Scattered wooden blocks with white icons symbolizing a salesperson on each block with a magnifying glass focused on one of the blocks - depicting How to Hire Great Salespeople

How to Hire Great Salespeople

Today, I want to share some insights that might challenge you to refine your current approach to hiring high-quality sales staff. One of the most frequently asked questions I get from my customers is “How do I hire great salespeople?”. This question usually follows expressions of frustration due to repeated attempts at hiring people that seemed great in interviews but ultimately failed once on-boarded.

Why is it so darned hard to hire good salespeople? There are many reasons, but essentially, it’s easy to think that someone is going to do a great job because they give off certain cues and signals. You’ve seen it in the interviews…

a) They are charming, enthusiastic, personable and vibrant.
b) They are well practiced, engaging, talkative and know all of the salesy words to check off the sales talk boxes.
c) They aren’t easily phased by difficult questions and many know how to talk around an issue or a challenging question.

Wait, shouldn’t we be looking for these qualities though? Isn’t this what salespeople do? If you are hiring based on these qualities alone, you are subjecting yourself to being sold by someone who is good at interviews. You need to push hard for substance, capability and genuine desire over razzle dazzle.

Truth be told, you have to dig much deeper to see if they are the right person for you. After nearly a decade and a half hiring for my own company, I recommend focusing on these 6 key things:

6 Tips to Hire Great Salespeople

  1. Challenge every “surfacy” answer. For example. If the question is “Tell me about your prospecting experience”, don’t leave their answer unchallenged. Push hard for specifics about what prospecting means, how they put together a prospecting plan, who they called, how they do their follow-ups, how often, etc. You may be surprised by how many people cannot answer the “how” type of questions, which could indicate that the person you are speaking doesn’t really understand how they achieved what they did.
  2. Test their listening skills. Make up a mock scenario that is complex and typical to your customer base and get them to qualify you. Can they pull out the important points? Do they prefer to listen or talk? Are they able to summarize the problems in their own words? Ask them what the next steps should be following the scenario as worked on. Qualifying well, active listening and paraphrasing situations are the most important skills you should look for because it shows comprehension.
  3. Test their organization skills. The very best salespeople are diligent and organized, working to an individualized plan to achieve the objectives of their role. They know what to do and how to get it. Ask them for specifics about how they keep their day organized and focused. Don’t accept answers like “I use tasks and the CRM.” Dig deeper and have them show you how they stay focused and organized in all areas of their work. Look for specifics about how they achieve their goals. People that love this sort of thing will be quick to show off their skills.
  4. Test their problem solving skills. Give them multiple, complex scenarios in your interviews. Ask them questions like “You have a $1 Million dollar sales target, and your sales cycle is 6 months long, and you have a 4 to 1 close ratio. Tell me about how you will achieve that target and what steps you will take to reach it.” Reps that are natural planners and problem solvers will be able to give you a reasonable answer that isn’t “surfacy”. If you get surfacy answers, or if your candidate freezes, it’s just a sign that they may not be as experienced as advertised or are not necessarily problem solvers. While they could still be a great salesperson for something less complex, you may determine that you’ll need someone that is a better problem solver for what your business is selling.
  5. See if they are truly passionate about what you do. Salespeople aren’t typically successful at selling product or services that they don’t believe in. It’s hard to sound genuine when you have no interest in selling what you sell, or who you sell for. Your clients will sniff that out. People that have no interested in selling what you sell, or if they aren’t believing in your vision will have their passion fizzle out quickly thus impacting your numbers.
  6. Are they “gritty”? Salespeople go through slumps, suffer big let downs (when deals don’t close for instance), experience pressure from management and need to do things they don’t necessarily like (like prospecting). You need someone who is gritty. Someone who will not give up when things get difficult. Someone who looks difficulty in the face and says “I’m going to succeed, no matter what”. Ask questions that expose times where they needed to be gritty. Look for scenarios that lasted a long time and required sheer determination and stubbornness to succeed. Gritty salespeople are a gift.

If you are still struggling to find someone that is a fit, we highly recommend using tools like the Berke Assessment from Highmatch. ( It helps you define what kind of traits you need for the position you are hiring for, provides interview guidance and provides a test your candidates take in the interview process. It’s crazy accurate for most people and difficult for candidates to game for their own advantage.

Look, we love salespeople at SalesEvolve and the world of sales is exciting, challenging and deeply rewarding when conducted with the proper client focused attitude. However, we also know that not everyone is a fit for your business. It’s always better for you and the candidate to have challenging interviews that go much deeper than the first answer offered. Fit between parties is a beautiful thing!

Be encouraged to keep growing and learning, and ask for help when you need it.


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