THE PEAK BLOG

All the latest insights on sales and sales hiring

Top industries for sales jobs

Sales jobs are constantly evolving in an ever-changing industry landscape. Changes in customer behavior, new kinds of competition, shifting regulation, new methods of distribution and core technologies of production. Together, these factors have the potential to significantly change the nature of an industry. While some industries are on the decline, others are experiencing massive growth. It’s important to be prepared to pivot in your sales career in order to stay relevant and in demand.

So what are the top industries to look for a great sales job? At Peak Sales Recruiting, we’re finding the largest demand (and compensation) in four major B2B market segments: technology and software, healthcare, financial services, and consumer packaged goods (CPG). We’ll go over each industry, describe how they’re changing, present some of the challenges you need to be aware of, and show you why they’re worth exploring further.

Technology and Software

You’d be hard pressed to find a city that isn’t investing in infrastructure to attract tech jobs. Tech and software has long been a staple of the North American economy, dating back to the 60’s & 70’s in Silicon Valley where the first modern technology companies popped up, and still exist today. The dot-com boom in the 90’s, followed by explosive growth in digital in the 2000’s has kept this industry booming. Today’s industry is focused on mobility, SaaS, cybersecurity and automation.

Sales jobs continue to be highly desirable to professionals in this industry. Spiro points out the reasons these jobs are still so hot right now is that the demand is high, job satisfaction is high, pay is better than average, and career opportunities are plentiful and varied.

Growth is expected to expand as it’s “projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.” Plus, the industry is not just focused around Silicon Valley anymore. Cities from Austin to Toronto have become hotbeds for the tech community in North America.

There are a few segments of this industry that are really driving growth and creating opportunities:

Cybersecurity

ByGoogleCybersecurity has grabbed a lot of headlines recently with the Russian election hacking and the Equifax data breach. In the first half of 2017 alone, there were almost two million

Cybersecurity solutions mitigate data breaches

data record breaches, or about 122 individual records compromised per second – and these events are costly. The average breach costs a typical company 3.62 million, or about 225 dollars per record. This has led to a booming B2B industry with growth in the sector breaking records:

“Cybersecurity deals hit an all-time quarterly high of 146 deals in Q1’17, up 26 percent from the previous quarterly high. The trend held through Q2’17, which saw just one fewer deal (145 total) compared to Q1’17.

The amount of disclosed equity funding to cybersecurity companies has also recently broken records, reaching an all-time quarterly high of 1.6B dollars in Q2’17.”

 

Big Data / Predictive Analytics / Machine Learning / BI

It’s really hard to separate any of these tech industries as they’ve become so intertwined. Big data gathers the information for machine learning to process, which leads to predictive analytics and business intelligence.

By the end of 2020, the business intelligence and analytics market is expected to exceed 22 billion dollars.

“Purchasing decisions continue to be influenced heavily by business executives and users who want more agility and the option for small personal and departmental deployments to prove success,” said Rita Sallam, research vice president at Gartner. “Enterprise-friendly buying models have become more critical to successful deployments.”

Google and Baidu investment in AI researchMachine learning is coming of age as well as tech behemoths like Google and Baidu collectively spent 25 billion dollars on AI research and acquisition in 2016. This tech will improve predictive analytics and drive B2B efficiency, and you’re already seeing this in Big Data applications like Google Analytics and Adwords search algorithms.

According to HBR Analytic Services, more than 60 percent of executives believe that their future success depends on the successful adoption of AI. In fact, more than a third of the executives that were interviewed are piloting, or in production, with tools powered by artificial intelligence. These early adopters have recognized that AI technologies will have a massive effect on the B2B revenue generation process. As such, these companies are starting to use tools that have embedded AI capabilities that can augment their “sales productivity, customer retention, account growth and other critical aspects of business success”.

Software as a Service (SaaS) / Cloud Products

Software has increasingly moved from an on-premise system that you purchase and own forever (or at least until you need an upgrade) to a cloud-based model where you pay a license fee monthly or yearly to use the software, but always have the latest version. Companies are increasingly transitioning to a cloud-based technology stack, so in order for software providers to stay relevant their solution offering must comply with the new norm.

One of the best examples is when Adobe made the switch to a subscription based model for all of their B2B products. This transformation has led to record revenues for the company. It’s no surprise that their salespeople are some of the most well paid and can expect an average yearly compensation of 183,000 dollars.

Another example of the growing shift is in accounting software. Recent startups like Xero are offering cloud accounting options as a service. This has forced traditional accounting firms like QuickBooks and Turbotax to adapt or die. With the accounting software industry alone expected to grow to 4 billion dollars by 2021, it’s easy to see the success of transforming a traditional software business to a SaaS model.

You can expect to be well paid as a salesperson in the tech industry as the average compensation is around $80k. However, top performers can easily reach six figures. Looking at the 10 best paying companies in the tech industry, a salesperson can expect to make between $150,000 to $250,000.

There are certainly challenges to working in this field however. Tech changes fast, and you don’t need to look any further than the shift in office-based software over the last two decades. Lotus 123 – the once dominant word processing software, was replaced by Microsoft Office as the standard in most businesses. And now with the prevalence of Google Docs, you’ll find that the use of Microsoft Office in the workplace is declining as well. There are dozens of reasons a tech company could fail, and obsolete tech is one of the most common.

 

Healthcare

As the baby boomer population retires, the general population expands, and medical technology advances, it’s easy to see why 7 out of 20 of the fastest growing industries on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website are in a healthcare related field.

Growth is explosive in the healthcare industry for two main reasons: an aging population, and a population that is sicker than ever. The healthcare industry is seeing growth in many different areas, including home healthcare, mobility devices, and sports injury centers. However, there are two segments that are highly desirable for sales professionals: pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.

Pharmaceuticals

The worldwide pharmaceutical market has grown from 390 billion dollars in 2001, to more than 1.1 trillion dollars in 2016. Almost half of that is in North America alone.

Although there have been some cutbacks in recent years, the outlook is very promising, with total sales jobs topping 400,000 in the US by 2022.

Medical Devices

Like pharmaceuticals, the medical equipment market is dominated by US companies. Over the next few years, these companies are expected to double their revenue growth rates.

“On average, analysts forecast that revenue at large medical-device companies will grow by between 4 and 5 percent per year over the next few years, considerably more than the 2 percent overall annual market growth recorded over the past five.”

The biggest downsides to the industry lie with insurance companies and government. Drug and medical equipment sales are highly regulated, even requiring approval of sales literature. On top of that regulation, treatment coverage is a moving target and what’s covered one day may not be covered the next and the product or solution you’re selling may no longer be relevant.

That said, compensation remains strong, and remains as one of the best paying sales jobs. The average compensation in the industry is almost 150,000 dollars between base salary and commission. Sales representatives also report many perks to the job, like great benefits, stock options, company cars, and 401k with matching contributions.

One thing to keep in mind: with rapid changes in healthcare, come new requirements for healthcare sales reps, as they’re expected to excel in a few different areas – most notably in digital marketing. This is due to how medical professionals are getting their info, which is to say not just from printed medical journals. If you can excel in these new areas, you can build a great career in this industry.

 Compensation by Industry

Financial Services

The financial services industry encompasses a range of B2B services that manage money. This includes everyday banking, stocks and bonds, financing, accounting, insurance products and more. The industry more than doubled in the last three decades, and it’s why you’ll find that financial services makes up an average of more than 20 percent of GDP in most developed countries. In the US, it’s estimated at 7.3 percent of total GDP, which is a massive 1.4 trillion dollars.

Recent years have seen a decline in financial advisor jobs and revenues. This is driven by a new generation of wealthy millennials that are declining to use financial advisors as new products and services become available. However, there is an area in financial services that is growing rapidly, and attracting top sales talent: FinTech.

Financial Tech (FinTech)

Historically, FinTech has referred to the back end computer systems that run the financial industries. This is no longer true, as FinTech is now used to reference all of the technology implemented into the financial services world. FinTech now includes everything from your mobile banking app, online trading platforms, fraud prevention software, machine learning, mobile payments, blockchain technology and the complex trading software used on wall street.

The growth in this industry is staggering:

“Funding continues to remain strong with US8.2 billion dollars invested in the third quarter of 2017. This is after more than doubling to US9.3 billion dollars in the second quarter… Investments in Fintech were still way above the US6.3 billion dollars raised in third quarter of 2016. The United States has led the in global fintech investments. Data shows that in the 3rd quarter of 2017 US5 billion dollars deployed across 142 deals. A major portion of the fintech industry is the blockchain market.”

Bitcoin has blown the blockchain market wide open. Although Bitcoin itself is not relevant here, the technology behind it is. Companies are investing in blockchain technology to secure almost any transaction or record, the stock market, and mobile transactions. We’re just learning about how valuable this technology can be to everyday financial services, but here are 35 real-world examples of blockchain tech in action.

Mobile / Digital Payment Solutions

A subset of FinTech, mobile and digital payment solutions is worth noting as it’s experiencing amazing growth on its own. Startups are creating peer-to-peer money exchanges that work by simply tapping two phones together, transit passes are going phone-based, and B2B transactions are expected to be the next trillion dollar industry.

The days of checkbooks and ATMs may be headed for the history books as this recent study shows:

“Mobile money services have proven to be an effective gateway for financial inclusion among the unbanked, a demographic that could evolve into a US3 trillion dollar payments volume opportunity. Tomorrow, your bankers or wealth manager will coach you throughout your day to take appropriate financial decisions based on a combination of artificial intelligence and transactional and contextual data. Frustration and cost will decrease as new business models and emerging technologies are being adopted to streamline onboarding processes, operations and client communication. The influence that FinTech is having on the market is growing and the long-term potential is even greater.”

Salaries in the financial services sales world vary greatly depending on the product or service you’re selling. Insurance sales are at the lower end of the spectrum and can expect to make above $50k, with an outlook of 10 percent growth over the next 10 years. Financial services, securities and commodities can expect to make closer to 70 thousands dollars with a ten year expected growth rate of six percent, or average. FinTech sales is a little harder to define overall, but quite often falls into the technology sales salary expectations in the first section and can hit six figures.

As with all industries, the challenges in financial services are similar. Businesses can be notoriously slow in picking up new technology. FinTech is also moving fast, which creates two problems: being able to communicate the latest changes to a client, and the dangers of becoming obsolete.

There’s also the issue of recessions and market crashes, which sometimes go hand-in-hand. No industry gets hit harder during a recession than the financial industry. If there’s less money to move around, there are less transactions occurring. This will eat into the desire to use these services and invest in new technologies.

Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG)

Consumer Packaged Goods, or CPG, are those purchases that we as consumers make frequently, most notably food, drinks, clothing, household products, and health and wellness. The CPG industry hit 800 billion dollarsin North America for 2016, and although actual dollar growth has slowed, this has more to do with deflationary pressures on currency than on product sales themselves.

Consumer Packaged GoodsAnother indication of how robust the market is, is the expected growth:

“Imagine, if you will, that over the next decade the world will gain an additional 81 Procter & Gambles or 458 equivalents of Kellogg’s. This is the sort of growth that will happen in the global consumer-packaged-goods (CPG) sector, which will nearly double in size—to 14 trillion—by 2025, from eight trillion dollars in 2014.”

The growth in this category is fuelling investment into CPG at record rates. There are a couple of reasons why growth is so massive: Ecommerce and emerging markets.

Ecommerce

You don’t need look any further than Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods to see this growth in action. Before Amazon even purchased Whole Foods, Amazon’s online CPG growth was drastically outpacing the global industry.

If that’s not enough, 9 out of every 10 dollars of CPG growth is happening in online. E-commerce is no longer an option for CPG brands, it’s a must have.

Emerging Markets

As poorer nations continue to strengthen and grow their middle-class, like China and India to name a couple of the more populous nations, it’s opening new CPG markets to brands. Emerging markets are expected to grow CPG sales 3 times faster than developed nations, and reach 6 trillion dollars in sales by 2020.

70 percent of the world’s population lives in emerging markets, so the growth opportunity is substantial.

All of this growth is leading to more opportunity for the B2B CPG salesperson. One thing to note is that a lot of CPG sales jobs expect a level of formal education that is higher than most other sales jobs. While you can get away with experience in lieu of education in many fields, CPG sales often requires an MBA due to the complex nature of how CPG are sold, and the need to understand business economics even at the junior level. That being said, the top positions in CPG sales will regularly hit six figures, and hitting 300 thousand a year in salary and commission is regularly achieved by top performers.

The main challenges affecting CPG sales are slow or shrinking traditional growth. In-store retail growth has slowed or disappeared in almost all categories, at least for now. If you’re not keeping up with trends, you can expect sales to lag.

Consumers are also expecting a more personalized shopping experience. Instead of a cost effective one-brand-fits-all approach, companies are finding it’s better to have many brands to personalize the experience. It’s one reason you’ll find more Diet Coke varieties available in 2018 than at any time in history. Having a large number of complex brands can make things more challenging, so you need to adapt to trends quickly, or you’ll find yourself behind.

Sales jobs are some of the best paying positions in most companies because they are directly responsible for driving the organization’s revenues. As technology and industries change, sales will become more important than ever. Staying on top of trends will help you be properly equipped for decades to come.

How to get the job you want.

If you’ve ever wondered what top sales leaders are looking for when they’re hiring a new rep, this article should provide you with actionable insights that you can use in your next job search. I sat down with Kerry Webb, Director of Sales-New Business at Avast, and asked her a number of questions that our headhunters get asked all the time by sales professionals like yourself.

Kerry Webb Director of Sales at Avast, sales leader
            KERRY WEBB 

Kerry has more than 20 years of experience, starting out as a sales rep before moving into leadership. Since the beginning, she has been a perennial top-performer – selling and leading teams in both B2C and B2B, inside and field sales. She has increased    sales effectiveness by over 40%, has exceeded company sales goals by over 150%, achieved +725% YOY growth on new solutions all while achieving best in class employee satisfaction scores. She has been in the trenches and understands the challenges and the rewards that come with being out in the field, and she firmly believes that this has been instrumental to her success as a sales leader, and her effectiveness as a coach.

As a sales leader, how do you like to be approached by a salesperson who is interested in joining your team?

There’s no right answer to this. However, it feels very natural to be introduced by someone else – so a referral is great. A LinkedIn message is good as well. Someone who doesn’t approach you when the job is posted, but rather someone who wants to be ready and kept top of mind when a position becomes available. Some of the best people are telling you that they are interested before there is a position. Be proactive! It’s also important for the candidate to demonstrate that they’re positive and energetic as well – I’ve had a lot of people who have approached me and they’re personality and level of interest falls flat. So, there are two parts to this – there’s the way that they approach you and there’s the how. Having confidence, enthusiasm and a certain presence will make the candidate memorable and will make me think about him or her when the time does come to fill a position.

What are the things that you need to see in a sales resume before you consider bringing an applicant in for an interview?

That’s interesting, because I’m not as tough as other people that I’ve worked with. I don’t spend as much time on the resume as many other people do. I’m interested in their core competencies, so I’m usually willing to meet almost anyone. That said, I am looking for consistency – making sure there’s not a lot of gaps in employment and the length of time spent working at each organization. I’m looking at the type of work that they did, to determine if there are transferable skills. If you can find people who have done the job before then that’s great, but I like to give people a chance because I’m looking for the competencies more than I’m looking at what they’ve done. Their resume shows me where they’ve been and what they’ve done in a certain length of time, and it tells me whether it makes sense that they’re applying for the position that they’re applying for. Beyond that, I like to talk to people.

What are some of the traits that you’ve found to be synonymous in a top performer and that you look for in every hire you make?

Top performers are not in the noise. Every organization wants more leads, every organization wishes they had a better compensation plan, and every company has some turnover – but a top performer doesn’t talk about that. Rather, a top performer spends their time saying, “I need this and I need that, I tried this and I tried that” and they’re open and they’re asking for help and they’re just trying to make things happen. Top performers ask questions, they find solutions, they’re not making excuses, and they have a reason as to why they are approaching things a certain way. They make it happen – in their own way, and in their own time.

Top performers and top sales leaders don't make excuses

Furthermore, the top performer is a collaborative person. They’re very outspoken when it comes to what they need and they’re willing to ask more than one person for it. As the manager who works with someone like that, all it does is make things better. They are asking the right questions, they are being inquisitive and they are bringing up the right things. I’ve also found that they don’t want to be recognized, because they’re just so busy making things happen. It’s important for me as a leader to support that, and be available when they need something because when they bring something up, I know that that is something that we need to pay attention to.

Top performers can also be emotional, but they are inherently positive. They are internally driven and they believe that they can do anything. They are competitive and they are always urgent – they never stop when they are stuck. Top performers are motivated by money, but they also want to be the best. A top performer isn’t quiet, and they won’t let anyone beat them. They are also the best trackers of their sales. They are not afraid to call a customer if they are behind on their numbers – which in my experience in very rare. In fact, I would say that less than 10% of salespeople will pick up the phone and call customers if they are behind.

