How To Find & Hire Winning Sales Reps (The “A Players”)
If you want a winning sales team, you need to hire sellers with the right combination of skills and traits.
Raw talent is amazing, but it’s not enough these days — you need expert training programs to mold raw talent and genuine effort into “A players” that can meet — and exceed— their quotas.
Knowing how to hire the best salespeople is critical to the success of your sales process — and that’s exactly what we’ll break down in this guide.
Recruiting Top Sales Talent is No Longer Optional
This is even more true for SaaS startups — where sales professionals are struggling the most due to tougher market conditions and selling for a brand with less recognition.
The right salespeople should come to the table with essential sales skills, but they also need to have the right combination of traits.
👉Sales Hiring Masterclass: How to Hire SaaS Reps That Sell Like Crazy! 🚀
Key Qualities of a Great Sales Rep
When you’re hiring a sales rep, the first thing to look for is some experience and common essential sales skills.
Every sales rep should have these skills:
- Upselling and cross-selling
- Overcoming objections
- Knowing how to close a deal
- Cold calling
- Knowledge of advanced sales strategies
Similarly, you’ll also want to look for traits that are typically necessary for high-performing salespeople.
These traits include the following:
- Empathy to understand and connect with a customer’s pain points
- Confidence to be able to cold call, approach new people, and represent your brand well
- Quick on their feet, with strong problem-solving skills
- Developed communication skills, including clear communication and persuasion abilities
- Persistence to get the job done well and follow up with clients regularly
- Honest, as dishonest salespeople can get you in a world of hurt with potential clients and could end up trying to snag commission from team members
👉Recommended: How Great Sales Managers Crush Their First 90 Days 🚀
Here's the Foundation of GREAT SaaS Sales Hiring: Unmistakable Clarity
Hiring managers must recruit sellers that are aligned to the current sales experience at their organization.
Sales leadership should have unmistakable clarity on what’s expected in every sales role in order to build a complete, well rounded sales department.
Crafting a Sales Job Description
The first step to finding top talent is to create a sales job description that will successfully attract the ideal candidate.
You want to create a sales job description that sets your business— and the job— aside from the other positions on every job board online.
Using templates to create a strong job description can be a good option. There are plenty of free templates online, including this list of sales job description templates from Monster and this sample template from ZipRecruiter.
Whether you use a template or not, though, make sure you include these essential elements in your sales job posting:
- Position title
- Position summary
- Responsibilities and duties
- Requirements and qualifications
- Salary information
- Any information that makes your posting competitive, including about benefits like retirement benefits, unlimited vacation time, or bonuses
Initiating the Hiring Process
The hiring process can be extensive and time-consuming, but knowing what to expect can help you streamline the entire journey and help you find the right fit for your sales team.
In many cases, it’s best to break down the hiring process into three distinct stages: recruitment, screening, and interviewing.
The Sales Recruitment Process
You’ve already crafted an outstanding sales job posting so now is the time to take advantage of that. Utilize job boards and social media to get as much visibility as possible on your sales jobs.
LinkedIn is a gold mine for hiring salespeople. When you share a job post on your company and personal page, everyone following those pages can see it appear in their feed. And if they interact with it, all of their followers can see it. You may have people sharing the job posting, tagging potential candidates who would be a great fit, or reaching out to message you directly.
Referrals are a great choice for finding potential candidates for sales positions. Social media (and LinkedIn in particular) is a good start, but make sure you also ask existing employees and people in your network if they have anyone they’d recommend, too.
According to data from Zippia, employees hired after a referral are more likely to stick around longer (45% of referral hires stay longer than 4 years, compared to 25% of job hires), and are 25% more profitable on average.
Consider launching a formal internal employee referral program to incentivize existing team members to refer potential candidates, and let them know when you’re ready to recruit new sales team members.
It’s important to have basic screening processes in place to weed out strong applicants right from the beginning. Just as you want your sales team to hone in on high-intent, high-quality leads when they’re allocating time and resources, you want to do the same thing during the hiring process.
During the application, ask screening questions like:
- What sales experience do you have?
- What sales training have you had?
- Have you had positions where you regularly met sales quotas?
Some application software will also allow you to attach personality tests to the application process itself. Tests like the DiSC assessment can help you find candidates that are a strong culture fit and who possess the traits you’re looking for.
The Interview Process
Pre-screening and carefully reviewing sales candidate applications is great, but the interview process is invaluable when you’re building a solid sales team.
Anyone can put anything they’d like on a resume, but phone calls and in-person interviews are essential to accurately assess a candidate’s sales experience and sales skills. You can see how well applicants think on their feet, how persuasive they are, and how well they listen to your questions (which is a vital skill in selling).
During this process, you’ll be evaluating a candidate’s ability to make sales calls and do cold calling. How quickly are they able to build rapport with new people, and how comfortable are they with different communication formats?
The right interview questions are critical to assessing the candidate’s sales skills.
These are a few good questions and discussions to start with:
- Tell me about your past sales experience. The more relevant the experience, the better.
