4 Tips for Hiring Rockstar Sales Reps

As any hiring manager knows, getting a new sales rep in the door is difficult. On average, companies spend a full eight days longer trying to fill technical sales jobs than they do other positions. That extra time spent isn’t just frustrating, but potentially damaging to the business: Paycor Inc., for example, told The Wall Street Journal that it “would have forecast $2 million more in 2015 revenue if it had hit its 2014 hiring goals.”

But even though sales reps are in high demand, companies are also careful not to make a hasty decision. Sales reps are a big investment, with a typical six-to-nine-month ramp time and an 11.7% higher base salary today than in 2010. It’s critical to select the right candidates to train and retain for the long run.

As Inkling’s Director of Sales Operations, I’ve spent a lot of time screening and hiring sales reps. In the first part of this two-part series, I’m sharing four of my own tried-and-true rules to consider before you even start the interview:

1. Don’t always hire the best.

Sounds counterintuitive, right? But here’s what I mean: for a small company or a startup, hiring top-notch reps from the get-go is expensive. Plus, there’s no guarantee that they’ll stick around or that they’re the right rep for your organization (more on that below).

Instead, look for reps that you can develop and advance through your organization. Create your own structured training program, much like an internal university, complete with the right sales enablement tools, coaching program, and advancement opportunities. Not only will you churn out more consistently successful reps, but they’ll be happier at your company, too.

2. It’s about who they know.

You’re probably already looking for reps with experience in your industry–you know that they’ll have a leg up on the business acumen and a better sense of how to sell your product. But as much as it’s important for reps to know how to sell to the right people, it’s also important to consider who they know, too. Think about how you can leverage connections with your hires, and buy into the right contacts.

3. Define your own success.

There’s not a one-size-fits-all sales rep. Different people are better suited to sell different products, and it’s important to identify the qualities that make your reps successful.

For example, some people like being rewarded quickly–they enjoy selling fast and racking up a lot of inexpensive deals. For others, it’s more rewarding to play the long game and wait for a big fish. Whatever the case, think critically about the type of reps that your organization needs, and look for those reps in your hires.

4. Always raise the bar.  

As your organization grows, and with it your brand name, you can afford to raise the bar with each new hire. Not only will better reps bring in more deals, but they’ll help existing reps develop and grow. Of course, it’s important to make sure that your sales culture allows for that: try to prevent cutthroat competition among the team, and encourage your reps to learn from one another.

The bottom line:

Finding the right reps is no easy feat. Mostly, it takes a lot of patience and a little luck, but having the right hiring framework will go a long way. Once you have a good sense of who you need (and how you’ll train them once they’re on board), it’s time for the most important part: the interview. In my next post, I’ll offer up some interview insights so you know exactly how to pinpoint the right rep, once you’ve got them in the door.

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