What are the things that you look for or want to address in an interview?

I want to know about their sales process, what motivates them and what kind of environment they are looking for – and then it’s all behavioral around those things, as I can build off of those answers. “What worked for you? What didn’t? Tell me about a time, tell me about a sale, explain your involvement in that sale, tell me why you picked that one to talk about?” This helps me to understand their passion.

I want to see what motivates them. I’ll ask standard questions like what kind of boss brings out the best in them, what type of environment brings out the best in them, if they could pick their job what would it look like, what does a day in the life look like, what’s your sales cycle, etc. But I’m really reading between the lines as I’m trying to identify what their motivators are.

At Avast, we’ve started to ask candidates to present to us. We ask them to sell us what they’re selling today. Like we’re a customer. We give them instructions on how to do it and then they present. This gives us a good indication of how coachable they are, if they can think well on their feet and if they can make it interesting.

How important is culture fit? How can both the salesperson AND potential manager screen for that?

In an interview, I’m assessing whether a candidate is a culture fit by first looking internally. Who do I have on the team today. What works? What’s missing? What can this person add to us? What’s going on in our world and could they handle it? So it’s being aware of what they’re looking for, what they bring, and determining if we need that in our environment at this time. Will it enrich what we have today?

One way that I’ve found to be successful when a candidate is assessing culture is to ask to come in and do a side by side, and I think it’s important for companies to have that kind of open environment. I like it when a candidate asks It's important for companies to have an open environment says this sales leaderme what the culture is like, and then they try to figure out if it’s an environment that they would enjoy and thrive in.

For remote employees, it’s crucial that they ask the right questions in the interview. They can’t be afraid to tell the hiring manager what they need to be successful. I would want to understand what kind of support they would need from me in order for them to be successful, because I can tell them right then and there if that’s something that can be done.

How do you position career growth to a potential hire? How do you address that question?

When a candidate asks me about career growth in an interview, I throw it back at them and ask them what kind of growth they’re looking for. In a perfect world, what would they like it to be? I will ask them where they see themselves in one, three and five years. I make it a point to always let people know that they have to do the job that they’re in or applying for first, and that they have to succeed in that role. You’ve got to prove yourself. If an organization is going to make an investment in you, it is essential that they see that that person is succeeding in their role before they decide to further invest company time and resources in their professional development.

What activities should a salesperson do outside of work to make a good impression on you?

It’s great to have interests and to talk about them. Show your passion. This is something I look for in a candidate when I’m interviewing. I want to know that they care about something and that it matters to them. This tells me a lot about a person, as I get an opportunity to find out more about their story. This also tells me that the person has a routine – that they’re disciplined, structured and determined. This is a clear indication that the person will be successful in sales. Involvement in networking groups, trade groups and associations is another one that I look for. Top performers are typically involved in some sort of external community of professionals. They know how important it is to have a network.

What “selling process” or sales methodology do you subscribe to, and how do you disseminate that to your team?

First and foremost, I emphasize what needs to be done on the front end. That’s where most of the work is done. You have to be proactive, and you have to get in front of people – whether that be through your network, through LinkedIn, by building a creative campaign or event. To be successful in sales, this is where you need to spend the majority of your time. Once you have identified a customer that wants to talk to you, you engage in a very detailed needs analysis and discovery phase. After the discovery, there will be some type of presentation, followed by negotiation and close. Too many salespeople go straight to presentation and then try to close, without doing the work on the front end, and this usually backfires. I’ve always been a firm believer in the Consultative approach. I coach my team to approach a prospect as a consultant, not a salesperson. To understand their business and to see where they can help. They shouldn’t have a solution for them at the first meeting, and they may not even have one tomorrow. But at least they’ve taken an inventory, and gotten to know their business. At some point down the line, there will be an opportunity where we can help.

We meet a lot of successful salespeople who are interested making some sort of a transition in their sales career – like selling a different solution or selling into a different vertical. How would those people best communicate their ability to make that transition successfully? How could they convince you that they were right for the job?

Consultative selling approach for salespeople and sales leaders

The first questions I would ask this person are as follows. “What are the differences between what you’re selling now and what you want to sell? What do you think are the similarities? How would you adjust to those differences, and what would you need to do to prepare yourself for those differences?”. If the candidate can’t make that linkage themselves, then they’re probably not going to be able to convince me.

 

In your industry, how important is it to hire a salesperson with an existing network in the space? Can a candidate with an understanding of the solution offering and a great track record in executing a similar sales process be just as successful? If so, how can they demonstrate that effectively?

A network can help you but I don’t think it stop you from succeeding. Everyone must start somewhere. In some circumstances having a network will give you an edge, but if you don’t have one, I want to hear how you are going to address the challenges you’ll be faced with by not having a network. You either have a network and you know how to leverage it, or you absolutely know what it takes to build one. In my experience, not a lot of salespeople have that skill. To have what it takes to start from scratch, and to be prepared to show me a plan on how they’re going to do it effectively is a huge asset.

What qualities and individual accomplishments do you look for when deciding who to promote into a leadership role?

They don’t need to be the top-performer, as top-performers don’t necessarily make good leaders. I look for people who have helped others naturally, so when there was a problem they’ve gotten people together to try to find a solution. They’ve taken on projects throughout their time that have not just benefitted them, but that benefitted the team. They get involved naturally with rewards and recognition and incentives. They are someone who people approach for ideas and solutions to problems because they’ve done it and they’ve put themselves out there. They’re not the quiet person in the room. They become the natural go-to person. It’s not a surprise when they want to become a leader because they’ve already been acting like it. They have proactively looked for opportunities that would benefit themselves and the team.

Who’s right to be a leader? I’ll always ask, do you want your success to be in the control of others? Or do you want to have control over it yourself? This is a critical question that makes them really question their ambitions to be a sales leader. I also ask them what their motivation is for wanting to become a sales leader. If it’s money and title, it’s the wrong person. A great leader is motivated by making a difference.

One of your strengths as a sales leader is to take an underperforming sales team and turn it around. What tactics do you advise your team to perform in order for them to turn around their own book of business?

It's important for salespeople and sales leaders to stick to the basics.

You can’t be afraid of the cold approach, but you can’t just do calls. Calls don’t work – they have to be supplemented with other activities like leveraging their network to ask for introductions, posting on LinkedIn, sending out personalized emails with their picture, wishing them a happy holiday, etc. You must get their attention so that they’ll take your calls. That’s how you get in the door. This is basic, and the most important thing a salesperson should remember is to stick to the basics. Salespeople who try to do more than the basics don’t get a lot of time in their approach, as they are perceived to be junior. Most salespeople think that they’re better than the basics, but in my experience – the basics are best-in-class sales reps.

san francisco landscape

The San Francisco Bay Area has consistently been ranked number one in the United States for quality of living. It’s also widely considered to be one of the best places for young and hungry software salespeople to establish and grow their careers. As a result, it has long been a tech powerhouse that is only getting stronger.

In fact, in a 15-mile radius you’ll find six out of the top ten technology companies in the world and the largest amount of highly success talent pools to choose from. This abundance of sales talent has caused many of the world’s leading software companies – as well as start-ups- to choose San Francisco as their home.

What does this mean for software sales hiring?

It’s the simple case of software companies moving to where the sales talent is versus trying to get them to come to you.

In a recent study by the Brookings Institute, it shows that no city has created more jobs in the digital world over the last decade than the San Francisco Area. Not even the larger Silicon Valley neighbor San Jose.

For organizations on the hunt for software sales talent, candidate pools in San Francisco are large. But, competition is also heating up. To help employers grow their San Francisco sales forces, here’s statistical look at the San Francisco Bay Area, specifically reviewing:

  • Software employment trends
  • Regional growth forecasts
  • Sales Hiring challenges
  • Salary trends
  • Employee expectations

Here is our statistical look at the software sales hiring landscape of San Francisco:


Skip to this section:

San Francisco Overview

Quality & Cost of Living

Deeper Bay Area Break Down

Market & Business Landscape

How Tech Is Driving Growth

Software Sales Hiring

Sales Salaries

Regional Challenges

Looking Ahead & Other Hiring Landscape Articles


San Francisco Bay Area: An Overview

San Francisco is at the center of Northern California’s Bay Area, a diverse region that’s home to almost nine-million residents. Not only is San Francisco centrally located in Northern California, it’s also the state’s center both financially and culturally despite it not being the largest city in the region – with a population of 800 thousand. The title of largest city in the Bay Area goes to San Jose at 950 thousand.

The San Francisco Bay Area was originally settled as part of the Northern California gold rush in the mid-1800’s. However, most people remember the region for the role it played in the “Summer of Love” in the 1960’s and 1970’s and the birth of the anti-war and hippie movement.

dot com boomA more recent “gold rush” in the 1990’s, known as the dot-com boom. Along with the history of silicon and computer software businesses in the area, San Francisco was cemented as the undisputed tech powerhouse of America. During the dot-com boom, San Francisco’s gentrification accelerated quickly. This helped create the culture we see today in an affluent liberal city that is known for its inclusiveness.

When looking at the software sales hiring landscape in San Francisco, we must include surrounding cities as they’re directly connected by transit and highways. This allows more than 265 thousand residents to commute into San Francisco every day. The close proximity of Oakland to the west, along with high rental rates since the dot-com boom, has lead to a booming start-up community just across the bay, and in turn, attracting top talent.

To the south of San Francisco, there’s Silicon Valley, which includes regions up to the border of San Jose. The regions include Redwood City, Palo Alto and Mountain View. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, this area south of San Francisco was the original home of America’s cutting-edge semiconductor and computer chip manufacturers, or silicon chips. Hence the name Silicon Valley. This made it a natural home for the high-tech companies of the 1970’s and 1980’s, including Atari and Apple.

Today, four of the ten largest software companies in the world are located just south of San Francisco.

  1. Oracle, second only to Microsoft in software sales at 40 billion and is located in Redwood City
  2. Symantec, with 6.6 billion
  3. VMWare – sitting at 6 billion – calls Palo Alto home
  4. Intuit – at 4.6 billion – are located in Mountain View

san francisco new grad populationThe region is also home to two of the nation’s top 15 universities: Stanford and UC Berkeley. Both schools have outstanding computer science and engineering programs, which produces and attracts young talent for today’s software industry. This also facilitates the replacement of the baby boomer population as they retire.

In fact, these universities produce more than ten thousand new science and engineering graduates every year. This is part of the reason more than 46 percent of adults in the region hold a bachelor’s degree and 21 percent hold a graduate degree. This makes the region America’s most well-educated – with a minimum of a million people.

Quality & Cost of Living

The standard of living in the area is high and people pay for it. This includes any candidates you recruit through your software sales hiring efforts. San Francisco ranks number 1 in the United States for quality of life, but it’s also the second most expensive city to live in. This results in longer commutes and overall travel times.

san francisco unemployment rateThe appeal of the San Francisco Bay Area is easy to see due to its: desirable climate, the low unemployment rate of approximately 2.6 percent – with the national average being 3.9 percent – and wealth of culture.

However, it’s not perfect for everyone. As tech industries and young people have begun to dominate the area over the last decade, families are leaving San Francisco in search of a more affordable family life. This has led to one of the lowest rates of family households in the US at 44 percent, with 56 percent considered non-family households.

New York comes in at 61 percent family housing to 39 percent non-family. The national average is 66 percent family to 34 percent non-family. For organizations looking to bring on top performing sales executives who are young and hungry, this is perfect. For sales reps that have established families, organizations will have to provide a cash incentive for relocation or agree to remote sales roles.

san francisco pubic transit Public transit fares are significantly better than most cities, ranked as the number 2 transit system in North America trailing only New York City. An extensive short and long-haul rail network connects the entire bay area from north of San Francisco to the south of San Jose, which consistently ranks the region very high in transit coverage to job access.

The high quality of living, access to transit and education, has created a large pool of qualified candidates. It’s also one of the main reasons software companies choose the area. As more tech companies move in, so do more young candidates, and the cycle continues.

Breaking Down The Bay Area

venture capitals in san francisco Software companies take many factors into consideration when deciding where to locate. The main reason businesses will choose to call the San Francisco Bay Area home is the supply chain. There’s a large qualified workforce, STEM education, related businesses to build relationships, and over 70 percent of technology-focused venture capitals are found in this region. For financing factors alone, more than 150 major software specific companies are headquartered in the bay area.

Although not specific to software companies, this Silicon Valley heat map shows that there are two main areas where tech companies are choosing to operate:

  1. The city of San Francisco
  2. Silicon Valley stretching from San Mateo south through Palo Alto, Mountain View and North San Jose.

With the extremely high cost of living throughout the region, the workforce is facing some real pressures. The truth is that when looking at where software salespeople live, the answer is often: wherever they can.

“Silicon Valley has some of the highest housing and living expenses in the world thanks to its booming tech industry. Between 2010 and 2015, tech jobs grew 24.5 percent, leading to an influx of talent to the Bay Area. But housing has grown only 2.6 percent over the same period, sending prices shooting through the roof. Real estate database firm Zillow estimates a single square foot in the city costs US$495 today; the average rent is triple the United States average at US$3,390 a month.”

fortune 500 listThis has led to some unique solutions, including companies like Facebook paying employees up to ten thousand dollars to move closer to their Menlo Park campus. Tech companies are learning that shorter commutes lead to better lives and more productive workers.

Housing for tech workers is a long-term problem in San Francisco and area but this hasn’t stopped companies from calling the area home. San Francisco continues to take the number one spot on a list of cities of the future. It’s also why every year you’ll find roughly 20 companies from the Fortune 500 list headquartered in this region. Tech companies like HP, Intel, Apple, Cisco, and Google dominate the list.

Market and Business Landscape

In late 2017, the San Francisco-San Mateo area posted its best jobless numbers ever at only 2.2 percent unemployment. The East Bay and Santa Clara region hit an almost 20-year low, matching rates set in 1999.

employment growth percentageDespite the great unemployment numbers, job growth in the region is down over the last couple of years. The Bay Area has had job growth of 4 percent in 2015, 3 percent in 2016, and below 2 percent for 2017. For tech jobs specifically, the growth is larger, but also slowing from 6.4 percent in 2014, to 6 percent in 2015, to 3.5 percent in 2016.

Don’t let the growth numbers fool you. San Francisco and Silicon Valley is still the top destination for tech start-ups. High rents are forcing companies to look elsewhere, but for now, Startup Genome’s 2017 report has them ranked number 1:

“28% of the global investments into Early-Stage startups are captured by Silicon Valley companies. Its top contenders are NYC and Beijing, which capture about 11% each. Silicon Valley also has the highest Global Resource Attraction score at 21%.”

This supply chain of talent and financing makes the area compelling despite the cost challenges.

Tech Continues to Drive Growth

To no one’s surprise, tech industries will continue to be a driver in San Francisco for the foreseeable future. They’re expected to continue to outgrow all other industries in the region and as a result, the need for software sales reps will also continue to grow.

It’s not the only industry that’s growing. San Francisco is the second largest financial hub in the US, which makes sense when you consider that the city is home to the largest venture capital industry in the country. While the high cost of the Bay Area has relocated some start-ups, the money is still located here.

san francisco population growthDue to the predicted job growth, the population is expected to grow 20 percent by 2035 and more than 80 percent of that growth is expected to happen in just 20 percent of the San Francisco metro area. Investment is already underway on 7 large billion dollar projects that are expected to completely transform the region and increase density.

Population growth in the tech industry will boost the hospitality, health and construction industries. Adding density has already led to record costs in the building industry creating a boom of its own.

Software Sales Hiring in the San Francisco Bay Area

The Bay Area currently has more than 3500 unfilled software sales jobs on Indeed, second only to NYC at 4300 – similar ratios can be found on Glassdoor and LinkedIn. The region is a powerhouse for tech jobs, and software sales is no exception.

Software Sales positions are available at a variety of levels, including:

New York has around 20- 30 percent more openings due to being three-times the size of the Bay Area. But, the average salary offered is higher in the Bay Area, partly because there are significantly more jobs per capita.

San Francisco is also ranked as the number one city in the country where vacant jobs are difficult to fill. Software and technical sales jobs make the task of recruiting new talent difficult. These qualified candidates are some of the most difficult to find and this delay can result in significant dollars lost:

“Paycor Inc., which sells cloud-based software for human resources and payroll management, said it would have forecast $2 million more in 2015 revenue if it had hit it’s 2014 hiring goals for new sales reps in 2014. The time spent bringing new reps up to speed means the company doesn’t see the full benefit of their productivity until 12 to 18 months into their tenure.”

