Sales is the hardest position to hire for, and with good reason–the typical day of a salesperson involves rejection, rebuttals, criticism, overall put offs, and very occasionally, a successful sale. Those who can take all of that and still come away as eager and passionate to do their job–and well–again the next day are a rare find, and few and far between.

While the job itself may be difficult, the process of hiring a successful sales candidate may arguably be harder–there aren’t many enthusiastic and talented individuals who can turn even the most stubborn scrooge into a customer. Many small businesses, however, clamor to hire salespeople without pausing to think of the optimal way to streamline their hiring process. This can be detrimental to both parties–the company wastes time and money, and the new hire is miserable and misplaced. I sat down with SpareFoot’s sales manager Ryan Harmon and people manager Geni Glynn to get some insights on how small businesses and startups can hire the perfect salesperson for their company and avoid buyer’s remorse.

“It starts with sourcing,” said Ryan. “You want to consider candidates from multiple channels, and maybe not always the most traditional ones either. Look for possible candidates through social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, but always keep an eye out for good salespeople everywhere you go–like that really excellent waiter at your favorite restaurant, for example.”

“There’s also a culture fit within sales itself, because you have to have a specific type of personality to do what they do,” added Geni.

Which means that the impossibly ambitious Dwight Schrute from The Office might be the wrong poster child for a salesperson. Most salespeople are extroverts, handle rejection and pressure well, and don’t mind being the center of attention.

“That’s most important,” said Ryan. “In most sales, you’re going to be told ‘no’ 95 times before you get five ‘yeses.’”

Sourcing is also important not only from a business standpoint, but also to protect the integrity of your company’s culture. Of the hiring avenues available to employers, Ryan recommended internal referrals for yielding the best results most often. Small companies or startups hoping to maintain their individual culture as they grow need to keep this in mind when hiring. At SpareFoot, for example, candidates are required to go through a final interview with Chuck and Mario.

“This helps us make sure we’re maintaining our culture and keeping it intact as we’re growing,” said Geni.

“If you can get a referral from someone else that you trust, then that’s the best place start,” added Ryan. “You already know they’re a good fit.”

To optimize our own internal sources, SpareFoot built an LDR team, responsible for boosting sales by qualifying leads. The best part is that individuals on the LDR team have the opportunity to transition to sales roles by showcasing their abilities in a measurable way.

“We have upward mobility within the company to progress careers, and that’s different from most companies,” said Ryan. “We look at it as a major league and a farm team league, and we’re grooming and growing them to be the next awesome sales team.”

When scouting for potential sales hires, it can also be most beneficial to find someone who has already worked in the industry.

“They can already understand your industry and convey the value proposition of your product to anyone else,” said Ryan. “Rachel B., one of our newest sales hires, used to be the district manager of eight facilities. Now she’s rocking it as the first lady of the SpareFoot sales team.”

The Interview Process
Both Geni and Ryan ardently emphasized that small businesses should not just place emphasis on hiring a person who has previous sales experience, because that doesn’t necessarily mean it will translate well into the company’s own sales environment.

“Just because they were the number one salesperson at their old company doesn’t mean that they’ll convert well for your company,” said Geni.

“We do business to business (B2B) sales, but there’s also B2C, which involves a different sort of sales and requires a different kind of salesperson,” said Ryan. “You need different salespeople for each of these roles, so understand and define what your ideal sales rep would look like. For example, consider their experience, what have they done in the past, and what kind of call stats and metrics they had to achieve.”

During the actual interview, it’s important to simulate what the potential hire would experience during a typical day on the sales floor.

“Put them in a position where they deal with the types of stress and situations that they’re going to encounter in that role on a daily basis,” said Ryan. “For example, if your customers are very abrupt, short and dismissive, act similarly during the interview and see how they handle you in person. Once they’re sitting on the sales floor, they’re going to have to deal with those situations, and you’d rather find out how they respond during the interview process than when it’s a real world scenario.”

SpareFoot’s own unorthodox way of doing this is to let candidates we like sit on the floor with our sales team and watch the action for 10 to 15 minutes. The purpose of this is to give them a feel of the day-to-day routine and what kinds of systems they would expect to interact with.

“This is a great weeding out tool,” said Ryan. “In some cases, the candidate will self-select out, because they feel that they won’t be a good fit for the company. In other cases, this process has sold applicants who see what they’re really signing up for, and they actually want the job. It’s useful for both us and the potential hire.

Ultimately, you should figure out if either the candidate or the company will not be a good fit earlier along. Do everything you can to gauge the candidate’s potential, from giving them a tour of your office to grilling them in the interview room. Keep your standards high and don’t compromise for a mediocre hire, but also remember to keep yourself open to change in terms of standards and qualifications.

“Your criteria for the ‘right person’ will change over time,” said Ryan, “because to find that ideal person, you’re looking back at the people you currently employ who are working well and thriving. Ultimately, you’ll want people who have the same attributes and qualities as your current top salespeople.”

Guess what? We’re hiring talented salespeople to join our already awesome sales team! Apply here.


One comment

  1. This is great information. It seems that most hiring managers focus solely on past experience, when in reality that should just be one aspect that factors into the hiring decision. It’s also important for managers to remember that resumes are merely marketing material, and they shouldn’t become distracted by what a candidate has on their resume.

    There’s a great whitepaper that has more tips detailing how to effectively hire salespeople. Here’s a link to take a look –

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