Financial Data
Updated 21 Feb 2020


How to hire the best sales people

Do you keep hiring sales people that talk big and sell little? Here’s some advice you can use to minimise this pattern.


Juliette Attwell, 20 July 2015  Share  0 comments  Print


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You’ve interviewed countless candidates, all with seemingly impressive CV’s, maybe you’ve even hired some only to be bitterly disappointed 6 months to a year down the line (maybe even sooner). If you’ve been trying to find someone that sells like you do, then maybe you should rethink your strategy.

Related: Hiring: the when, where and how

Casting your net

It is logical to assume that the further you look, the more you will find. However no one, especially a business owner, has the time or resources to endlessly search for the best sales person.

By using social media such as Linked In and Facebook, business networks you may have as well as the professionals such as recruiters and online job portals you will be able to increase your chances of finding the right person. You should interview at least 6 sales people before making a decision.

Bury your stereotypes

The old adage of good sales people being loud, boisterous and flashy is more often than not very untrue. Some of the best sales people I know are quiet, reserved and intimately concerned about their relationships with their clients. People buy from them because they like them not because they’re intimidated by them.

Delve Further 

When hiring sales people it is of utmost importance to find out the following:

  • What are their current monthly/quarterly or annual targets?
  • Do they reach these?
  • What commission structure are they currently on?
  • Ask for proof of earnings commission slip for the last 3 months in order to verify this.
  • How long is their average sales cycle?

These questions are vital to establish what sort of numbers they’re used to dealing with, how quickly they have to make a sale (this determines whether they have to build long term relationships or not), if they rely on commission to earn a living, and how pressurised their daily activities are. For example, monthly targets require quick, concise and fast paced work where long term targets require more in depth relationship building and farming. 

Do your homework

When a sales candidate has moved jobs more than every 2 years for the last 3 positions you would need to start questioning why.

Related: 4 Hiring techniques needed to build a stellar team

If a sales person is making a lot of sales, they will be making a lot of commission or if commission isn’t a factor they will have a high level of job satisfaction, therefore the incentive to leave would be minimal.

You will need to do references with previous employers to find out exactly how many sales they brought in and whether their reasons for leaving were in fact correct. If the candidate you’re interviewing refuses to give you the name of their previous (not current) employer see it as a very big red flag!

Know what you’re looking for 

In order to help you make an informed decision know the parameters that you are looking within. What do you need in terms of industry experience? Number of years’ experience? Do they need experience with particular clients? Do they need to live in the area? Do they need their own car and license? Would a male or female work better in your team? Would they need excessive training? Do you have time for this training? Be very clear on these before you start the interview process.

At the end of the day as a business owner you are wholly invested in your business. Your motivations for making sales will be very different to the motivations of a sales person that you hire.

The key is to find these motivating factors and capitalise on them. They are not you, they will never be you so it’s time to look at your next best option.

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About the author


Juliette Attwell

Juliette Attwell is Head of Marketing and Operations at Recruitgroup Recruitgroup, a leading recruitment agency that has won Recruiter of the Year in SA for 4 years running. Having grown and developed the Recruitgroup brand over the last 7 years, Juliette is passionate about career engagement and development as well as writing, communication and PR. Juliette was a finalist in the Top Young Executive of the Year- National Business Awards 2014 and holds a Bcom Industrial Psychology with Honours in Marketing.

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