This all sets the stage to explain the demands on hiring for software sales in the Bay Area. A sample of Software Sales jobs on GlassDoor often include qualities you may not have traditionally found:

  • Analytical/Mathematical Acumen – ability to analyze sales data
  • Analyze data from multiple sources to uncover opportunities
  • World-class interpersonal and communication skills to make complex contractual, technical, and financial details sound simple
  • Able to work cross-functionally during the sales cycle

The last point may be the most important. Quite often, jobs now require a deep knowledge of the technical aspects of the business. The salesperson no longer defers to a team to do so for them.

Lastly, experience is the number one request that is consistent on almost every post. Usually with direct knowledge of cloud services, SaaS, and B2B solutions.

Sales Salaries

The Bay Area, on average, will have the highest salary offerings for software sales positions. It goes without saying the top software sales jobs are located where the top tech firms call home. In recent years, Forbes looked at the companies that compensated their sales force the best, and every single one of them is in the software business. And, 80 percent have their headquarters or a satellite office in the Bay Area. Business Insider notes that in Enterprise Software Sales, attracting the top reps will cost you top dollar.

In fact, an Oracle sales rep has an average base salary of 110 thousand dollars and an on target earnings potential of 250 thousand dollars. However, there are some people in the company who are expected to earn over 500 thousand dollars. For more senior level roles in these organizations – such as a VP of Sales – they’re earning an average of 300-400 thousand dollars per year.

sales salary in san franciscoNone of this is surprising when you look at the Bureau of Labour Statistics. Sales jobs in the region will have a salary approximately 50 percent higher than the national average. According to their latest report, Sales Representatives in technical and scientific fields are averaging 100 thousand dollars annually. Sales Engineers can expect to make 154 thousand dollars annually. This includes all fields beyond just software.

To drill down and look at software sales jobs specifically, salary aggregators give us a more accurate look. According to Paysa, the average salary for software sales reps, managers and engineers in the Bay Area is closer to 167 thousand dollars annually.

Challenges in the Region

There are a couple challenge factors when hiring for software sales positions in the San Francisco Bay Area. High living costs, high salaries and high demand for employees are all major issues. However, the benefits of locating your business in an area with the highest talent pool outweighs the negatives. The Bay Area certainly fulfills that requirement for software sales jobs.

san francisco hiring challengesThe region is also shifting where jobs are located within the Bay Area, which is posing a new set of challenges for the companies looking to hire the best talent here.

Silicon Valley is very crowded, and the shift in demographics is making it harder to attract top talent to the southern Bay Area. Those workers prefer life in San Francisco over the valley. Traditionally growth has always been strong in Silicon Valley, but now you’re seeing numbers dramatically rise in the city as companies create a San Francisco employee strategy to deal with these challenges:

“But the Silicon Valley of old is running out of space and many millennials, the new generation of knowledge workers, want to be closer to, if not in, a city with nightlife and culture. That’s led the likes of Google, Yahoo, Cisco and others to open big offices in San Francisco. Spurred by tax incentives, Twitter set up its headquarters in the City by the Bay in 2006, and there it remains.”

The Bay Area is still experiencing tech growth, but the growth is expected to shift towards the city of San Francisco from Silicon Valley. As this shift occurs, it puts further pressures on rents and forcing businesses to make room. For example, Blue Shield is moving its headquarters from downtown San Francisco to Oakland. The same is true for Uber. All this shuffling around is what is allowing room for companies like Apple to move in.

The other major challenge is that other regions are starting to attract the talent. As you saw in the Genome Startup report, many cities are nipping at the heels of the bay area for the tech crown. This has allowed for start-ups to not only spread across the country but also the globe. Recent studies show as many as 40 percent of Bay Area employees suggesting they’d like to leave the region. It’s important for employers to tackle the issue head-on.

Looking Ahead

san francisco job market scoreWalletHub recently completed their comprehensive job market scoring for 150 of the most populated US cities across 17 market indicators including unemployment, job satisfaction, average salary, job security, benefits and more, and listed San Francisco at number 2. Fremont on the east side of the bay area at number 19. Silicon Valley doesn’t make an appearance until number 31 with San Jose.

The region will continue to dominate the software and tech industry for the foreseeable future. Experts suggest that employers should expect the software sales hiring landscape to remain very competitive.

Here are some additional articles about hiring landscapes in similar markets:

making business connections

We make initial judgements about people in nanoseconds. We take just 50 milliseconds to decide whether to stay on or to leave a new website. It takes up to 10 good experiences with a brand to make up for a bad one.

Simply put, first impressions matter and can make or break your ability to develop a strong relationship with a prospect and close a deal.

Whenever we’re confronted with something new, we quickly decide what we think of it – which is often outside of our conscious control. And that goes for the email messages we receive as well. That’s why, as a salesperson, it’s important that the introductory message in your cold email sequence hits the right marks right out of the gate.

You won’t get a second chance to make a first impression in your introductory email, so here are five best practices to help you get it right.

#1. Keep It Short

Why It Works: Email users receive an average of 88 emails per day. Yet, despite this, click-through rates for professional services emails average just 21.2 percent. The reality is that nobody has time to read the lengthy introductory message you’ve composed – no matter how critical you believe each detail to be.

According to Lead Fuze’s Justin McGill, “If your message is a burden for your prospect to read and/or respond to, they won’t. So keep it short and simple.”

One of the best ways I’ve found to keep email length in check is with a 3-sentence formula for cold sales emails that involves:

  • The introduction
  • A description of what you’re selling
  • Your call-to-action (also known as your “ask”

That’s it. Short, simple and sweet. That said, keeping your message to three sentences is easier said than done. Start with what you have, and try to pare it down until just these three elements remain.

Data from Boomerang suggests that “the sweet spot for email length is between 50-125 words, all of which yielded response rates above 50 percent.” Ten-word messages, according to their survey, yield lower average open rates of 36 percent, while messages longer than 2,000 words declined to average open rates of 35 percent.

#2. Make It Personal

Why It Works: Consider personalization a “must-do” in your cold email introductory messages. Here are some studies and statistics abound detailing the significant impact personalization has on open and reply rates:

  • In a trial by Woodpecker.io, personalized emails received a 17 percent reply rate, versus a 7 percent reply rate for non-personalized messages.
  • According to Adestra, personalized subject lines have open rates nearly 23 percent higher than non-personalized subject lines.
  • Aberdeen reports that personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14 percent and conversions by 10 percent.

When you consider the psychology behind personalization, these performance statistics make sense. As Tucker Max shares in the Harvard Business Review, “The opportunity to help someone is very enjoyable for a lot of people — it may even qualify as a ‘want.’ By asking for help, you are giving them the chance to feel good about themselves. But make it easy for them.”

There are a number of different ways you can personalize your introduction email, including:

  • Using name, title or company merge fields in your subject line
  • Using merge fields to put the recipient’s name in the greeting
  • Making sure the body copy of your message targets their specific needs
  • Personalizing your call to action

That said, as you add personalization to your cold email campaigns, be careful not to overdo it. Reflektion’s Matt Helmke shares insight from a webinar he conducted with Forrester Principal Analyst Brendan Witcher, which cautioned brands to “be overt with the collection of customer data, but covert about communicating what you know about them.” According to Helmke:

“The best experiences should feel natural and non-intrusive to the customer; taking into account everything you know about them.”

How do you know if your personalization is too intrusive? Test different personalization approaches, and watch your open and reply rates. You’ll find the answers you need there.

#3. Focus On The Recipient

Why It Works: If you’ve ever gone on a first date or sat down for coffee with someone who spent the entire time talking about themselves and their problems, you know how important it is to focus on your recipients.

Nobody wants to open an email just to learn how their actions will benefit the sender. Instead, every part of your introductory message – from your opening line, to your description of your benefits, to your ask – needs to be focused on their pain points, not your needs.

Solid client relationships are built over time. Data gathered by Propeller suggests that the majority of all sales require five follow-ups (though it also notes that more than half of all salespeople give up after just one). Your introductory message is just the first step in this sequence. It’s to your advantage to focus on your recipients’ needs, lest they risk ending the relationship early.

The “Before-After-Bridge” cold email template – described below – is a great one to use here, as it emphasizes the recipient’s needs in three steps:

  • Before: Describe what your reader’s life is like now
  • After: Help them picture how your solution makes it better
  • Bridge: Show them how you’ll take them from before to after

 

#4. Minimize The Friction Of Your Ask

Why It Works: Asking too much from an introductory email is like proposing marriage on your first date. Keep two things in mind as you decide what to ask for in your message: make it clear and make it easy to execute.

Both of these are, to some degree, self-explanatory. A clear ask is more likely to be understood and followed through on than a complicated request or multiple asks. As Heather from SalesFolk shares:

“Instead of asking your prospect to schedule an open-ended call, set a time limit for your conversation. Asking your prospects for only 10 minutes of their time is a less threatening way to ask them to engage with you. It’s easier for your prospects to say yes when they know they won’t be stuck on the phone indefinitely.”

When you minimize the friction of your ask, you’re also – on a larger scale – getting recipients into a pattern of engaging with you. The consistency principle in psychology states: “I like to keep consistent what I think, say and do, and will change to ensure this is so.” If you can get recipients to engage with you once, their desire to remain consistent may lead them to engage with you further on larger future asks.

simplify your call to action

#5. Open Up The Lines Of Communication

Why It Works: Your introductory email shouldn’t be the only cold sales message you send. Follow-up is critical, though it’s easy to overlook.

Take it from Steli Efti of close.io:

“It’s easy to focus on the initial contact. The first meeting. The email you’ve sent to someone important. You reach out to someone and then feel good about yourself. You’ve done your job, you’ve pitched and reached out. You’ve asked for a meeting/call/etc. Now all you have to do is sit around and wait for them to respond.”

Data shared on the Salesforce blog by Fergal Glynn suggests that it takes 6-8 touches to generate a viable sales lead. Add follow-up messages to your sequence, but also use your introductory message to set the expectation that more messages will be coming. Not only does doing so leverage the principle of consistency mentioned earlier, it makes it less jarring for recipients to hear from you again.

Writing a Strong Cold Email Introduction

Keep in mind that the suggestions above should be taken as starting points only. Best practices may give you an idea of what will work. It’s up to you to test which specific elements are most compelling to your recipients.

Watch your reply rates, test different variables and be willing to experiment to drive ongoing cold email success.

 

Personal Branding for salespeople

Personal Branding is important for salespeople on LinkedInMore than 80% of all B2B leads are from LinkedIn – so if you’re not using LinkedIn, or not using it effectively, you’re missing out big time. There’s a lot of opportunity on a platform that boasts half a billion users and encompasses every industry.  But if you’ve only put together a basic professional profile, you won’t reap any of the benefits it has to offer.

Personal branding is key for any salesperson to really benefit from LinkedIn. We’re going to show you exactly what it means to build a personal brand, and how to elevate and leverage it to drive sales.

Four steps to personal branding you can put into action now

Step 1: Define Your Audience

One of the first things to address when you’re building your personal brand is to understand your target audience. Once you’ve identified who you intend to reach, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are their likes and dislikes? Do they like long form professional articles, or short status updates with tips? Are they searching for how-to guides, or are they more interested in theoretical content? This will help you determine what type of content to create and share that will resonate with them.
  • Who are they engaging with? Are there thought leaders already dominating the space? What are they sharing? What can you learn from them?
  • What solutions are they looking for? Where do they need the most help? How can you position your solution as the right solution for them?
  • Is there a dominant geographical area? Can you target your communications to be specific to the region? Are there local events that you can tie into your communications that will resonate?

Step 2: Build a Killer LinkedIn Profile

For your personal brand to be effective, you must invest the time and effort in creating and maintaining a strong profile. When you engage with people, you want your profile to help reinforce why people should engage with you.

Creating a robust profile is not a difficult task, it just takes some TLC. The first place you’ll want to start is the prompts you’ll get directly from LinkedIn. The platform will prompt you to fill out various details and let you know what you’re missing.

Customize Your Profile

Don’t just use the default data that LinkedIn provides. Take full advantage of the customizations it offers so you can really stand out.

Use a great profile picture

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. A headshot is usually best, but there are rules that should be followed. Having a picture of you in action is a great alternative to a standard portrait.

Make sure you have a custom LinkedIn URL

Using your name is best for enhancing your personal brand, and it also helps with searchability online.

Write a better headline

Don’t try to be clever, unless that’s your personal brand. You’ll want to state exactly what you do, and how it helps the potential reader. Here are some best practices:

LinkedIn Headline example

  • Don’t be boring. Write something that attracts attention.
  • Be confident. You don’t want to seem like you’re begging for business.
  • State what you do. Be direct, the reader will appreciate it.
  • Who are your solutions for? Work that into your headline.
  • State how you’ll make their life better.

A great example comes from Michael Dodd. He’s direct, you understand what he does, who he works for, and what solutions he can provide.

Make your summary work for you.

Don’t waste this space. Here’s your chance to grab attention and explain why people should do business with you. Make a convincing case. Here’s a great example from Sales Leadership Consultant, Jeffrey Buskey:

LinkedIn Summary Example

Add pictures and video.

Most people don’t do this, so it’s an area where you can really stand out. A video is not only more enticing, it generates 1,200% more shares than text and images combined. You can show people exactly what you’re about, and it’s more personal.

Show Off Your Accomplishments

Showing off what you’ve achieved is a great way to build credibility. You’ll want to showcase your overall sales performance, where you ranked on your team, President’s Club awards, territory growth, marquee clients you’ve worked with, etc. Your brand must be centered around how you’re an expert in a certain field, which is why people should work with you. Show off the qualifications that make you that expert, and tell the story of how you’ve achieved success.

Step 3: Build Trust and Credibility

Trust is a key component to any sale. As a successful salesperson, you know how hard it is to earn trust from a potential client. Best-selling author Neil Rackham conducted a study where he interviewed 50 customers who had turned Xerox down because of price. It turned out that in 64% of cases, price was not the primary factor. Buyers didn’t trust the salesperson or were afraid of becoming too dependent on a sole supplier.

Your personal brand and reputation can make or break the first impression you make on your prospective customers.

Build your Reputation

Personal Branding has a big impact on first impressionsDon’t be shy about asking people to say a few nice words about you. The most sure-fire way to have people trust you, is by seeing that their friends already trust you. Most of the time people are happy to write a few words for you, if you do the same for them.

LinkedIn makes getting recommendations easy as it’s built right into the platform. It may seem obvious, but target recommendations from key players in your industry. Top executives and those who already have credibility and a great personal brand. Don’t be afraid to aim high! The results just might surprise you and give your brand a quick boost.

Here’s a few tips you can use to ask for a recommendation:

  • Send a personalized email
  • Write a recommendation for someone first
  • Contact people you know well
  • Provide content suggestions in advance
Build by Sharing

Put yourself out there! Sharing information is the easiest way to say “Hey, I’m an expert in this field, and here’s what you need to know about it today.”

Think about the people you follow. Leaders in their field are constantly sharing quality information. It’s a very simple way to show that you know what you’re talking about. If you want to be a leader, you need to be the person people follow for breaking news in your field, and trusted articles they can use.

Writing articles and posting video are two of the easiest ways to share things on LinkedIn. You can also share articles others have written, recommend industry people to your audience, and generally just share things you’re interested in reading and viewing.

Here’s a few examples of sales leaders who do this well:

Build by Engaging

LinkedIn at its heart is a social platform. Get involved in conversations, comment on articles, share things that you find useful, and ask questions of other creators. You need to be reachable and engaged with your audience.

Being a part of this community will position your brand in your field. It’s how you’ll make connections, get leads, build trust, and build a portfolio that showcases your brand to your targeted audience. That’s what personal branding is all about.

Step 4: Grow Your Following

Now that you have a solid LinkedIn profile, it’s time to think about how you can grow your audience. Each follower is a potential client, so the wider your reach, the more potential followers and clients you can expect.

Building an audience involves ongoing work with a clear focus in mind. If you’re an expert in your niche, keep your focus on that topic. You may be interested in multiple subjects, but you’ll need to keep focus to build your brand for people to find you, follow you, and continue to subscribe to what you’re sharing. You don’t want to be a jack of all trades, master of none.

There are a few things you should always be doing to grow your following and target new opportunities.

Always be Learning

If you want to know what great personal branding looks like, you’ll want to follow the people that do it well. By following and connecting with key players on LinkedIn you’ll learn from them, and apply the lessons to your own brand.

Always be Optimizing

Anytime you attend a conference, gain a new skill, achieve a new award, or generally build on your brand, you’ll want to be optimizing your message to show you fully understand and are involved in your industry. Being on the cutting edge will help you with your brand and keep you at the forefront of the field.

You’ll learn a lot about what’s working and what isn’t with your brand. What articles people like, what content they’re sharing, what questions they’re asking, and what the demographic is. This information will change overtime, and you’ll want to keep optimizing your profile, website, and social feeds to reflect this.

As LinkedIn changes, you’ll want to change too. Take advantage of new tools, implement new best practices, and generally stay on top of things for best results.

Always be Connecting

Think twice about turning down a connection, or an opportunity to connect on social media. Even if someone doesn’t need what you’re selling right now, you never know when they’ll need it down the road.

