interview is an excellent opportunity to test the candidate’s sales skills, since he should be able to sell himself effectively as a candidate. You can observe him in action by using the same kinds of delaying tactics that a hesitant prospect would use, and seeing how he responds. For example, a certain VP of Sales for a Fortune 500 company likes to test candidates by standing up midway through the interview and announcing, “I’m sorry but I don’t think this is going to work out. Good luck to you.” Then he observes how the candidate handles this objection.

About the author

My first sales position was a summer job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. I continued through a variety of sales jobs ranging from retail sales for a storage company to selling bank products for a Fortune 500 financial institution.

As a small business owner, I now focuses on selling for my own company, Tailored Content, a website content provider. I write on a wide range of topics but my primary focus is sales and how to sell effectively.