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Sales Recruit: How to hire top-producing sales people?

· Sales and Marketing

Many of you may have heard of the Pareto Principle, commonly known as the 80/20 rule, which says that 80% of any output will be generated by only 20% of the total input utilized. For sales recruiters, the equation is simple: the better the hire, the better the sales numbers.

But how to choose when one has both experienced and freshers during the sales recruit?

Experienced Salespeople vs Fresh Recruits

The benefits of hiring experienced salespeople are clear: They are armed with product knowledge, time and territory management skills, and the general know-how that comes with being a professional, experienced hires are expected to “ramp-up” more quickly than their inexperienced counterparts who come straight from college or university.

While experienced hires ramp up quicker, their performance tends to flatten over time, meaning that while they start out performing well, they tend not to improve very much. Contrast that with what the research team found in regards to inexperienced hires from collegiate sales programs. While these individuals start off at a lower level of performance, after all, they have to learn those finer points of being a professional salesperson – their performance takes off and significantly eclipses that of experienced hires, generally around 18 months post-hire.

According to the Sales Education Foundation (SEF), it is ideal to hire:

(1) Highly experienced individuals who have proven themselves in the field;

(2) Inexperienced individuals that can be molded to the firm’s culture, methods, etc., and

(3) Inexperienced individuals who have participated in collegiate sales education programs and possess knowledge in a general sales method, yet are not colored by the context of their prior experience.

What are the top seller traits?

When it comes to hiring top talent, the best sales recruiters aim for the top 20%. But how exactly do you separate the high achievers from the rest?

The Harvard Business School conducted an in-depth study in this area, and found that the top sellers possessed the following character traits:

  • Full acceptance of responsibility for results 
  • Above-average ambition and desire to succeed 
  • Above-average willpower and determination (self-discipline is a key) 
  • Intensely goal-oriented 
  • High level of customer empathy 
  • Impeccable honesty 
  • “Does-not-take-no” personality 
  • The ability to approach strangers, even when it’s uncomfortable 

If you’re a sales recruiter, the challenge you face is that these traits are very difficult to ascertain from a job application or an interview.

So, how can you determine whether a smooth talker is a future star performer?

Most sales managers require a person to have industry experience as a prerequisite for the job. Product knowledge can be learned; soft skills need to count as well because you can’t teach your employees ambition as that comes from the person’s character.

Ultimately, what a sales recruiter is looking for is a candidate who has a strong work ethic and a burning desire to succeed. You want someone who will make the effort to become a valued, integral part of your workforce. And maybe it’s time sales recruiters drop “experience required” from job listings. Instead, look for motivated people who can’t wait to excel.

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