You’ll also want to try to connect with the audience of those that have personal brands similar to yours. Their audience is your audience. That doesn’t mean taking over their channel and saying “Hey, follow me too!” It means engaging with that audience in conversation, posting positive comments on things that leader is sharing, joining forums they’re involved in, and generally engaging wherever you can.

Building a personal brand is not an easy task, but nothing worthwhile ever is. If you’re still skeptical about the power of personal branding, this video by Brett Cohen is an excellent example of the impact it can have on people’s perceptions. Brett ran an interesting test to see if he could get people to believe he was a celebrity, simply by acting like one – and the results are astonishing.

Now you’ve seen the impact that personal branding can have. Here are a few more resources you’ll want to check out when you’re ready to dive in:

sales podcasts

Since Apple added podcasts to iTunes in 2005, demand for podcasts has skyrocketed. Today, there are over 60 thousand podcasts on iTunes specifically, and this number has been growing by an average annual rate of 80-90 percent since 2008. Due to this demand, many industry leaders like Andy Paul, Bill Caskey and Jeb Blount, are leveraging sales podcasts to provide frontline, actionable insight into what it takes to be a top-tier salesperson in today’s competitive market.

Becoming an A-player salesperson requires a continuous dedication to learning and improving not only your knowledge but also your skills. However, with the fast paced nature of sales, only 53 percent of salespeople say they spend office downtime reading online content, and an even smaller 35 percent say they focus on books. This means that nearly half of the sales population isn’t spending their time reading content. Podcasts are an easily accessible and less time consuming alternative that your salespeople can leverage to learn new skills and keep up on industry trends.

This is why we’ve put together a list of ten podcasts containing actionable intel, best practices and information your sales team can listen to instead of sitting down and reading content.

In no particular order, here are ten sales podcasts your sales team should listen to in 2018.

1. Accelerate! (Sales, Profits, Growth)

Andy Paul interviews other sales powerhouses like Jill Konrath and Bridget Gleason to discuss and share insights on sales coaching, personal and professional development, sales process automation and other useful topics. Accelerate! is an effective sales podcast for any sales executives looking to 10x their sales performance.

Peak’s Episode Recommendations:

Five Common Reasons Buyers Say No And How To Get To Yes with Bridget Gleason

Bridget and Andy discuss the five common objections salespeople get from customers and how to maneuver through the conversation to get the “yes”. They also discuss the importance of building trust with the customer as it increases the speed and likelihood of a successful sale.

Is Your Sales Process Sales Ready? with Jim Ninivaggi

Jim discusses what he believes to be the single biggest challenge for salespeople today, which is not having learned the basic fundamentals of selling. He discusses the importance of knowing how to engage with another human by using said fundamentals to connect and build a relationship.

Accelerate Sales Engagement For SDRs And AEs with Chris Rothstein

Chris argues that salespeople are continuously challenged with overall noise. Due to the amount of products and services on the market, salespeople need to provide true value in order to stand out from the noise – and your competitors.

About The Host:

Andy Paul is the CEO and Founder of Zero-Time Selling, Inc., and is the industry leading expert on integrating speed into every stage of the sales process. With over 30 years of experience as an individual contributor and sales VP – at both start-up and Fortune 1000 organizations – he is now a successful speaker, consultant and executive sales coach.

andy paulAndy Paul, CEO and Founder of Zero-Time Selling, Inc.

“I almost didn’t make it past the sales training class in my first job out of college. The bosses didn’t think I’d make it in sales because I wasn’t “salesy” enough. They thought I was too introverted and analytical. And yet, over three decades, I have built a successful career as a sales leader, author, speaker and consultant by being different, thinking differently and selling differently.”

2. The Ultimate Sales Hustle Podcast

The Ultimate Sales Hustle Podcast provides frontline, no-nonsense, actionable advice into tactics and sales strategies from one of Silicon Valley’s top sales hustlers, Steli Efti. Efti shares his sales stories right from his experiences working with hundreds of Silicon Valley start-ups, which fellow hustlers can learn from and apply to their sales process.

Peak’s Episode Recommendations:

Cold Calling: How To Respond To “I Don’t Have Time”?

Steli talks about the biggest cold calling challenge salespeople face, which is the fact that most prospects will simply say they don’t have time to speak. Steli states that this is untrue simply because if they didn’t have time, they would have hung up the phone or not picked up at all. He discusses how to get past this challenge and into a beneficial conversation.

How To Respond To Discount Inquiries

In today’s market, a lot of prospects are focused on price instead of value. So how do you handle the discount requests? How do you deal with people who simply want a lower price than what you’re offering? It’s all discussed in this episode.

Numbers Down? Missing Your Quota? 3 Steps To Deal With Stress In Sales

If you’re having a rough quarter or are struggling to hit your targets, you’re under a lot of stress. This stress can often hinder your ability to be successful. This episode discusses how to deal with missing your quota and how to handle the stress when you’re behind your numbers.

About The Host:

From the age of 17, Steli Efti has been a self-made entrepreneur. After moving from Germany to San Francisco, he began building his first start-up in Silicon Valley. Today, he is the CEO and co-founder of Close.io – which is a Saas CRM that helps organizations boost their sales – and is a sought after lecturer and coach on all things sales.

steli eftiSteli Efti, of Close.io (Elastic, Inc)

“What makes someone successful as an entrepreneur is the confidence (or delusion!) that you can create something people want and the ability to learn and change as necessary until you’ve finally succeeded with it.

3. In The Arena Podcast

The Arena Podcast showcases world class sales leaders like Mike Weinberg and Chris Brogan as they discuss sales tips and exchange insights. Topics of discussion include keys to sales success, sales leadership, communication skills, relationship building and much more. This podcast offers a wide variety of insights into what it takes to be a top performing salesperson.

Peak’s Episode Recommendations:

Mike Weinberg Simplifies Sales Management

The most important role in any sales oriented organization is the Sales Manager. That is why this episode focuses on having a conversation with Mike Weinberg about his new book called Sales Management Simplified.

Knowing Exactly What to Say in Your Sales Conversations with Phil M Jones

In this episode, Phil and Anthony talk about how knowing what to say to your prospects comes from understanding the way humans work, how they listen and how they respond to different kinds of language. They provide actionable advice on how salespeople can use words to change negative responses into positive ones.

The Sales Mindset Of A Top Salesperson, with Lee Bartlett

Anthony interviews Lee Bartlett in this episode, and shows you that you don’t have to have a huge ego to be successful in sales. Lee discusses how success is based on your belief in your ability to work hard and master elementary things – such as effectively talking to people.

About The Host:

Anthony Iannarino is an international speaker and author of The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need and award-winning blog called “The Sales Blog”. He has spent his career selling, managing salespeople and growing companies. With his immense experience, he now provides organizations with the learning and development he wishes he would have had when he first started.

Anthony IannarinoAnthony Iannarino, Sales Kickoff Speaker at B2BSalesCoach.com

“Much of what I learned about sales, management, and leadership, I learned the hard way. I did what I thought was right, made mistakes, and made adjustments. I always found more value in battle-tested ideas and the perspective of an operator, not someone who produces only theories.”

4. The Advanced Selling Podcast

The Advanced Selling Podcast is hosted by Bryan Neale and Bill Caskey and focuses on individual sales strategies that salespeople can apply to their own process to hit their targets. Some of the topics they discuss include the skills and mindsets of some of the industries most successful salespeople, while also providing actionable advice about how you can apply these skills to your own roster.

Peak’s Episode Recommendations:

What Do You Stand For

In this episode, Bill and Bryan discuss their personal brand makeover course. They take a deep dive into the first module that covers personal clarity and discovering what you – as a salesperson – stands for.

Client Wants To Go Out For A Bid?

What do you do when a long-time customer decides that they want to go out price shopping with other vendors? This episode covers just that. This challenge is broken down into two categories: how to prevent the situation and how to remedy it.

Commitment & Energy

Bill and Bryan argue that commitment and energy influence your success in professional selling. They break down these words and talk about what they’ve observed when working with companies that have high achievers on their sales teams.

About The Hosts:

Bryan Neale has been consulting with B2B sales teams, sales leaders and CEOs for over 20 years. When he is not training and coaching sales strategies, he is on the football field as an official NFL referee. He has a passion for training teams on the similarities between sales and football, which comes through on his podcast.

bryan nealeBryan Neale, Speaker, Trainer and Coach at The Blind Zebra

“I believe elite performance in anything— football, sales, or otherwise— stems from the same formula. Everyone knows what to do and say.”

 

Author of Same Game New Rules and creator of The 2X Group, Bill Caskey specializes in training and coaching salespeople and sales leaders to produce superior results in their area of interest. Everything he does in his training, writing, coaching, etc, is in an effort to help salespeople choose their own outcomes both personally and professionally.

bill caskeyBill Caskey, President at Caskey Achievement Strategies

“The most vital relationship is one that everyone neglects. It is the one between how you think and how you achieve. No relationship affects your success like that one.

 

5. Sales Gravy

Sales Gravy, hosted by Jeb Blount, is a sales podcast focusing on discussing high-performance selling, effective account management, skills training, customer experience, and much more. He provides actionable advice about how salespeople can close more large deals to become that consistent top performer.

Peak’s Episode Recommendations:

4 Keys To Engaging Prospects With Cold Emails

In this episode, Jeb and Kendra Lee – author of The Sales Magnet – discuss a variety of cold email prospecting techniques.

Bad Sales Habits Die Hard

Developing a bad habit is easy, but breaking this bad habit is extremely difficult. In this episode, Jeb discusses the risks of developing bad habits as they cause salespeople to experience failure.

How To Avoid Wasting Time on Bad Deals

Walking away from a deal – and potential revenue – is very difficult. What’s even more difficult is dedicating all your time and effort to a prospect that will never actually sign. In this episode, Jeb talks about how to avoid these situations and focus your energy on deals that will close.

About The Host:

Jeb Blount is a heavily sought after speaker and coach for companies who are looking to achieve peak performance fast. He has the ability to take complex concepts and simplify them so they are easily digestible and can be applied immediately. Blount is also the best-selling author of People Love You: The Real Secret to Delivering Legendary Customer Experience, Sales EQ and Fanatical Prospecting.

jeb blountJeb Blount, CEO at Sales Gravy, Inc.

“Leadership. Sales. Customer Experience. It’s all human. When your people master interpersonal skills, you gain a powerful competitive advantage that transforms your entire organization.”

 

6. The Sales Evangelist

The Sales Evangelist podcast, hosted by Donald Kelly, features industry leading salespeople, sales leaders and marketers who share their knowledge and insight on how to enhance your career, grow your business and achieve the income you deserve.

Peak’s Episode Recommendations:

What’s Not Working In Sales Today, with Brandon Bruce

This episode’s guest is Brandon Bruce, the co-founder of Cirrus Insight, which is ranked number 44 on The Inc 500 List. He discusses what is going on in sales today, what’s not working and what you should be doing to improve your sales.

How To Help Young Sales Leaders Become Great Leaders, with Andy Paul

Andy Paul talks about how you can help young leaders become better and more successful. He also discusses his own passion for helping people grow in an ever changing environment.

Is There A Proper Way To Push My Customer To Make A Decision?

In this episode, Donald discusses how there are some customers that take a long time to make a decision and we allow this because we’re afraid to push them. He shares his thoughts and insights on how you can push your product without being too pushy and potentially losing the customer.

About The Host:

From a young age, Donald has been an entrepreneur. After being part of the 80 percent who brought in only 20 percent of the business, he knew he had to make a change in order to earn the money he knew he deserved. He started reading sales books, learning as much as he could from top performing salespeople and learned how to hustle effectively. With this, he became a “selling machine” that was making commission, paying off debts and providing for his family. He now provides sales team training through consulting, online courses, presentations, webinars and much more.

donald kelly

Donald Kelly, President and The Chief Sales Evangelist

“Everyone can learn to sell and DO BIG THINGS. Anyone can take control of his life and create a meaningful lifestyle he deserves.”

 

7. Get In The Door

Get in the door, hosted by Steve Kloyda and Scott Plum, focuses on creating ideas that inspire, encourage and empower salespeople to get in the door and what to do once you’ve gotten there. This podcast is for salespeople who are committed to changing their sales and prospecting to achieve greater results.

Peak’s Episode Recommendations:

Ready To Take Your Sales Skills To The Next Level?

Steve and Scott begin looking at The Only Sales Guide You Will Ever Need by Anthony Iannarino. They cover the first chapter and take a deep dive into how often salespeople fail to improve their skills.

Persistence: Breaking Through Resistance

In this episode, you will learn how to play the “long game” and discover how to continue to pursue a prospect without becoming a nuisance to them. By following Steve and Scott’s advice, your client will be thankful that you kept in touch.

Prospecting: Opening Relationships and Creating Opportunities

Effective prospecting is the key to successful sales. If you’ve been in sales for any length of time then you know that opening is the new closing. Steve and Scott discuss how salespeople can improve their ability to prospect effectively and in turn boost their sales.

About The Hosts:

Founder of The Prospecting Expert, Steve Kloyda has spent over 30 years creating sales experiences that “wow” salespeople and their customers. Steve teaches salespeople how to create their sales and prospecting plans to attract more customers and drive better sales.

steve kloyda

Steve Kloyda, Founder and President at The Prospecting Expert, Inc

“My mission is creating ideas that inspire, encourage and empower salespeople to do their best work.”

 

 

Scott “The Professor” Plum started his sales career back in 1987 and founded the Minnesota Sales Institute 15 years later. His goal is to teach salespeople how to increase their number of sales wins, which increases revenue, and how to stop customers from negotiating prices down.

 

scott plum Scott “The Professor” Plum, Founder and President at Minnesota Sales Institute, LLC

“Over time, if you don’t take responsibility for your mistakes, change and growth, and understand that you are the only one that you can control, then your frustration will grow and the results you are seeking will elude you no matter who you’re employed with.”

8. The Brutal Truth About Sales & Selling

Ranked in the top ten on iTunes and hosted by Brian Burns, The Brutal Truth About Sales & Selling features Brian’s no-nonsense philosophy as he discusses B2B sales and selling. Some of the topics he covers include cold calling, spin selling, challenger sale, solution selling, advanced selling skills. strategic selling, LinkedIn, saas and how sales has changed.

Peak’s Episode Recommendations:

5 Ways To Become An A-Players In Sales And Selling

In this episode, Brian discusses five ways salespeople can take their mediocre performance and turn it into A-player performance.

How To Break Through The Noise And Get The Meeting

Want to know how to separate yourself from your competitors and get in front of the customer? This episode explains how salespeople can separate themselves from the noise and close deals.

The Secrets To Closing Mega-Deals, with Christopher Engman

This episode discusses the strategies involved in closing larger deals. Brian offers frontline advice to help salespeople close the deals that put them at the top of their sales teams.

About The Host:

Brian helps companies truly understand their customers and how they make buying decisions. By doing this, companies increase their revenue and drastically reduce their sales cycles. His clients typically achieve a 300 percent increase in net new business and a 30 percent reduction in their sales cycle.

brian burnsBrian Burns, host of The Brutal Truth about Sales & Selling Podcast, and host and founder of The B2B Revenue Leadership Show

“My approach is direct and without the fluff that other sales training companies take so if you want the brutal truth about sales and selling you have found the right place.”

9. SalesTuners

Hosted by Jim Brown, Sales Tuners is a weekly podcast that showcases high-performing salespeople and sales leaders, and their techniques and behaviors that have led to their success in sales. He features a new guest every week and focuses on topics like deal negotiation, building your sales pipeline, sales enablement and much more.

Peak’s Episode Recommendations:

Why Your Product Only Makes Up 10% of Your Success, with Mark S. A. Smith

Episode guest Mark Smith discusses one of the most common questions he gets from salespeople. How do I beat the competition? He argues that your product is only 10 percent of the sale and a customer is really buying into you. By positioning yourself in the right way, you align your product with their needs. Deals are won!

Sales Calls Should Happen with Prospects, Not to Them, with Kristin Zhivago

Customers want to buy from someone they trust and who understands what they need. One of the most common thoughts a customer has during a sales process is “what is going to happen to me after I buy”? Kristin discusses how to humble yourself and make sure you’re connecting with customers.

Strive to be a Sales Professional, Not Just an Account Executive, with Cody Lamens

In this episode, Cody discusses taking advantage of every opportunity, how to prepare, if something is working then keep repeating it and how to ask the hard questions right at the beginning of the sales cycle.

About The Host:

Jim Brown has spent the past ten years working with two companies and has lead them from one million in revenue to ten million. Today, he coaches some of the world’s leading tech companies and their salespeople on the “Skeptical Selling Method”. He focuses on the behaviors, techniques and attitudes that are needed to achieve sales success today.

jim brown Jim Brown – Sales Coach and Podcast Host at SalesTuners

“From the US Marine Corps to marketing and sales and even a stint in pro wrestling, I’ve done a lot. I’ve founded or co-founded eight companies — some successful, some not. I’ve sold services and software, and also consulted companies on how to increase revenue on the internet.”

