Hire the best sales candidate

5 Step to Hiring the Best Sales Rep for Your Team

Hire the best sales candidate

Hiring for sales isn’t easy.

Hiring the best sales reps is even harder. What looks good on paper isn’t always great in real life.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the Pareto Principle definitely applies. The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, advises that 80 percent of any output will be generated by only 20 percent of the total input utilized. Therefore as applied to sales organizations, 20 percent of sales reps produce 80 percent of the business. Those in the 20 percent also are more likely to get more promotions, perks, choice-of-territory, and (of course) income.

Disconcertingly, it follows that the 80 percent bring in only 20 percent of sales. So, what does that mean for hiring sales reps? It means-odds are- you’ll probably hire the wrong rep. And it costs you. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, estimated that his own bad sales hires had cost Zappos 100 million dollars. How to get around this? 

Five suggestions on how to hire the best sales candidate:

Identify the ideal candidate

This is a crucial step. To develop a description, use these questions as a guide:

    • What has caused reps to struggle and fail?
    • How does our go-to-market make selling difficult for reps?
    • What resistance and objections will the rep encounter?
    • What should their past success track-record look like? 
    • What’s the competitive landscape they will confront?
    • What kind of support, supervision, coaching, and accountability will they get from management?

Search for the candidate

Once you identify the criteria, it can be used for posting. Describe the candidate you are looking to attract, their experiences, and accomplishments rather than a company description and list of benefits. Ads should read like: “You must have prior success selling high ticket complex conceptual services to Presidents of large companies in a highly competitive market” and end with “you must have prior income of at least $100K.” Also, refrain from using playful terms like “sales ninja” or “sales Jedi.”

Use a formal assessment tool

When working with a sales organization, one of the first questions I ask executives is how they recruit and hire sales reps. The answers range from, “our sales manager just hires people they like” to “gut feeling” to “it’s a black box; I have no idea.” No wonder they only hit a bullseye 20 percent of the time. It is surprising it’s not less. With executives admitting they have no visibility into the sales rep hiring process, further due diligence must be taken to ensure only the best are hired. Assessment tests help interviewers overcome inherent and unintended recruiting challenges and their negative implications, such as bias and involuntary turnover rates.

Additionally, in the interview environment, reps are highly skilled in presenting themselves in a manner that will cause the recruiter to react positively. Think about it. Their previous sales careers have depended upon their ability to develop warm relationships quickly, find common areas of interest, and persuade prospects to buy what they’re selling. Applying and interviewing for a new role is no different. They are merely selling themselves, and you are very likely to buy them.

Our internal research shows that sales leaders who assess their candidates immediately upon receiving a resume identified 50% more hirable candidates than those who delayed assessing until later in the process. Also, EEOC Guidelines require that if a company chooses to use an assessment, they must assess all of their candidates. Insofar as capabilities make sure the assessment you use has the following:

    • Candidate hiring recommendation
    • Hiring criterion that allows you to make adjustments for the complexity of the sales role and incorporates the organization’s requirements
    • Interviewing tips and questions to expose potential problems and consistencies
    • Predicts issues the candidate will likely encounter in the field
    • Conditions for hiring
    • Candidate ranking capabilities
    • Predicts ramp-up time

Assessing candidates early in the process ensures you don’t waste time interviewing or selecting undesirable candidates and that you understand the candidate’s skills before you meet them.

Qualify the Candidate.

This step is the most powerful of the process. It should consist of a short call where you determine whether the candidate actually meets your requirements by asking them to demonstrate how they meet your criteria. Observe how they listen to your questions, respond, whether they sound good enough on the phone to continue speaking with them or whether someone would want to cut them off. Listen to how they make their case and cut them off abruptly to see how they handle your put-off. Award points for the various criteria and score each candidate appropriately based on how they meet your criteria. 


Since you’ve already assessed the candidate’s capabilities, you can focus on other things such as verbal acuity, organizational fit, intelligence, warmth, and how this candidate would represent your company.

Remember It’s the talent on your sales team that will determine your success when working on hitting aggressive quotas and achieving your company’s future goals. And finding top performers is the difference between your company’s victory or failure in competitive markets. If you conduct your search wisely using assessment tools, you’ll find the right fit.

Best of luck to you!