What to look for when employing a salesperson


Most of us would agree that recruiting a solid salesperson is tough. Finding candidates is one thing, but it's the interview stage that leaves many a manager cold.


One reason could be because it's often at the interview that the salesperson candidate does their best "sell".  How many of us have interviewed someone we thought was going to be great and really deliver, only to realise a little too late that they fell far short of their promise?

Sadly, too many.

So what can we do about it?  Is there a way to sift the wheat from the chaff so to speak, so that we can at least get a real picture of what we can expect from a sales candidate?


Here are 5 considerations that will provide a clearer assessment as to who is going to work out and who isn't, and in turn give you a greater level of certainty when it comes to selection.

1. Identify current level of competence.
Determine the most important behaviours for the role; in other words, what actions will demonstrate a person's ability to perform or not? Many recruitment assessments identify capability or personality but they won't give you a clear picture about actual performance. Competence is what the candidate does right now and has done in the past.  You may want to determine if the candidate knows how to seek out new opportunities and win them.  Would you like to get a picture as to how they grow existing client accounts?  Should the candidate be able to have deep conversations with clients to uncover value for your business and for the client?  How focused on successful outcomes should they be?

2. Construct a question set that will uncover their current level of competence in delivering value to customers across the behaviours you've identified as important.
Ask questions that require the candidate to provide specific examples of when and how they demonstrated a behaviour.  Include context, the outcome achieved, what they did to achieve that outcome, the impact it had, how they measured that impact and the benefit it provided to the customer or to the business that wouldn't have been possible without it.

3. What qualities are important to you, your organisation and your customers? 
Things like a dedication to continued learning, coachability and the ability to take constructive feedback and implement advice indicate someone who will continue to grow in the role.  Provide an opportunity for the candidates to reveal themselves throughout your engagement. How self-aware are they? Do they take responsibility for their successes and their mistakes? Have they identified things that will help them improve their performance?

4. During the interview, make sure the candidate provides specific examples. 
Watch out for generalisations, sweeping statements or avoiding the question.  Bring them back to the question and the specifics. Candidates that have a track record of demonstrating the behaviours that matter to your business will be able to provide specifics including results because they'll be top of mind and should be answered with relative ease. Those candidates that find it difficult to recall specifics are the ones to cut at this stage in your recruitment process - you'll save yourself a tonne of money and time.

5. Finally, look for a fit for your culture. 
What will the candidate add to your team?  How aligned are their values to those of your organisation?  Look for specific answers that exemplify these values and qualities.  You may even want to include a stage that enables the rest of the team to meet them and ask their own questions. Observe rapport between the candidate and your current team members; is it there?

When it comes to people there are no guarantees.  Knowing what you're looking for and how to find it will help you shift your recruitment process and support your instinct with insight.

Tips from John Buchanan, Beyond 19, Coaching Practicing Lead:

1. The Sales team leader must have a clear vision for what he or she wants the team to be
2. With this vision in mind, what are the skills and behaviours needed to take the team on this journey?
3. What are the skills currently available to the team, is there a skills gap?
4. Fill the skills gap with new people who bring the skills to the team, and where possible upskill current members
5. In selecting, recruiting or developing current members, always seek difference of personalities, characters, as well as inclusion of game changers

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