10. Salesman Podcast

In the Salesman Podcast, Will Barron interviews industry leading sales experts, Olympic athletes and psychologists, and many more, to discuss and share insights on how you can improve your sales skills and performance. He releases multiple episodes per week on a variety of topics that include deal negotiation, successful habits, personal branding, etc.

Peak’s Episode Recommendations:

The Difference Between Average And Incredible Sales Professionals with Paul Adamson

What is the difference between the average salesperson and an A-player? In this episode, Paul dissects the major differences between these two kinds of salespeople and what you should be doing to bring yourself to that A-player level.

What’s Going On In Your Customers Heads? with Matt McDarby

Matt discusses what prospects are thinking as salespeople build relationships with them. He gives actionable advice about how salespeople can then take these built relationships and convert them into clients.

Building A Personal Brand In A Sales Job with James Buckley

James Buckley has created a very unique personal brand in his industry and has seen success because of it. In this episode, he discusses how he did it.

About The Host:

Will Barron is an award-winning sales podcaster and blogger to over 500,000 salespeople per month. He uses his large audience to spread his entertaining and creative content about how to be successful in sales.

will barronWill Barron, Sales Podcaster, Blogger and Managing Director at Upgraded Media

 

sales interview

Interviewing salespeople is like peeling an onion. It involves peeling away their superficial layers and getting past conditioned responses to learn about their capabilities, traits, cultural fit, and if they will yield quality results.

sales interview

With 50% of sales reps today missing quotas, conducting a successful sales interview is the difference between hiring a top performer who will consistently make their number and drive profitable revenue, or bringing on a mediocre salesperson who hinders revenue generation and lowers team morale. So how do you conduct an interview that eliminates under performers, yet challenges top performers to prove they deserve a spot on your team?

In this ultimate guide, we will discuss the dos and don’ts of sales interviewing, which includes common interview mistakes and legal guidelines, a comprehensive list of sales interview questions, what to look for in a candidate’s answers, and red flags to watch out for.

Finally, at the end of the guide we’ve created a template interviewers can use to ensure all candidates are measured objectively.

_____________________________________________________________________

Skip to section:

Preparing for a sales interview
Legal guidelines
Common interview mistakes
Being aware of your candidate
Top sales interview questions
How to eliminate a candidate
Success stories
Sales interview template
Peak’s best practices

__________________________________________________________________

First, imagine this scenario:

You’re about to go into a in-person interview with a candidate. You’ve reviewed their resume and cover letter, and based on what you’ve read, they seem strong. They don’t have any employment gaps, their resume focuses on skills and experience, and they’ve listed their quota attainment for the past five-years.

You walk into the conference room and the candidate immediately gets up to shake your hand. Their handshake is firm and confident, and you notice they’re well dressed for the meeting. So far, your first impression of them is positive.

Upon sitting down, you observe that they are giving you their full attention. You begin your interview questions and you facilitate a back and forth conversation. The candidate answers your questions with ease and no obvious red flags arise.

After approximately 45-minutes, the interview comes to an end – you shake hands, and show them out. You’re left feeling positive about the candidate and you decide you want to snatch them up before a competitor does.

They seemed like a strong candidate didn’t they?

Now, look ahead eight-months. You’ve hired the candidate, provided necessary training, and have allowed sufficient time to onboard and ramp up.

At this point, you expected a high-level of customer facing activity, a healthy pipeline, and a few deals to have closed. But this isn’t happening. They’ve had extensive coaching and shadowed one of your top performers as they worked through the sales cycle. Nothing is working.

Why is the rep not performing?

You can trace their poor performance back to their in-person interview conducted eight-months ago. The interview went seemingly well, but did you do absolutely everything you could to ensure they were a top performer?

Perhaps you didn’t.

Here is your ultimate guide to conducting successful sales interviews.

Rule #1: You Need To Be Just As Prepared As The Candidate

Being an unprepared interviewer is just as hindering as it is to be an unprepared candidate.

Why?

If an interviewer is unprepared, time is wasted on “get-to-know-you” or “ice-breaker” questions, which does not aid in evaluating the candidate’s skills, experience, and competencies. The candidate has more opportunities to fool the hiring manager into thinking they’re the ideal candidate, and the odds of making a bad sales hire increases.

Top performers expect you to have a robust understanding of the role:

Before going into the interview, think about the role and company information not listed on the job description or company website.

top employer

These details could include the size of the sales team and how they’ve been performing over the past 2-5 years, the performance of the territory they would be taking over, vacation time offered, and much more. Top performing candidates want to know this information.

Being able to provide these details – versus needing to follow up with the correct information later, positions your organization as having a strong interview and recruitment process, which improves the candidate experience.

You’ve got the tools needed for proper assessment:

Coming prepared also means bringing the the tools and resources needed to conduct the interview successfully. They could include the candidate’s resume and cover letter, an interview template – which is available to download at the end of this guide – that contains all your interview questions, and note-taking tools.

Taking notes during an interview allows an apples to apples comparison after interviewing numerous candidates. Without taking proper notes, valuable information may be forgotten, which leads to poor sales hiring decisions based on minimal information.

Rule #2: You Need to Abide by Legal Guidelines**

Hiring managers must follow the legal guidelines when conducting a sales interview. There is a fine line between asking a legal and effective interview question, and offending a candidate – resulting in legal repercussions.

candidate discrimination For example, under federal and state laws, it is illegal to discriminate against a candidate based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, and age.

There are also states that have made other discrimination categories illegal, such as sexual orientation and marital status.

Some topics to avoid discussing include:

  • Age
  • Gender or sex
  • Country of national origin or birthplace
  • Race, ethnicity, and color
  • Disability
  • Marital Status
  • Family and pregnancy
  • Religion

It may seem natural to inquire about these topics in conversation, however in an interview setting there is a high risk of offending candidates and the chances of fueling a discrimination issue, is even greater.

Some examples of illegal interview questions include:

  • When did you graduate from high school?
  • What kind of personal time off will you require on an annual basis and what will they be used for?
  • Do you have any children?
  • What kind of childcare arrangements will you be making for them while you’re at work?
  • What does your partner do for a living?
  • How long do you plan on working before retirement?
  • What kind of illnesses have you experience in the past two-years?

Focusing on legal interview questions allows proper candidate evaluation, as the focus is on determining their skills, experience, and competencies.

implied employment contractAnother area to avoid is making promises or guarantees in an interview. Interviewers may say things like “permanent position” or “job security”, which causes the candidate to hold them accountable for said statements. These candidates can then claim a breach in their implied employment contract, should any of the verbal promises not come to fruition.

Here are some things that should be done in an interview:

Ask all candidates the same questions
By doing this, interviewers avoid any one candidate claiming they’ve been singled out based on a specific question.

Keep the questions job related
Questions should serve the end goal of discovering if a candidate has the skills, experience, and competencies to be successful in the role. If the question doesn’t serve the end goal, then it shouldn’t be asked.

**Please Note: Be sure to conduct thorough research prior to doing interviews to ensure federal and state discrimination law compliance.  

Rule #3: Don’t Make These Common Mistakes

Conducting a successful sales interview is reliant on the interviewer’s ability to run the conversation smoothly and obtain needed information.

But, there are some common mistakes interviewers make; many of which they are unaware of. Anything from trying to make a personal connection with the candidate, to accepting the candidate’s first answer without probing for more information, can hinder an interviewer’s ability to objectively and thoroughly assess a candidate.

Some of the most common sales interview mistakes include:

Allowing the candidate to take control of the conversation

It’s in a salesperson’s nature to talk and convince prospects to buy what they’re selling. And when they’re in an interview, they do exactly the same.

When an interviewer asks a question, the candidate may want to provide as much information as possible in an attempt to successfully sell themselves.

While details are positive, too much detail can result in irrelevant information. As the interviewer, stop them from speaking and steer them back to the point they were trying to make. Interject by saying something like:

“That’s really great information but I would appreciate it if you could tell me more about X.”

Also mention that there’s a limited amount of time and it’s important to use the time efficiently. Top performing sales reps will appreciate these efforts as they understand time is valuable.

Using intimidation to get answers

It’s common to think that because sales reps typically have strong personalities, the hiring manager has to display a certain level of intimidation to match said strong personality. This can either help match the candidate’s tone or cause them to feel intimidated and drop out of the recruitment process.

Daniel Galvin, Pipedrive’s Head of Support and Sales states:

“I’ve interviewed people who would survive well in ‘intimidation interviews,’ but are terrible at sales. I’ve also interviewed people who would fail, yet are some of the best salespeople I’ve ever met. Is it worth losing talented people before they ever started because you want to show them you are in charge?”

Not asking behavioral questions

Behavioral interview questions inquire about specific selling activities and behaviors the candidate has done in the past, whereas regular interview questions ask what the candidate would do in certain situations.

behavioral interview questionsBy asking behavioral questions, the candidate is offering details about their past success, which is used to measure their potential success in the new role. Position these questions in a way that requires them to provide an example to support their claims.

Without using behavioral questions, sales hiring decisions are based on hypothetical promises instead of facts.

Not being transparent about the role

Organizations make the mistake of thinking it’s only the candidate’s job to prove why they’re the right fit for the role. With nearly 75% of candidates today being passive, providing upfront information about growth opportunities, role responsibilities, compensation, and culture will help entice these ideal candidates.

Prolonging the interview process

There is a fine line between taking the necessary amount of time to interview a candidate and stringing them along. Top performers understand when they are being strung along – they are quick to know which prospects won’t close – and will back out of the process as a result.

interview processTypically at the third interview, candidates will begin to ask if it is the final step in the process.

Prolonging the interview process beyond a third in-person interview is a sign that the process is broken, candidates see this as a poor work environment, and they drop out.

Falling prey to interview bias:

It takes an average of seven seconds to form initial judgments about someone, according to recent research. Even people who have the best intentions can harbor different beliefs and attitudes of which they’re not aware – biases.

Non-performance based factors like the Halo Effect, often cause interviewers  to eliminate A-players from the hiring pool, or make the mistake of hiring mediocre candidates.

Some examples of interview bias includes:

Leniency/ Strictness Bias occurs when people differ in how they evaluate people. One interviewer may be harder on candidates than other interviewers.

interview biasHalo Effect occurs when the interviewer lets one positive factor take precedence and influence the rest of the interview.

interview biasHorns Effect occurs when the interviewer lets one negative factor take precedence and influence the rest of the interview.

interview bias

Similarity Effect occurs when an interviewer rates a candidate based on characteristics the appraiser sees in themselves.

To combat interview bias, three entrepreneurs created software that eliminates ethnicity, gender, age, and educational background from a job seeker’s application, which many companies like Dolby and Mozilla have implemented.

With this software, companies review and evaluate applications solely based on skills and experience, and decide whether to invite the applicant in for an interview.

Be Aware of Your Candidate’s Behaviors

Paying attention to the interviewees behaviors helps hiring managers make the decision to either move forward with a candidate or eliminate them. These conscious and unconscious behaviors give insight into the kind of experiences clients will receive in the field, should the candidate be hired.

Some of these behaviors include:

Their body language

Paying attention to the interviewee’s body language and nonverbal communication, shows how interested they are in the role and how they will conduct themselves in the field. Body language includes facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures, posture, and more.

Humans produce over 700,000 signs, more than 5,000 distinct hand gestures, 250,000 facial expressions, and over 1,000 different postures, according to recent research.

With 55 percent of effective communication being body language, paying attention to these signs will help make effective sales hiring decisions.

The more open the body is positioned, the more receptive the person is. If they have their arms folded across their chest or have their fists clenched, they’re defensive and unhappy. If their body is oriented away, they are detached or disengaged – which indicates that they’re disinterested in the interviewer, the role, or your company.

In contrast, if they use open hand gestures, this is a sign of interest. For example, they may have their hands resting openly on the table as they answer questions, which indicates a positive emotional response. When their body is directly facing the interviewer, they’re engaged and interested.

Eye contact is a critical step in building rapport and being able to successfully sell. Maintaining eye contact for 60-70 percent of a conversation is optimal in developing rapport.

Pupil size, for example, aids in measuring someone’s interest. When the pupils dilate, it indicates there are positive feelings towards the individual or object they are looking at. In this case, it would be the hiring manager and the role being discussed. If the pupils constrict, they are less receptive and disengaged from the conversation.

Their tone of voice

“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

Sound familiar?

Paying attention to a candidate’s tone of voice provides insight into their ability to prospect, build relationships, negotiate to close deals, and win new business.

tone of voice When forming conclusions about an individual, 38% of effective communication is tone of voice. Therefore, as hiring managers interview candidates, 38% of the evaluation is based on the tone of voice they experience.

Voice inflection is one way of evaluating if a salesperson can emphasize the important parts of a sentence so the client thoroughly understands the value of the product or service they’re selling. In this case, the candidate is selling themselves and should be able to emphasize their important attributes.

The energy of their voice aids in determining their ability to have an effective conversation versus talking over someone. Being driven individuals, salespeople are eager to move onto next steps, which causes speedy communication.

A top salesperson communicates with purpose, while maintaining a steady pace the average person – or client, can follow. Their voice’s energy is a direct reflection of what  clients will experience during a cold call or presentation.

A salesperson’s tone of voice could be the determining factor between winning a large deal, or losing it to a competitor.

If they have questions

A candidate asking questions is an indication that they have done their due diligence in researching the company and are interested in gaining a robust understanding of the role.

Some examples of questions a candidate could ask are:

  • How would you describe the responsibilities of the role?
  • Can you describe what a typical day looks like in this role?
  • Is it a new role? If not, why did the previous sales rep leave?
  • What kind of travel is expected on a weekly or monthly basis?
  • What are some of the growth opportunities available should I be hired?
  • What kind of targets will I be expected to hit in the first year, two-years, etc?
  • What does the territory look like today? Have there been any issues within the territory?

Top performing salespeople go to interviews prepared to ask questions that help them determine if the role is a good fit.

A Comprehensive List of the Top Sales Interview Questions

Before selecting your sales interview questions, create a set of mandatory hiring criteria all candidates are required to meet to be considered for the position. This will allow you to select interview questions that correlate with what success looks like in the role.


To help you create your hiring criteria, download the worksheet here.


Once the hiring criteria is established, choose the interview questions that will gather the information needed to determine if a candidate has all the skills, experience, and competencies needed for success.

Geoff Smart and Randy Street, authors of Who define an A-players as:

“A candidate who has at least a 90 percent chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10 percent of possible candidates could achieve.”

Interviewers should use their chosen questions to either move them closer to an A-player with a 90 percent chance of being successful, or closer to eliminating a below average salesperson from the candidate pool. If a question does not move the interview in either direction, it does not serve a purpose.

Prospecting

Question 1: When in your career have you been required to do cold calls?

  • Follow-up question: Did you have a cold call target and on average how many were you making per day/week/month?
  • Follow-up question: What was your strategy when making these cold calls?

Question 2: How do you maintain a positive outlook in the face of rejection?

  • Follow-up question: Provide an example of a time when you were rejected by the client.
  • Follow-up question: How did you handle it and what did you learn?

Question 3: How do you approach prospecting for new leads and opportunities?

  • Follow-up question: How did you determine what companies you were going to target?
  • Follow-up question: How do you organize your prospects to ensure consistent communication?

Question 4: Do you generate your own leads and opportunities?

  • Follow-up question: How do you do this?
  • Follow-up question: If not all leads are self-generated, what percentage come exclusively from you and how is the remaining percentage generated?

Question 5: What percentage of your leads have you turned into successful sales?

  • Follow-up question: What steps did you take to achieve this ratio?
  • Follow-up question: Provide a specific example of a successfully closed deal. Please include the following information: company name, stakeholder titles, deal size, sales cycle, what you sold, the date of the deal, and how you won the account.

Question 6: What tactics do you use to build your pipeline?

  • Follow-up question: Do you have a target for pipeline size? If so, what is it?
  • Follow-up question: How do you organize and maintain your pipeline once prospects have been added?
What to look for:

Look for answers that involve their lead generation strategy and quantifiable metrics to back it up. These metrics help determine the level of activity the sales rep needs to maintain to achieve their targets. Their answer could include number of cold calls, meetings, pipeline size, and more. For example, if their lead to close ratio is 6:1 and you will expect them to close ten deals per quarter, that means they need to have at least 60 client meetings per quarter to close those ten deals.

Red flags:

If they’re not able to describe when and how they did their prospecting, cold calling, etc, then they’re at risk of coming into the role not knowing how to develop and execute a prospecting strategy. It’s also an indication that they were not out in the field looking for new business – which is needed if you’re looking for a salesperson to help grow your business.

Deals

Question 7: How long is your average sales cycle?

