How To Hire The Right Sales Person


By Jas Singh

This month we’re about to release our annual CEO study. We do one each year – interviewing CEO’s around the world regarding a particular theme. It’s been a six month project for us and we’ve interviewed over 500 CEO’s across the globe from various sectors.

This years study is all about sales satisfaction. Amazingly, our research showed that 58% of CEO’s ranked sales as the number one area where they felt they were underperforming.

It seems great sales people are worth their weight in gold.

Yet at the same time, finding sales people who actually perform consistently is a struggle. Turnover has never been higher, and productivity per salesperson is falling. Customers have endless choice, more complicated buying processes and are doing more due diligence than ever.

To succeed in growing, you must hire the very best sales people.

So how do you do it?

The following are a few ways in how hiring managers can increase their chances significantly in hiring the right sales people.

Focus on process

By far the most important factor in a sales candidate’s success is their mastery of the sales process. To the best sales people, selling is an art – a process – that they continuously polish.

It’s often said that great sales people can sell anything to anyone. Snow to the Eskimos, sand in the desert, an iPad to Bill Gates. It’s not because great sales people can cast a spell where we feel obliged to buy. No, it’s because great sales people undertsand the sales process and know how to develop a consistent sales pipeline that delivers results.

Too many hiring managers focus on the detail – the results of the sale. Who did you sell to? How much was the sale? What type of software was it?

Anyone can come up with convincing answers here. What is more important is to focus on the process – the actual skill the sales person has demonstrated. How did you generate the initial interest? What was your value proposition? How did you overcome that objection? How do you manage your sales process?

Consistency is key to sales. The best sales candidates will automatically be able to answer these questions.

It’s who they are.

Competitive knowledge is over-rated

Ah yes Jas I hear you say. But our solution is different. It’s much more specific. We really need someone who understands our product, our market or has the relationships. We must have someone from a competitor.

I’d be a rich man if was paid a penny every single time I have been told that.

True, competitor knowledge can be a nice-to-have but rarely is it critical in how a sales person performs. In fact many studies, such as these mentioned in one my past posts have proved that hiring top performers from competitors is on the whole mostly counter-productive.

Details can be learned. Behaviour is hard to change. It’s usually ingrained over years of learning, experience and tweaking.

The best hiring managers realise the purpose of a great sales person is to generate high quality sales activity – usually for other colleagues (who are more technical) to be involved with. Again, to the best hiring managers, the most important question they ask is “How strong is this person’s mastery of the sales process?“.

Don’t get “sold to” in the interview!

So you know what to focus on. You know what’s important. Just conduct the interview now right?

Wrong. The most difficult part awaits. You see many sales people are used to convincing others. Or “closing” to use a sales term. And over a few hours of interviewing, often the most convincing sales person can be the one who gets the job.

Sounds great in principle, since after all closing is one of the most important parts of the sales process. But it is only one part of the sales process. In order to develop a strong understanding of a sales person’s profile hiring managers need to ensure that they are screening all parts of their sales process.

Hiring managers need to stay objective as possible when hiring sales people. Almost not try and be influenced until they have gathered all the facts. The best hiring managers use a carefully designed hiring process that screens all candidates effectively using the right tools and strategies. It’s well structured and objective.

Be convinced – but also be comprehensive.


Hiring the right sales person is difficult.

Often you are dealing with intangibles – trying to assess skills and qualities more based on attitude and process rather than numbers and qualifications.

But the effort is far outweighed by the results.

Hiring managers should ensure they are using the best tools and strategies to hire only those candidates which will perform. Masters of the sales process.

Because mastery is the only route to excellence.

Are you a master of the hiring process?

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