Debunked: 3 Myths on How to Best Recruit Salespeople

At every company I’ve worked for, no matter how tenured or sophisticated the recruiting team, there’s always one demographic of prospective hires that present unique challenges during the interview and offer stage: salespeople.

Now, as a sales manager, I can indeed confirm that we are not the easiest bunch to recruit. Why? We are generally impulsive (you would be, too, if you were making 60 cold calls per day!), emotional (how else could you be if your 100K quarter-saving deal falls through at the last minute?), and overall hard-to-sell-to, for obvious reasons.

That being said, we’re also the most loyal, passionate, and enthusiastic employees at most companies. After all, a large portion of what salespeople do is fighting tooth and nail, day after day, to keep the lights on.

So, the question is, how do you sell your role and your company to this complex group of people? Are they driven by money? Praise? Opportunities for growth? What?

The reason why hiring sales talent can be tricky is because every candidate looks good on the surface, as the role calls for traits that a large cross-section of your candidate pool already has: Money-motivated? Check. Hungry for success? Check. So how does your recruiting team look deeper and separate the good from the great? Meaning, how do you ensure you’re hiring salespeople who don’t just interview well, but who will also help to make measurable impact and grow your business?

In order to achieve this, you need to have a greater understanding of what motivates top sales talent, and, even more importantly, what doesn’t. As a hiring manager, I have become aware of some misconceptions of what it takes to attract and recruit all-star salespeople. I hope to debunk 3 of them for you here:

1. It’s all about the money.

Typically, no matter whether your candidates are applying for a Sales Development Representative or Account Executive role, salaries fall within 5-10K of each other. Post-tax, this variance ends up amounting to a mere pittance per pay period. Therefore, no sales candidate worth their salt would let compensation sway their decision to accept your job offer. Instead, salespeople choose their jobs based on growth opportunity. So, keep your 5-10K and instead draw out a defined and attainable growth ladder for your prospective sales hires—one that will illustrate the career they could build at your company with defined milestones and measurable goals they can exceed. Also be sure to celebrate your own workforce. If you’ve promoted a certain number of entry-level salespeople into senior roles, let your candidates know. The ones who are willing to work hard will find this stat irresistible.

2. It’s all about the perks.

In truth, if you have a sales hire who is overly drawn to your beer taps and nap pods during your interview process, don’t be surprised if they’re let go for underperformance a few months later. Sales is a tough career, and those who want to thrive in it probably won’t be the same ones spending oodles of time exploring the different flavors of kale chips in your kitchen. Salespeople care about the potential mint (aka best of the best) account territory you’re going to give them to pillage and the enriching training opportunities your company will afford them. During the structured interview, talk about their opportunity to attend conferences, share best practices with tenured industry vets, and receive world-class sales training. If you do so, you can ensure that your ping pong table will be the icing on the cake—not the main attraction.

3. It’s all about the culture.

For candidates who’ve been around the block in sales, the promise of “a good culture” is always taken with a grain of salt. After all, the sales team is often siloed and dealing with deliverables that are much more frequent and concrete than other departments. As such, your candidates won’t be drawn to a company that’s all rainbows and smiles and gummy bear hugs. What will resonate with them, on the other hand, is a supportive culture that believes in rewarding top performers and helping underperformers improve. So, lead with mention of the sales organization’s vibrant peer-to-peer coaching atmosphere, where mentorship and personal growth take center stage. Remember, salespeople embark upon this career path because they are competitive and want to be surrounded by the cream of the crop, and if you assure them that your company is the place for that, you’ll have them flooding in.

Final thoughts

Let’s remember this: Sales is a unique career path. Connotatively, the general public often thinks of salespeople as pushy door-knockers selling used cars or encyclopedias. No child grows up dreaming of being a salesperson (over the token astronaut or veterinarian). There’s few other jobs where your value to your company is determined purely by the amount of cold hard cash you bring in the door on a consistent basis.

So, as recruiters, you have to approach sales candidates differently. Put yourself in a salesperson’s shoes (read: brain)—chaos, frustration, intensity, and euphoria all ensue. Hiring sales talent is challenging even in the best of times. After all, you’re trying to convince people to take a job where their day is spent convincing other people to do something they don’t necessarily immediately want to do. Sounds exhausting, right? But if you get the right candidate—the one who can roll with the punches and still emerge triumphant and positive, you’ll have a loyal employee for life. This is why moving past the misconceptions and centering your interview around what salespeople really want is so crucial.

But the interview isn’t just about selling the candidate on your company; you also need to make sure that they’re a good fit for the role, too. The easiest way for you to do this is by coming into the interview prepared, with a list of attributes that make for a top performing sales rep and then ensuring, one by one, that your interview questions assess for these exact qualities. You can efficiently do this by incorporating a scorecard into your interview process.

Learn how a scorecard can revolutionize your interview process by checking out our interactive template, Optimize Interview Feedback with Scorecards. Simply click the button below!

Optimize Interview Feedback with Scorecards

Ali Fazal Headshot

Ali Fazal is Sr Manager of Sales Development at Greenhouse. Prior to joining the NYC-based team in October 2015, he managed sales teams at Gigya and DoubleDutch and secured funding partnerships at The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. In his spare time, he loves pub trivia, exploring New York, and indulging in any book or movie with a twist ending. Connect with Ali on LinkedIn.

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