  • Follow-up question: What kind of factors impact the sales cycle length (ie, client buying cycle, RFPs, custom products, etc)?
  • Follow-up question: How do you maintain a relationship with the client – to remain top of mind and avoid any detrimental issues – while you’re waiting to close the deal?

Question 8: What is your average deal size? Please be as specific as possible.

  • Follow-up question: Do you work off a recurring revenue model or a one-time fee?
  • Follow-up question: If it is a recurring revenue model, is it monthly, quarterly, or annually? And what are the contract lengths, if any?
  • Follow-up question: If it is a one-time fee, how do you continue to grow the account and win repeat business?

Question 9: Who are your typical decision makers?

  • Follow-up question: How do you identify your key decision makers within an organization (ie, research, talking to the gatekeeper, leveraging a champion, etc)?
  • Follow-up question: What does their buying cycle look like?

Question 10: Describe to me your biggest career win. Please include the company name, stakeholder titles, deal size, sales cycle, what you sold, and the date.

  • Follow-up question: Describe your strategy behind winning this deal.
  • Follow-up question: Why is this considered your biggest career win (ie, is it due to the deal size? Was it an account who threatened to cancel but you turned it around? Is it because you competed against larger more established companies to win it?)
What to look for:

Look for specific pieces of information associated with deals they have closed in the past. This information should include the company name – if they’re not comfortable providing the company name then ask for the company size and industry – stakeholder titles, deal size, sales cycle, what was sold, the date, and how they won the deal.

Red flags:

There should be 2-3 deals that stick out in their mind as big wins. If they cannot recall a specific example or claim there are too many to choose from, then perhaps they haven’t had any big wins.

Communication and Negotiation

Question 11: To what extent have you been involved in contract negotiation?

  • Follow-up question: Please provide a specific example.
  • Follow-up question: What was the end result (ie, did you win the deal, did you have to compromise on price, etc)?

Question 12: Give me an example of a time when you worked with a difficult prospect?

  • Follow-up question: What was the outcome (ie, did you win the deal or lose the deal)?
  • Follow-up question: How did you win the account despite the prospect being difficult?

Question 13: Describe a time when a client was looking to end business with your organization, but you retained them?

  • Follow-up question: How did you accomplish this?
  • Follow-up question: How did you ensure this would not reoccur in the future?

Question 14: When in your career have you given presentations to senior decision makers, such as C-Suite?

  • Follow-up question: What were you looking to accomplish in these presentations?
  • Follow-up question: How do you present next steps?

Question 15: Tell me how you handle unresponsive prospects during a pitch or presentation.

  • Follow-up questions: What steps do you take to ensure prospects remain engaged during your presentation?

Question 16: On average, how many presentations do you give every week, month, or quarter?

  • Follow-up question: What is your target for number of presentations per week, month, or quarter?
  • Follow-up question: What is your presentation to close ratio?
What to look for:

Look for strong verbal communication skills, such as tone of voice and voice inflection, which helps convey importance and meaning when working with clients. Also look for positive, non-verbal communication, such eye-contact and open body language, as it helps build relationships with prospects.

Red flags:

Be conscious of the amount of eye contact they’re giving as anything below 60 percent indicates a lack of rapport building skills. Also be aware of closed body language – which can include clenched fists, crossed arms, and how their body is oriented – as it indicates disengagement and disinterest.

Problem Solving

Question 17: What are some industry related selling obstacles you’ve had to face?

  • Follow-up question: How did you overcome them and still hit your targets (ie, collaborating with internal stakeholders, selling into other markets, focusing on growing existing accounts, etc)?
  • Follow-up question: If you didn’t overcome them, what steps did you take in your efforts to overcome the obstacles (ie, did you do absolutely everything you could)?

Question 18: Describe a time when you lost a deal?

  • Follow-up question: Why did you lose the deal?
  • Follow-up question: What did you learn from the loss?

Question 19: When in your career have you had complete autonomy and were required to manage/grow your territory as if it was your own business?

  • Follow-up question: Describe a typical day.
  • Follow-up question: Please describe any success during your time working autonomously (ie, exceeding your quota, growing your territory by a certain amount, increasing your book of business by a certain number, etc).
What to look for:

Look for specific issues they’ve faced within their industry – such as their product being more expensive, weather conditions impacting product performance, competitor’s products making theirs obsolete – and how they’ve overcome them. If they did not overcome the issue, what steps did they take in their efforts?

Red flags:

Discussing failures is equally as important as discussing wins. If a salesperson is not able to think of any challenges or issues they’ve faced in the past, then it is unlikely they will be able to come up with solutions to future problems.

Selling Approach

Question 20: How would you describe your selling approach?

  • Follow-up question: Do you follow a specific selling methodology?
  • Follow-up question: Have you had any formal sales training (ie, provided by a current or past employer, or on your own time)?

Question 21: How do you establish relationships with clients?

  • Follow-up question: How do you nurture them long-term?
  • Follow-up question: How do you ensure no clients are forgotten about (ie, managing regular touch points through a CRM)?

Question 22: Give me your typical sales pitch for your current product or service.

  • Follow-up question: How have you perfected this pitch throughout your career?
  • Follow-up question: How do you alter your approach for different clients?

Question 23: Describe a time when you had to change your selling approach to suit a client’s needs?

  • Follow-up question: How did you recognize that you needed to change your approach?
  • Follow-up question: What was the outcome (ie, did you win the deal)?
What to look for:

Look for references to a specific selling methodology, such as Six Sigma Black Belt, Sandler, SPIN, Miller Heiman, Challenger, etc. This is an indication of either formal sales training or a drive to improve themselves through learning independently (ie, reading books, listening to webinars, etc). Top performing salespeople have sales strategies they have perfected over time and alter them to fit different clients.

Red flags:

If the candidate is not familiar with any formal selling methodologies or if the candidate doesn’t have a strategy, then it indicates that they are an underperformer who just “wings it” and hopes for the best. It also shows their lack of motivation to better themselves in their selling career as they haven’t worked to improve their approach, skills, and performance.

Sales Performance

Question 24: When in your career have you built a territory from little or nothing?

  • Follow-up question: What were the results of your efforts (ie, what the territory looked like when you took it over, the revenue increase, the time period of the increase, etc)?
  • Follow-up question: How did you accomplish this (ie, cold calling, attending trade shows, leveraging your network, etc)?

Question 25: Describe to me your quota and quota attainment numbers over the past five-years.

  • Follow-up question: If you attained your quota every year, how did you accomplish this?
  • Follow-up question: If you haven’t consistently hit your quota, what are some of the reasons why?
  • Follow-up question: Where did you rank on your team (ie, if you didn’t meet quota, then how was everyone else doing)?

Question 26: How did you go about achieving your sales goals?

  • Follow-up question: What was your strategy?

Question 27: What was the size of the sales team you were/are on?

  • Follow-up question: Where do you rank in terms of performance?
  • Follow-up question: What are you doing that other reps are not doing to accomplish their goals?

Question 28: Describe a time when you did not hit your targets or achieve a set goal.

  • Follow-up question: How did you handle the situation?
  • Follow-up question: What were the steps you took to ensure you were successful going forward?
What to look for:

Look for specific data that showcases their success over the past five-year – or longer – such as their quota attainment, territory growth, number of new clients they’ve acquired, etc. For example, a top performing salesperson would say “I increased sales by 50% year over year.”

Red flags:

Not being able to provide quantifiable evidence of success is an indication that perhaps they haven’t had success. If the candidate doesn’t know what they achieved, how did they know they were successful? For example, an underperforming salesperson would say “I increased sales last year.”

Strengths and Weaknesses

Question 29: Why do clients choose to buy from you?

  • Follow-up question: How do you build their trust?
  • Follow up question: Give me an example of a time when you earned the trust of a client and became their trusted advisor – versus simply a salesperson.

Questions 30: What are 2-3 of your strengths as they relate to sales.

  • Follow-up question: How do you leverage your strengths to close deals?
  • Follow-up question: Provide a specific example of a time when you leveraged one of your strengths to close a deal.

Question 31: What are 2-3 of your weaknesses as they relate to sales.

  • Follow-up question: How do you avoid letting these weaknesses get in the way of your selling?
  • Follow-up question: What are you doing to improve on your weaknesses?
What to look for:

Look for clear descriptions of what the candidate believes they do well and potential areas of improvement. Also look for why they believe these are their strengths and weaknesses. For example, if one of their strengths is building relationships and one of their weaknesses is that they get nervous when pitching their products or services, then perhaps they are reading books or attending seminars to improve their presentation skills.

Red flags:

If the candidate is unable to discuss their strengths and weaknesses, it’s an indication of a lack of self awareness – which also indicates a lack of structure in their selling. If the candidate does not know where their strong points are then they can’t leverage them to close deals. If they’re unaware of their weaknesses, then they run the risk of letting these weaknesses get in the way of building relationships and closing business.

Culture and Environment

Question 32: How would you describe the corporate culture of your current or past company?

  • Follow-up question: What was your favorite aspect of the corporate culture?
  • Follow-up question: If you could change one thing about the corporate culture, what would it be and why?

Question 33: What kind of environment do you thrive in?

  • Follow-up question: Why do you think you thrive in this kind of environment?
  • Follow-up question: What kind of environments hinder your ability to perform?

Question 34: How would you describe your ideal Sales Manager?

  • Follow-up question: When have you worked with a Sales Manager whose management style was not ideal for you?
  • Follow-up question: How did you handle this situation?

Question 35: What are some of the positive traits you look for in a sales leader?

  • Follow-up question: What are some traits you consider negative and why?

Question 36: What core values should all strong sales organizations possess?

  • Follow-up question: Why do you think these values are important for sales success?
  • Follow-up question: What values do you possess?

Question 37: How would the rest of your sales team describe you?

  • Follow-up question: Do you agree with these descriptions, why or why not?
  • Follow-up question: What are some of the areas they think you could improve upon?
What to look for:

Look for a clear picture of the kind of environment the candidate has worked in and the kind of environment they want going forward. It’s critical to discover what kind of environment they thrive in –  which could include a collaborative sales team culture, a hands-off management style, a customer centric selling approach – to ensure the company environments are a match.

Red flags:

If the candidate is unsure about the culture they’ve been a part of and the kind of culture they want, or if the culture they’re describing doesn’t align with your own, then there is potential for conflict. For example, if the candidate needs a Sales Manager who is at the office everyday to offer assistance, but you have a Sales Manager who works remotely, then this is a potential issue.

Drivers

Question 38: What motivates you as a salesperson?

  • Follow-up question: How do you keep yourself motivated?

Question 39: How do you define sales success?

  • Follow-up question: Where do you feel you have achieved sales success?
  • Follow-up question: What success would you like to achieve in the next 2-5 years?

Question 40: What kind of sacrifices have you made to be successful?

  • Follow-up question: How do you maintain a work-life balance for yourself?
  • Follow-up question: What does a perfect work-life balance look like to you?

Question 41: Why are you looking to leave your current role?

  • Follow-up question: Would you be willing to provide references from your most recent company, why or why not?
  • Follow-up question: When calling your references, what do you think they will say about you?

Question 42: Why have you chosen sales as your profession?

  • Follow-up question: What is your favorite thing about working in sales?

Question 43: What do you dislike about sales as a profession?

  • Follow-up question: Why do you dislike this aspect of sales?
  • Follow-up question: How do you ensure it doesn’t affect your ability to close business?

Question 44: What are some of your short-term goals?

  • Follow-up question: What are some of your long-term goals?
  • Follow-up question: How does our company and this role fit into these goals?

Question 45: How do you plan on achieving your goals?

  • Follow-up question: Do you have an achievement plan in place for the next 2-5 years and beyond?
  • Follow-up question: What does that plan look like and how does this role fit into it?
What to look for:

Look for details about why they’ve chosen sales as a career path, why they’ve chosen to stay in sales, and why they get up every day and perform their tasks. A top performer’s motivators could be earning potential, ranking high on their sales team or within their organization, job security, and much more.

Red flags:

If the candidate doesn’t have a clear motivator, then perhaps they are not motivated to be in sales. Lacking a motivator means lacking the drive to meet and exceed targets. For example, an underperforming candidate might give a vague answer like, “I kind of fell into sales and just decided to stay in it.”

Industry Knowledge

Question 46: How do you stay current on your customers, your industry, and products?

  • Follow-up questions: Have you attended any seminars or listened to any webinars recently, if so, which ones?
  • Follow-up question: What did you learn from them?

Question 47: What are some books you have recently read to further your knowledge of sales and your industry?

  • Follow-up question: What did you take away from them?
  • Follow-up question: How have they helped you in your sales role?
What to look for:

Look for indications that the candidate is consistently working to further their knowledge and get a leg up on the competition. Look for specific webinars, seminars, books, and podcasts, that they’ve used to educate themselves. Top performers use things like conferences and seminars to expand their network and client base.

Red flags:

If the candidate isn’t doing anything to further themselves, then it’s an indication that they do not have any future goals and do not have a desire to better themselves. It also shows a lack of adaptability as industries change. As a result, they could be using old selling techniques or information that is no longer relevant in the market.

Specific to Your Organization

Question 48: What do you know about our organization?

  • Follow-up question: What is it about our organization that you find the most interesting?
  • Follow-up question: Why do you want to work here?

Question 49: Why should we hire you?

  • Follow-up question: What kind of value will you bring to our sales team?
  • Follow-up question: What would you be looking to accomplish in the first year, should you be hired for the role?

Question 50: What questions do you have for us?

What to look for:

Look for specific pieces of information about your organization – which could include your company history, community involvement, new product releases, awards, etc –  that indicate the candidate has done the due diligence of researching your organization. Look for the candidate to relate what they know about your organization to why you should hire them. For example, if you’ve recently released a new product, they could discuss how they have experience launching new products into the market.

Red flags:

If the candidate hasn’t done any research on your company and cannot speak to why they want to work at your organization, then it’s an indication of a lack of motivation and interest in the role. By having little to no information about the company they’re interviewing with, the candidate is simply looking at this as a job they will switch to – which can result in quick employee turnover rate – versus a strategic opportunity for their career long-term.

Questions for a Sales Management Role**

Question 1: When in your career have you managed a sales team?

  • Follow-up question: Describe your experience with hiring and firing (ie, how many people have you hired and how many people have you fired).
  • Follow-up question: Describe your experience with coaching (ie, your approach, how often, etc).
  • Follow-up question: Describe your experience with planning and strategy (ie, territory assignment, lead generation, etc).
  • Follow-up question: Describe your experience with forecasting.
  • Follow-up question: Describe your experience with motivation and incentives.
  • Follow-up question: Describe your experience with building any kind of sales support for your team.
  • Follow-up question: Describe your experience with tracking customer data.

Question 2: How would you describe your sales management style?

  • Follow-up question: Have you had any formal sales management training?
  • Follow-up question: If so, when and what did it entail?

Question 3: If we asked your current or past team members to describe their experience reporting to you, what would they say?

  • Follow-up question: What would they describe as opportunities for improvement?
  • Follow-up: How have you worked to improve in these areas?

Question 4: What is the largest sales team you have successfully managed?

  • Follow-up question: What kind of sales team was it (ie, inside or outside sales)?
  • Follow-up question: What success did you see while managing this team (ie, hitting team targets, improving sales rep performance, etc)?

Question 5: When have you managed remote sales reps?

  • Follow-up question: What were some of the challenges?
  • Follow-up question: How did you ensure their success?

Question 6: When have you managed a sales rep who had consistently missed quota for three-months or longer?

  • Follow-up question: Please describe the plan you put in place to help this sales rep be successful.
  • Follow-up question: If the sales rep’s underperformance persisted, how did you handle the situation?

Question 7: When have you managed a top performing sales rep looking for more responsibilities and room to grow in the company?

  • Follow-up question: What kind of actionable goals did you help this sales rep set?
  • Follow-up question: If their goals were not attainable at that time (ie, someone was already doing the role they wanted), how did you keep them engaged and interested in staying at your company?

Question 8: How do you monitor the performance of your individual team members?

  • Follow-up question: How do you make your team aware of their performance?
  • Follow-up question: What do you do with this data?

Question 9: How do you motivate your sales team on a day-to-day basis?

  • Follow-up question: How do you motivate them long-term?
  • Follow-up question: When have you managed a sales rep who lacked motivation and how did you handle them?

Question 10: Describe a sales strategy you implemented upon taking over a new sales team.

  • Follow-up question: What were the results you achieved (ie, sales rep improvement, targets achieved, territory growth, etc)?
  • Follow-up question: Looking back on the strategy you implemented, what changes would you make today to achieve even greater results?

Question 11: Were you responsible for achieving a team quota?

  • Follow-up question: If so, what was it?
  • Follow-up question: Describe the team quota attainment numbers during the time you were responsible them.

Question 12: Did you have an individual quota?

  • Follow-up question: If so, what was it and have you consistently achieved it over the past five years?
  • Follow-up question: How did you go about balancing your own quota and your managerial duties?