- What is your biggest strength as a salesperson? You want to listen for answers like “really listens to the customers’ needs” or “persistent with follow-up.” Salespeople who talk about pressuring or manipulating potential buyers shouldn’t make the cut.
- How do you feel about working as part of a team? Many salespeople are used to working somewhat independently, but you always want team players.
Selecting and Onboarding New Salespeople
During the interview process, a few strong candidates will typically emerge. It’s time to select your new salespeople and get them onboarded. Let’s look at that process.
Finalizing the Right Candidates
When choosing which applicants to hire, remember to select sales candidates who have the necessary skills but who also fit your company culture. You could find a great top performer with solid numbers, but who is overly aggressive and destroys the rest of the team’s camaraderie.
It’s vital to ensure that the new sales rep can integrate with existing team members and contribute positively to the culture instead of altering it.
Sales managers should make the final selection of new hires. They’ll know their team best, and can find a great fit as a result.
Onboarding Processes for New Hires
A structured onboarding process for new sales representatives will keep the hiring process efficient and ensure that your new team members are brought up to speed quickly and efficiently.
A documented process is best, because it’s repeatable and predictable, and it guarantees nothing critical is left out.
Onboarding best practices include:
- Have your team members complete all necessary paperwork with HR
- Train the new hires on the ins and outs of your products and brands, including your unique selling proposition (USP) and essential features
- Educate hires on buyer personas and ideal customer profiles (ICPs)
- Teach team members how to use your tech stack, including your chosen communication software
- Share access to sales materials, including pitch decks or battle cards
- Train sales strategies used by your team
- Inform hires of core competitors and where you stand in the market
Always use CRM systems like Salesforce or Hubspot during onboarding. These are critical tools for all sales team members, so you need to make sure that new hires are up to speed.
And don’t forget to incentivize new hires for better performance. Early bonuses or the promise of that first commission check can go a long way to motivating team members to step up quickly.
Training and Equipping Sales Team Members
The hard work isn’t over once your new hires are onboarded; ongoing training and supporting your sales team is vital to their long-term success (and, ultimately, their own job satisfaction and retention rates). If you want to attract, retain, and help launch new talent in sales, training is the first step.
Training the Sales Team
When designing training, make sure that you’re considering your brand’s specific sales cycle.
Train team members on both inbound and outbound sales techniques. Presentations explaining different techniques— like feature-benefit selling or cross-selling— should be accompanied by demonstrations and, whenever possible, role training.
Consider investing in formal sales training programs that focus on skill development. These courses provide actionable skills and strategies, going beyond “just the theory.” You can check out some of our sales training courses to learn more.
Equipping the Sales Team
In addition to training, you also need to give your sales team everything they need to reach their monthly quotas.
Does your tech stack have everything they need to do their job well? Do they have access to:
- Scheduling software for instant booking for client calls
- CRMs with advanced features to help them manage sales tasks and customer data
- High-quality lead databases
- Resources like brochures, pitch decks, pricing guides, and ready-made demos
Set up effective communication channels within your sales organization so that your team can request resources as soon as they need them. Email, phone, and instant-communication platforms like Slack are often used by sales teams around the world.
Evaluating and Maintaining Top Sales Talent
Knowing how to spot, nurture, and retain top talent will keep your sales team high-performing for years to come. It can help you reduce the number of new team members that you’re onboarding, saving you an enormous amount of money in hiring and training costs, and also allows your top talent to invest back into your brand, too.
Regular assessment of all sales professions’ ability to close deals is paramount. Sales managers want to review progress towards achieving monthly quotas, including both acquiring new customers and retaining existing clients.
Motivating sales reps with incentives like commissions, bonuses, or other perks can improve performance. And, if any team members are struggling, regular performance evaluations can help you figure out what they need help with.
Regular feedback can help each team member grow, and personalized training or support where needed can help every salesperson excel over time— even if they were struggling.
Retaining the Best Salespeople
Do you know what will keep your top talent around?
You want to retain every great salesperson on your team, and understanding what makes them stay can be a game-changer.
In many cases, the following increases employee retention:
- Recognizing hard working employees with incentives, public recognition, and career advancement opportunities
- Ensuring that you’re offering a competitive salary package and are offering regular raises to keep team members from jumping ship
- Cultivating a positive company culture to retain sales talent
- Continually investing in career advancement and skills development for your employees
- Sales managers and leaders empowering their team
- Feeling supported with training, resources, and technology
The Bottom Line: Finding Qualified Candidates Takes Hard Work
All great sales organizations should be investing in continual learning and development. There’s plenty of room for “raw” talent to build outstanding sales skills, but you can’t teach hunger.
Sales can be a stressful and difficult career, and it isn’t the right fit for everyone. Those underperforming team members can be shifted to another role, or, if needed, let go.
Because sales is the face of your organization and directly impacts your business’s financial bottom line, you can’t afford to keep low-performing sales team members. They could be losing deals that other team members could win, sending money straight to your competition.