9 Tricks to Hiring and Retaining the Best Sales Staff

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Puzzled about how to find the right sales people, let alone how to recruit them to your team?
You’re not alone. The sales profession has a notoriously high turnover, and since staff need to learn how to use more sophisticated analytics these days, it takes longer to get them up to speed, says Harvard Business Review.

Don’t lose money by settling for sub-par sales staff or for employees who are bound to make an early exit because they don’t love what they do. These 9 tips will help you hire sales staff who will take your company to new heights.

 

Lure them away from the competition

The best sales staff already have jobs, because they’re good at what they do. That doesn’t mean they’re satisfied with them.

When you want to recruit the best sales staff, you need to play dirty. Scope out the people working for your competition, and send them a cold email or LinkedIn message with your pitch, suggests Inc.
They also advise you to  keep these tips in mind:

  • Look at staff working for large companies. After all, they’re more likely to feel worn down by bureaucracy, bored by standardization, and eager to rise through the ranks more quickly than is possible with their current employer. Show how much more you can offer!
  • Look for the staff who’ve been working there for at least 18 months and have received a promotion.  
  • Look for people with strong social media networks, which says a lot about their ability to connect with others.

 

2. Post on Social Media

Create punchy social media posts and messages you can share with your networks on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other online venues.

Here are a few key tips:

  • Create a short video that shares testimonials from existing employees who can vouch for why people love working at your company.
  • Compose a short message to send to leads in your networks as a private message.
  • Share the on-target earnings (OTE) of your top salespeople when providing commission and OTE info. Advertising average earnings will only bring you average performers.

 

3. Determine which kind of experience is most necessary

Experience comes in many different forms, and some of them are more helpful than others. Think about the types of experience that candidates need to have when they first join your team, and which kinds they can learn as they go along, as Harvard Business Review notes.

For example, they might have experience working in a particular industry to which they’ll be selling for you, so they’ll already know your customers’ main problems and how to appeal to them best. Or, they might have sales experience, though not necessarily in your specific product area.

Consider the complexity of the different kinds of skills they’ll need on the job. Is one easy to pick up immediately, while another takes months or years of practice to master? If so, you’ll definitely want to nab those candidates who have experience in the latter, before your competition does.

If you’re in an industry with a long sales cycle, where it takes some time for leads to recognize the value of your products, it will really help to hire sales staff with experience in that industry – whether selling or directly working within it.

In many fields – education, for example – direct experience working in that industry will boost credibility and help sales staff understand how to approach potential leads, Forbes asserts.

 

4. Update the Skills You Prioritize

The skills that sales staff most need have changed over the past decade. In turn, hiring teams need to update the skills they look for in candidates.

The ability to think strategically and connect to the broader vision of the business have grown in priority, says Harvard Business Review. A decade or two ago, sales teams saw the ability to assess sales prospects as one of their most vital skills. Now that systems have taken over many of these tasks, higher-order tasks like leveraging data to devise a strategy, optimizing the sales process, and integrating company vision into sales goals become more pertinent.

 

5. Ask the Right Questions

Create a well-rounded list of interview questions that give you a clearer picture of your prospective employee.

Here are 10 key questions that smart companies ask potential sales staff hires, and why.

  • “How would you describe your sales technique?” (Forbes) This helps you learn whether your candidate has the confidence and enthusiasm that reflects a real belief in their skill and approach.
  • “How do you generate leads?” (CPSA) Look for people who show creativity and the ability to think strategically.
  • “What is your sales process, given a qualified lead? How many contacts do you make on a qualified lead?” (CPSA) You want to recruit sales staff who know their process inside and out, reflected by their confidence and the amount of detail they share in their answer.
  • “Can you give me an example of a complex contract negotiation you’ve completed and how you did it?” (Forbes) Again, detailed answers are key. There’s no need to spend more time on candidates who are too vague.
  • When a client’s expectations are too high, how do you handle it?” (Forbes) The answers will address how well candidates can keep themselves motivated when facing challenges.
  • “What part of the sales process do you like best?” (NASP) This will help you decide whether they’ll fit into your existing sales team, based on their tops strengths and skills.
  • What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?” (LinkedIn) This question will help you figure out if potential sales staff recruits are really a great fit for your company.
  • “What made you choose sales as a profession?” (NASP) Responses will help you assess whether people genuinely love the sales profession.
  • “What would make you choose our company over others?” (LinkedIn) Look at whether the candidate gives a canned answer that uses language straight from your website, or something a bit more thoughtful and genuine.
  • “What’s your favorite jam?” Questions about trivial matters test candidates’ ability to open up and chat about any subject – a vital skill for salespeople. If they genuinely enjoy and feel comfortable talking with people, they’ll be able to hold a conversation on a wide range of subjects, Entrepreneur points out. Even jam.

 

6. Create Referral Incentives

When you draw in candidates through an employee referral program, they tend to stay longer, says Entrepreneur.  “Employee referrals continue to be employers’ top source of hires, delivering more than 30 percent of all hires overall in 2016 and 45 percent of internal hires,” explains the Society for Human Resource Management.

When referred by a friend, the candidate will already have a positive impression of the company, and their social network is likely to grow more quickly. Plus, existing employees best know who will fit in best.

 

7. Use an Aptitude Test

A candidate can seem like great salesperson material in an interview, but then fail to stand the test of time. An aptitude test can give you a better idea of whether a potential hire has what it takes to perform over the long-haul. For example, the DiSC® personality profile test uses word association to test candidates’ aptitudes. Legendary sales trainer Chet Holmes advocates using this tool in The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus.

Salespeople need to be persuasive and possess high emotional intelligence, as Forbes says. There’s no reason to waste your time with people who don’t have those skills, as they’re extremely difficult to learn.

 

8. Offer a Competitive Package

Top sales professionals will want an attractive benefits package. Remember, you get what you pay for.
Good people will give you your money back many times over.

  • Create an attractive commission structure with no cap on how much staff can earn, suggests Inc.
  • Add great health benefits so candidates know you care about the overall wellbeing of your staff.
  • Look on websites such as GlassDoor to find out what companies in your field are offering in your area. Beat their offer, and you’ll sell top candidates on joining your team.

 

9. Find Your Own References

Get craftier about calling references.

Rather than calling the names given to you by your candidates, call people they haven’t put on their reference list. (Better yet, check with both!)

Look for past employers on their resume whom they haven’t listed, and don’t tell those people who you’re calling about until you’re on the phone, suggests Inc. Simply say you’re inquiring about someone who’s worked for them in the past.

 

Follow these 9 tips, and you’ll recruit top sales staff who will take your company to the next level!

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