Question 13: Where do you go to source top sales talent?

  • Follow-up question: How do you decide which applicants you are going to interview?

Question 14: How do you evaluate sales skills in an interview setting?

  • Follow-up question: What skills do you look for in a candidate?
  • Follow-up question: What kind of objective measurement techniques do you use when vetting candidates?

Question 15: When have you been involved in decisions about compensation for new sales reps?

  • Follow-up question: When have you been involved in the decisions to provide raises and bonuses to your sales reps?
  • Follow-up question: How do you determine raise and bonus qualification?
What to look for:

Look for pieces of information that show strong experience as a sales leader, which could include sales team quota achievements, sales reps receiving promotions, large deals won, overall years of experience, and much more. Top performers will share strategy information about how they approach coaching, process implementation, forecasting, etc. Look to gain an understanding of their management style and how it correlates with your sales environment. For example, if the candidate has a very hands-on management style but your entire sales team is remote, then the candidate may struggle.

Red flags:

If the candidate is lacking evidence of successful leadership, whether it be in examples of success or years of experience, this is a red flag. With 75% of new Sales Managers failing within their first two-years, it’s clear that the skills and experience that make an individual contributor successful are only a small part of what will make them successful sales leaders. An underperforming sales leader may say something like, “I have around eight years of sales management experience and my team has always been successful.” This is vague and does not provide quantifiable evidence to reinforce the claim.

Kelly Riggs – Founder and CSO of The Business LockerRoom

“My objective in interviewing candidates for sales management positions is to determine if these skills exist or can be developed. Clearly, technical competence is important for leading a sales team, but the other critical traits I look for when interviewing a sales management candidate are self-awareness, a willingness to learn, and an understanding of the roles of leadership and coaching.”

** Please note: these questions should be used in combination with the Top 50 Sales Interview Questions previously listed, as many of them are also applicable to someone being interview for a sales leadership role.


Download the Comprehensive List of Top Sales Interview Questions below:


Understand How To Eliminate A Candidate

Telling a candidate they didn’t get the sales job is never a step hiring managers enjoy, however, it’s essential in the hiring process. Eliminating a candidate as soon as you know they’re not the right fit frees up time for other prospects, and it allows the unsuccessful candidate to look for other opportunities.

candidate eliminationTo effectively determine which candidates to eliminate, hiring managers need to quantify their interview results – which they can do by using the sales interview template at the end of this guide.

This template uses a numerical grade to evaluate the candidate’s answers to interview questions. Hiring managers provide a minimum score the candidate has to achieve to move forward. Should the candidate not reach the minimum grade, they should be removed from the candidate pool.

When you’ve decided to eliminate a candidate, telling them they’re not moving forward in your process needs to be straightforward and personalized. This involves:

  1. Saying thank you
  2. Delivering the news
  3. Giving the main reason
  4. Offering hope

Depending on the role and at what stage they are being eliminated, the rejection letter could be two paragraphs or it could be just a few short lines. For example, if a candidate has gone through one 45-minute interview and is not moving forward, then a few short lines would suffice. If it’s down to two candidates and they’ve been through multiple interviews, 2-3 paragraphs would be more suitable.

What if a candidate asks for feedback?

When providing candidates with feedback, there is a fine line between providing constructive information they can use to improve themselves, and offending them.

Research has shown that only 4.4 percent of candidates receive individual feedback from hiring managers or recruiters. And some of the most common reasons hiring managers do not provide feedback include: requiring too much time, the process could be expensive depending on the number of candidates, they do not want to tell candidates they were unqualified, and there’s the risk of legal issues.

However, there are also reasons hiring managers do provide feedback:

Not giving feedback hurts employer brand
Candidates have invested time and effort into the hiring process and may become disgruntled if they’re not provided individual feedback. This could cause negativity on websites like Glassdoor.

These candidates may be future customers
Having a strong network of candidates – who move from company to company as their careers progress – may result in bringing them on as a client in the future.

Without feedback, unqualified candidates may apply again
If they don’t know they’re unqualified, they may apply again for a future role and cause more wasted time.

If the candidate does request further feedback, here is how you can approach it:

 

 

 

 

Correlate feedback with the job description
By keeping the feedback directly related to the job, it focuses on their skills, and experience, or lack thereof, as they relate to the role.

Be both constructive and clear
Salespeople want actionable information they can take into their future interviews and roles. Provide them with feedback they can use to improve themselves and increase future success.

Remain factual
These facts can refer to specific answers the candidate provided that were perhaps not what the hiring manager was looking for. Provide an example of what a successful answer may have looked like.

Success Stories From World Class Companies

Every year, Glassdoor releases their list of the “top 50 companies to interview for”. To qualify for this list, companies must receive a minimum of 100 reviews from candidates who have interviewed for them. Depending on the review ratings, companies can rate on the list of top companies candidates want to interview for.

Why does this matter?

Glassdoor is a resource candidates use to find information about potential employers. If a company rates high for positive interview experiences, candidates will be more inclined to apply for vacant roles.

Here are some examples of what the “top 50 companies to interview for” do in their interview process to achieve high ratings:

Caterpillar

They treat the interview process as a larger experience. If they are interested in a candidate, then they are known for paying for the candidate’s flight, hotel, rental car, meals, etc, when coming to visit their head office. They also have someone from their company give the candidate a tour of the city.

Other candidates have stated that Caterpillar is very clear about the information they are looking for in their interview questions, and are very open to answering any questions their candidates have.

EY

Their interview process is relaxed and conversational. They make an effort to get to know their candidates and introduce them to other people within the company to learn more about the culture and environment.

Grant Thornton

They put emphasis on finding someone who is the right fit. While academics are important, the hiring managers are more interested in getting to know the candidates to figure out how their personalities would fit with the rest of the company.

What do these companies have in common?

Being three of the most highly rated companies on Glassdoor for their interview quality, these companies have an employer brand candidates want to work for.

These companies put high emphasis on getting to know the candidate to make sure they have the right qualifications and to make sure they’re the right fit culturally. They go the extra mile to ensure they’re very clear on expectations when asking interview questions, and they welcome the candidate’s questions.

Sales Interview Template

Having a template to use for all interviewees, helps ensure the most effective questions – based on your role requirements – are asked, that all candidates are asked the same questions, and that time is maximized.

In this template we have left room to ask two to three questions for each category outlined in our list of top sales interview questions.

The template is broken down into eleven categories of questions and a ranking chart is at the bottom of each category. To use this interview template:

  1. Decide the minimum ranking the candidate must achieve.
  2. Choose 2-3 questions from each category in our list of the top sales interview questions, and input them into the template.
  3. As the candidate answers the questions, be sure to record their main points for future comparison.
  4. Once all the questions are asked in the given category, mark their actual rating in the chart provided, along with any additional comments.

Use this template for all candidates interviewing for the role, and conduct an apples to apples comparison – using the completed templates – once all interviews are conducted.


Download the Sales Interview Template below: 


Peak’s Best Practices

It is fairly straightforward to cover work experience, sales results, and self-perceived strengths in any interview. Consequently, most interviews focus on these things. Sales candidates, anticipating this format, will practice their responses to these questions. As a result, they can appear natural and authentic, even when they are spinning or fabricating the truth.

In most cases – though, surprisingly, not in all cases – candidates will prepare to put their best foot forward and be prepared to make a strong impression.

If the candidate has been to a lot of interviews – in many cases, not a good sign – they may also expect you to ask questions such as what type of company they’d like to work for, their ideal work environment, what they would do for you, and how they might handle certain situations.

sales experience

While these types of questions shed some insight into the mindset of the candidate, they usually get textbook practiced answers in response, which is not overly useful for making an accurate assessment of whether the candidate can excel.

To accurately predict a salesperson’s capability to meet or exceed sales targets in a new role, the sales interview must address not only sales experience, but also personality and behavioral traits which are as important, if not more important than sales experience.

Make Your Interview Scripts Specific

While Peak tailors its interview scripts to the specifics of each sales role for which we are screening, there are some questions that address the common traits of top sales performers and we do employ certain sales interview strategies to ensure accurate assessments in all of our interviews:

  • Use a mix of open and closed ended questions
  • Ask proof questions such as “what did you do in the past” instead of theoretical questions such as  “what would you do in the future”
  • Ask for examples to support claims about strengths
  • Cross reference by asking the same questions in different ways
  • Challenge candidates with questions that they won’t be expecting and won’t have practiced beforehand
  • Use interviews as a way of testing or confirming observations obtained in other parts of a comprehensive and structured hiring process

The reality is, sales hiring managers often ask us to share the best questions used in a sales interview. The answer depends on the nature of the sales position, because there is no definitive list of questions for all potential sales hires.

The interview questions Peak Sales Recruiting uses to assess potential reps for new sales development roles are different from what we ask account managers. Furthermore, the questions used to interview sales representatives are very different from those we ask when interviewing candidates for sales management and leadership positions.

Increase Your Sales Interview Effectiveness

Conducting an effective interview is the difference between hiring an underperforming salesperson who will negatively impact revenue generation and sales team morale, and hiring an A-player who will consistently achieve their targets.

conduct effective interviews The key is to customize your interview approach – using a sales interview template – for individual roles to ensure all skills, experience, and competency requirements are met.

If your interviews are role specific and all candidates are measured in the same objective way, you will increase your A-player headcount and your sales teams will consistently drive revenue and profitability for your organization.

Back to the top

 

10 Ways to Motivate Your Sales Team

In the hypercompetitive industry of sales, a motivated sales force can mean the difference between hitting targets and missing them by a mile.

In fact, a recent Gallup study found that an unmotivated workforce costs companies 300 billion dollars in lost productivity each year. Even the best sellers, with self-motivation and resiliency built into their DNA, still need a reminder of what they’re working toward and why.

Motivation is key to driving top performers and developing the junior ones. And, research supports this notion — organizations with engaged employees outperform those with low employee engagement by 202 percent. 

So, what can you do to motivate your sales team? There are a number of tactics to fuel your team’s fire and keep them on track to achieving aggressive revenue targets. But to keep things simple, we narrowed it down to our top 10.

Here are 10 ways to motivate your sales team to crush their numbers this quarter:

10 Way to Motivate Your Sales Team

Want to save this infographic? Fill out the form below for a PDF version:

salesperson doing paperwork

ganesh shankar

What’s your sales team’s current RFP close rate? Whether or not it’s as high as you’d like, you may be surprised to hear that Ganesh Shankar of RFPIO states that “the common win rate for RFPs is less than 5%.”

Following these numbers, for every 20 proposals the average vendor sends, only one will be successful. And with many companies investing 20-40 hours into each RFP response, that’s a lot of wasted time and money.

For example, suppose you have an Inside Technical Sales Rep completing RFPs for your team, and this rep earns a salary of 50 thousand dollars annually (roughly equivalent to 24 dollars per hour).

If the average size of your proposals is 25 thousand dollars and you successfully close one proposal out of 20, you’ve gained 25 thousand dollars in net new business. But you’ve also lost an average of 30 hours for each of the other 19 proposals. 

At an average hourly rate of 24 dollars, that’s a loss of 13,680 dollars (before taking into account opportunity costs, overhead and other variables).

Though it’s unlikely you’ll achieve a one-hundred percent closed-won rate, reducing the number of unsuccessful proposals sent saves your company both time and money.

In this article you will find a list of suggestions and best practices to help Sales Leaders improve their sales team’s RFP close rates.

Have a “Go/No-Go” Opt-Out Point

Here’s a really simple way to improve your RFP close rate: only apply to projects you’re likely to get.

Imagine a batch of 20 RFPs. In it, maybe five will be a good fit for your company. The other 15 are either bad opportunities or projects you’d have to stretch to complete, in terms of project fit or resources required to submit an RFP.

  • If you apply to all 20 and win one, your close rate will be 5%.
  • If you weed out the 15 that aren’t a good fit and win one of the remaining five, your close rate will be 20%.

Not only have you upped your close rate, you’ve also saved all the time and money you would have wasted on inappropriate proposals.

Adam Boyd

 

Adam Boyd, in a LinkedIn Pulse article, describes it this way:

 

“Not all RFPs are created equal, and you don’t have an equal shot at winning them all. Know when to say, ‘This isn’t in our wheelhouse, and is too expensive a use of time to pursue.”

For example:

  • If you apply to all 20 and win one:
    Your close rate will be 5 percent and you’ve earned 25 thousand dollars in net new business. You will have invested 600 hours (30 hours per RFP) and 14,440 dollars (24 dollars per hour). Your RFP productivity rate (total new business divided by amount of work hours) is 42 dollars per hour.
  • If you weed out the 15 unfit proposals, apply for five and win one:
    Your close rate will be 20 percent and you’ve earned 25 thousand dollars in net new business. You will have invested 150 hours and 3,600 dollars. Because you were more selective, you RFP RFP scoring checklistproductivity rate is now $166.67 per hour.

Developing an in-house checklist or scoring system for evaluating RFP opportunities can help you determine where your opt-out point lies. Bob Lohfeld, CEO of Lohfeld Consulting Group, suggests asking the following seven questions to filter RFPs accordingly:

  1. Do we understand the customer’s mission and the work to be performed?
  2. Do we have a solution that will help the customer achieve its mission and contract objectives?
  3. Do we have a relationship with this customer through meetings or prior contract performance?
  4. Do we know who we are competing against and can we beat them?
  5. Do we have a teaming strategy and can we get the right subcontractors?
  6. Do we know what price we need to bid to win and can we achieve it profitably?
  7. Do we have a compelling win strategy?

John Auer

 

If you’re concerned about missing out on potentially-good projects, consider the advice of Sales Benchmark Index’s Principal, John Auer:

 

“In some cases, opting-out can actually be a more effective differentiator than participating in the RFP.  For example, prospects may show their hand and confess they were looking forward to your proposal. If this is the case, you’ve just learned a valuable piece of information that could very well result in a win.”

If you don’t receive such a confession, you’ve saved time; but if you do, you’ve gained valuable insight into whether or not the RFP will be an effective time investment. It’s a win-win.

Work from a Proposal Template

As you pare down the number of RFPs you’re actually responding to, you can save even more time by developing a proposal template. This will minimize the amount of time you spend “reinventing the wheel” to develop every response.

RFP templateYou won’t be able to anticipate every Q&A you’ll encounter ahead of time. But developing stock copy for your executive summary and adding new Q&A responses to a central document – which you can draw from again in the future – can trim huge amounts of time off your RFP process.

For example, working from a template cuts the average time required to complete and submit a proposal from 30 hours per RFP to 10 hours. This time decrease would increase your RFP productivity rate to 500 dollars per hour (based on the metrics provided at the beginning of the article.

To calculate your RFP productivity rate, use the formula below:

Net new business amount / (number of RFPs x total hours worked)

Use a Non-Traditional Response Process

That said, just because you’re working from an RFP proposal template doesn’t mean your responses have to come across as formulaic. A non-traditional response process can minimize the burden of RFP completion on your team members, while also helping your company stand out from other applicants.

mike drapeau

 

According to Mike Drapeau, Partner at Sales Benchmark Index:

 

“Think George Costanza. Remember the episode when he did the opposite of everything his instinct was telling him to do and the results were off the charts? That is the approach you should use in developing your RFP strategy. Conventional wisdom is dead wrong.

So what does a non-traditional response process look like? Possible ideas include:

  • A highly-abbreviated executive summary section that eliminates corporate navel-gazing in favor of prioritizing value statements targeted to recipients.
  • Calling out requirements that are missing from the RFP (likely because they were overlooked by a procurement committee) to quickly establish expertise.
  • Offering extremely-detailed Q&A responses that are likely to exceed competitors’ proposals and impress companies with their comprehensive nature.

Another non-traditional RFP response option comes from Board Studios, which offers three suggestions for incorporating rich media into your RFPs:

  • Create a simple mini-site that shows off your USP and answers key questions.
  • Use infographics or professionally-designed process-flow images in your proposals.
  • Produce an explainer video in lieu of your executive summary.

Some industries – tech companies, for example, versus more staid banking and legal services – may be more receptive to the use of new media than others. But don’t be afraid to experiment by pushing boundaries. Standing out may be enough to get your proposal the close read it wouldn’t otherwise receive.

Think about how proposals are typically handled in your industry, and then – like George Costanza – consider doing the opposite.

Build Relationships Before RFP Responses

In most cases, you aren’t allowed to contact company representatives to make a personal appeal during the RFP process. That’s why it’s important that you continually invest in expanding your network before the process begins.

pre-rfp sales effortsCompanies need to know who you are before they receive your proposal. According to data gathered by The Seibert Group, 40 percent of your success comes down to your pre-RFP sales efforts:

“You must be actively selling to the buyer in the 12 to 18 months before the RFP is released. If they don’t know you before the RFP, your chances of winning are low.”

In practice, this means actively networking with future prospects, using both direct and indirect approaches. Cold calls and an active presence at industry events are important, but you may also find it helpful to use content marketing, social media marketing and other campaigns to build thought leadership around your company.  

Stephanie Czajka

 

Stephanie Czajka, Project Manager at the Weidert Group, suggests that:

 

“The more you’re already present in prospects’ eyes because of your content, the more your company will be included on buyers’ “short lists.” In digital terms, you can think about this as a search process. When prospects are looking for answers to their questions related to your business, they’ll query Google, and if your content article shows up, then they’re more likely to read about you, and you’re more likely to be included on their short list.”

Further, Czajka argues, transforming your company into a respected thought leader through proper inbound marketing may remove the RFP from the equation entirely. “In cases where an RFP is optional, the buyer will naturally move to the subjective choice of a trusted advisor or resource.”

Simply put, if a buyer needs a vendor but decides not to proceed with the RFP process, the thought leadership you’ve built around your brand will make you a natural candidate to fill the spot.

Monitor Your RFP Success Rate

rfp metricsRegardless of which of the above strategies you choose to implement, one of the best things your sales team can do is monitor the metrics surrounding your RFP process.

Specific variables to track include:

  • Amount of RFPs received
  • Number of RFPs responded to vs. opted-out of
  • Number of RFPs closed
  • Value of closed RFPs vs. value of unsuccessful RFPs
  • Average amount of time required to complete RFPs

The data you gather here can play a role in improving your close rate, if you use it effectively.

Suppose you notice that from Q1 to Q2, your number of closed-won projects fell from 30 to 20. If, at the same time, you’ve tracked the total number of hours invested into each proposal and found that it too decreased from 20 hours per RFP to 10 hours, this is a signal that you need to invest more time into your proposal process.

Proposal analytics programs may be useful in identifying these types of trends. But even choosing to run your calculations by hand will put you ahead of competitors who aren’t as invested in monitoring their RFP metrics.

Be Smart About RFPs to Boost Your Close Rate

Success with RFPs comes down to approaching the process more thoughtfully than your competitors.

Use the data at hand to your advantage as you experiment with non-traditional RFP strategies and ongoing networking. Your 5% or less close rate will quickly become a thing of the past.

 

Diversity in the workplace has been an issue since the civil war. Fast forward to 2017 and a lack of diversity in the workplace remains an issue.

In fact, a recent survey by Career Builder found that only 35 percent of women feel confident that compensation is dispensed equitably between the genders.

As U.S. demographics continue to change alongside a rapidly evolving global economy, the business argument for diversity has never been stronger, and that is especially true in the sales industry.

That’s why we put together a list of the top 4 benefits of a diverse sales team and explain how it will help you boost revenue this quarter:

1. Diverse sales teams connect better with customers

One wrong word can kill a sale. So it is critical to get it right when approaching leads from different walks of life.

While it is true that a homogenous sales force can be effective, the addition of diverse sales reps and leaders who understand different lifestyles and cultures can only have a positive impact.

In fact, the Harvard Business Review found that a sales team with a member who shares a client’s ethnicity is 152 percent more likely to understand that client than another team member.

2. Diverse sales teams have access to more A-players 

A recent HBR study found that a cloud-based software company would have had 2 million dollars more in revenue if they met their sales hiring goals.

Simply put, finding salespeople who achieve quota year after year is problematic for most organizations. That’s why it’s so critical to search beyond your usual network. When you start looking at candidates with different backgrounds you widen the talent pool and increase the probabilities of finding a sales superstar.

3. Diverse sales teams overcome groupthink 

When you put people with similar backgrounds in one room, they are likely to come up with similar solutions based on their shared experiences. Groupthink is the kryptonite of success.

A diverse workforce helps to foster an environment where varying points of view can be freely shared among employees. And this theory has been proven to lead to “outside the box” thinking that stimulates innovation and market growth.

4. Diverse sales teams attract the very best

Great people, regardless of their background, are attracted to great working environments. When businesses maintain an inclusive culture, A-players are far more likely to want to join the organization.

This is especially true with Millennials, a group that will make up most your sales force over the next 10 years. Per the Census Bureau, millennials are now the largest and most diverse generation in U.S. history – made up of 42 percent minorities and more women working than any other generation. Most organizations now talk about being diverse, but millennials demand it.

 

As U.S. demographics continue to shift and the global economy continues to evolve, sales leaders need to adapt their hiring processes to include more diversity.

 

 

Does your company have a strategy in place to increase diversity on your sales team?

Yes
No

Do Quizzes

cold calling

dead or alive cold callingThe debate continues between sales experts who advocate that cold calling is “dead” and those who see it as “alive”. Truth is, the traditional tactic of cold calling is very much alive and is an important strategy utilized by sales and sales leaders in high-growth companies.

Despite this “dead or alive” argument, cold calling offers undeniable benefits that would otherwise be lost, such as:

  • Keeping up with the high-growth companies that drive new techniques to leverage teleprospecting and telemarketing.
  • Getting in touch with prospects that would be difficult to reach by other means, like e-mail.
  • Establishing a human connection immediately, which is lost when using outlets like advertisements and emails.

cold calling alive

In addition, cold calling is essential to company growth:

To answer the question of whether or not cold calling is dead, DiscoverOrg surveyed 200 sales and marketing leaders about their company’s growth.

They found that, 55 percent of high growth companies – who experienced a minimum of 40 percent growth over the previous three-years – stated that cold calling is very much alive.

The survey also determined that the companies who said cold calling is dead experienced 42 percent less growth than those who said it was alive.

Henry Shuck

 

Henry Shuck, CEO of DiscoverOrg, stated that in 2016 his sales team generated an extra ten million dollars in net new business through outbound prospecting.

“The study clearly says that companies who are willing to sit down and figure out the process and go to market with a really optimized sales development structure and outbound cold calling team, those are companies that are growing significantly faster than those that don’t.”  

Shuck also states that there are many points along the way where companies can say “It’s not for us, our business is different, it’s just not our culture, it’s not who we are to do outbound calling.” But it’s the companies that don’t let these excuses get in the way that experience faster growth.  

cold calling strategy To help you successfully leverage cold calling, we’ve hand-picked the most recent, credible and key statistics about cold calling, buyers, salespeople and the buying process.

Understanding these rapidly changing statistics and harnessing the new technologies available will help you alter your cold calling strategy to meet the needs of today’s modern buyer.


Skip to section:

Modern Buyer’s Journey
Sales Performance Statistics
Social Media Statistics
Optimize Your Cold Calling
Download Your Cold Calling Script


Here are 30 statistics that will help increase your cold calling success rates:

The Modern Buyer’s Journey

B2B buyers sales jobsBuyers have changed more in the past ten-years than they have in the past hundred. With the rise of social media and other online platforms, buyers can do their research and make smarter buying decisions.

With 90 percent of B2B buyers saying “When I’m ready to buy, I’ll find you,” it’s clear that buyers have the control and the sales cycles are no longer linear.

In fact, due to the rapid changes in the buyer’s journey, Forrester research predicts that one million US sales jobs will be obsolete by 2020. This accounts for 20 percent of the US salesforce.

To overcome these obstacles, Sales Managers need to have a thorough understanding of their typical buyer’s journey. This understanding will help them make necessary changes to their cold calling strategy and adapt to the modern buyer.  

Here are some statistics to help you understand the modern buyer’s journey:

  • 75 percent of B2B buyers buy online when making business purchases.
  • Only 25 percent of B2B companies effectively sell online.
  • 57 percent of a B2B buyer’s journey is completed before talking to sales.
  • 70 percent of people make purchases to solve problems.
  • 30 percent make purchases to gain something.
  • In a firm with 100-500 employees, there are 7 people involved in buying decisions.

Oskar Lingqvist

 

Oskar Lingqvist, Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, states:

 

“B2B customers use six different interaction channels in their buying process, and 65 percent become frustrated by inconsistent experiences.”

Sales Performance

sales accountabilityHaving an a-player sales team is what separates high-performing organizations from underperforming ones.

In fact, 29 percent of high-performing sales team members agree that holding their salespeople accountable for their performance is crucial to success.

On the other hand, only 13 percent of underperforming sales team members agreed with this statement, according to a survey done by Harvard Business Review.

Monitoring your sales team’s performance and holding them accountable for the level of activity needed to hit their targets is critical in your cold calling strategy.  

Here are some statistics to help maximize your sales team’s cold calling performance:

  • In 2007 it took 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8 attempts.
  • 78 percent of decision makers say they’ve taken appointments or attended events that came from a cold call or email.
  • 50 percent of sales go to the first salesperson to contact the prospect.
  • 80 percent of sales require five follow-up calls after the meeting.
  • 44 percent of salespeople give up after one follow-up.
  • Nurtured leads make 47 percent larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
  • Companies who nurture leads have 9 percent more sales reps hitting their targets.

Garrett Hollander

 

Garrett Hollander, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at ProspectHunter, and CEO at Content Evolve states:

 

58 percent of buyers report that sales reps are unable to answer their questions effectively.”

To help ensure your sales reps are fully prepared to answer their prospect’s questions, we have compiled two cold calling scripts from Mike Weinberg’s New Sales. Simplified. and Jeb Blount’s Fanatical Prospecting.

Download the cold calling scripts at the end of the article.

The Influence Of Social Media

Sales has always been about doing business with people you know. Networking and leveraging relationships through meetings, conferences, organizations, etc., has been the traditional path to social mediacreate connections. With the rise of social media, gone are the days of sitting at your desk “working the phones.”

Sales leaders need to make sure they’re adapting themselves and their sales teams to take advantage of technology advancements – social media. Those who have adapted and now leverage social media in their prospecting exceed their targets 23 percent more often than those who do not leverage social selling.

Here are some statistics to help you use social media to your advantage:

  • Social media has a 100 percent higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing.
  • 5 percent of B2B sales teams consider social media a successful lead generation method.
  • 58 percent of buyers said that blogs are an important resource when making a purchase decision.
  • B2B buyers who use social media to make purchases spend 84 percent more than those who don’t.
  • Social buyers make 61 percent more purchases than those who don’t use social.
  • You are 70 percent more likely to get an appointment with someone if you are in a common LinkedIn group.
  • 96 percent of sales reps use LinkedIn at least once a week for an average of 6 hours.

 

Tom Pick, B2B Digital Marketing Consultant at Webbiquity, states:

 

84 percent of CEOs and VPs use social media to make purchasing decisions.”

Optimize Your Cold Calling

increase cold call conversionEvery minute your sales reps wait to make their first call greatly reduced their chances of converting the prospects.

Making contact with a prospect within one minute of the lead being generated can increase your conversion rate by 391 percent. If your sales reps wait 24 hours to contact a prospect, there is only a 17 percent chance of conversion, according to Velocify.

Evaluating your current cold call strategy and making changes based on current data and trends, will help your sales team increase their conversion rates.

Here are some statistics to optimize your cold calling:

  • Sales reps make an average of 46 calls per day.
  • 42 percent of sales reps feel they don’t have enough information before making a call.
  • By using a headset, you are 50 percent more effective on the phone.
  • Tone is 86 percent of our communication, especially on the phone. The words we use only account for 14 percent of our communication.
  • The best days to call are Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6:45 am to 9:00 am and 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
  • The worst days to call are Mondays from 6:00 am to noon and Fridays in the afternoon.

mark hunter

 

Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter” – Principal of The Sales Hunter and author of High Profit Prospecting and High Profit Selling, states:

 

“When leaving a voicemail for a prospect, the optimal length is between 8 and 14 seconds.”

Increase Your Cold Calling Success

cold calling is essentialIt’s clear the telephone is still an essential tool in the sales dialogue. While there have been technological developments causing you and your sales teams to re-evaluate your cold calling strategy, it is still an important strategy in business development.

By leveraging the preceding findings you can formulate an effective outreach strategy to increase your cold calling success going forward.


Download your cold calling script here:

sales team building

In today’s talent market, voluntary turnover rates are at an all time high. With the average turnover rate across all sales industries being 11.5 percent – software sales holding the top spot at 15.3 percent turnover – it’s more crucial than ever to create a work environment your sales team doesn’t want to leave.  

salespeople actively looking

With a record setting 51 percent of today’s workforce stating they’re watching for new opportunities regularly, Human Resources (HR) Leaders need to improve and maintain the aspects of their organization that top performing salespeople value most. These aspects include competitive compensation structures, training programs, opportunities for professional growth, flexible work location and schedule, and vacation time.

But there is another tactic HR Leaders can leverage to reduce sales force turnover and that is sales team building activities – both one-on-one and group based.

In this article we list and discuss the five most effective sales team building activities and how they help foster a work environment that builds employee loyalty, improves job satisfaction rates, and reduces voluntary turnover.


Skip to section:

Conduct stay interviews
Have collaborative huddles
Foster a team-based selling environment
Create a team scoreboard
Implement gamification
Facilitate side projects
Corporate Community Initiative (CCI)
Activities with remote employees
Download stay interview questions


Here is a list of the five most effective sales team building activities HR Leaders can use to reduce turnover rates:

1. Conduct “Stay Interviews”

Stay interviews are an effective way of gaining insight into what your employees enjoy most about their role and the organization, and on the flipside, what they don’t like.

stay interviewsIt is a proactive approach designed to address any internal issues that may cause voluntary turnover, versus a reactive approach, which involves conducting an exit interview once a sales rep decides to leave.  

This one-on-one sales team building activity works as a trust fall exercise to keep a workforce engaged and on your team. It develops trust with your sales reps over time as you take steady action to follow through on promises of improvement. Some of these improvements could be with company culture, role attributes, company leadership, etc.

Susan Seip

Susan Seip – HR Director at Easterseals Louisiana and former HR Manager at Geocent, states:

“It’s a relationship review. What’s your relationship to the company, the project team and your manager and what is within our purview to do to make those better? Stay interviews encourage managers to sit down and have a structured talk with their teams about what works and what doesn’t work for them.”

As HR Leaders build trust with their sales teams, sales reps are more likely to proactively share underlying concerns. As long as their HR Leader follows through with necessary action, they will continue to work with HR to improve their role and the organization.

stay interviewsThe success of these interviews is dependent on the interviewer’s ability to remain open-minded and use both the positive and negative feedback to improve employee experience and employer brand.

For existing employees, conduct your stay interviews once per year during a slow business period. Conduct them all within a few weeks of each other so you can then take what you’ve learned and make any necessary changes.

For new employees, conducting stay interviews after their first 30 days and then again at 90 days is recommended.

When conducting the stay interview, questions should be broken down into three categories:

1. General questions to break the ice and gain insight into the employee’s feelings about your organization.

2. Questions relating to the employee’s role.

3. Questions that provide insight into their level of satisfaction with compensation and company perks.

You may also want to include time at the end of the interview for employees to include any information you may have missed, or to provide any additional suggestions.

Our list of stay interview questions:

Examples of general questions:
  • Do you believe that your work has meaning? How can we work together to make your work more meaningful?
  • Is the organization providing you with opportunities to grow and develop as a person and as a professional? What would improve your opportunities?
  • Do you feel that you have the necessary control over your job to perform most successfully and productively?
  • What type of feedback would you like to receive about your performance that you are not receiving now? From me? From coworkers?
  • Do you respect the amount and kind of leadership that you receive from the senior managers?
Examples of role specific questions:
  • Do you believe that your work has meaning? How can we work together to make your work more meaningful?
  • Is the organization providing you with opportunities to grow and develop as a person and as a professional? What would improve your opportunities?
  • Do you feel that you have the necessary control over your job to perform most successfully and productively?
  • What type of feedback would you like to receive about your performance that you are not receiving now? From me? From coworkers?
  • Do you respect the amount and kind of leadership that you receive from the senior managers?
Examples of sales specific questions:
  • Do you believe your sales goals are attainable? What can we do to make them more attainable?
  • Is the organization providing you with enough sales support to do your job successfully? What kind of support would help you in your role?
  • Do you feel that your goals are clearly set? How can we work together to create clear goals?
  • What kind of feedback would you like to receive from your manager during your performance review? What can we do to make performance reviews more enjoyable and effective?
  • Do you respect the amount and kind of sales leadership that you receive from senior management? What can we do to improve our leadership efforts?  
Examples of compensation and perks questions:
  • Do you think your compensation is in alignment with the local market?
  • What would you like to see in the employee benefits package that is not currently offered?
  • When you consider the employee activities, events, parties, company sponsored sports teams, company paid race entries, company provided meals and snacks, and family activities, which would you like to see continued?

Please note: The stay interview questions are available for download at the end of the article.

Do stay interviews really work and are they worth the effort?tunover rale

One organization that has experienced success implementing stay interviews is NOVO 1.

After implementing stay interviews with over one thousand employees, their voluntary turnover rate immediately decreased by 20 percent.

Mary MurcottMary Murcott – Founder and President at Performance Transformations Inc. and former President and CEO at NOVO 1, states:

“We build walls between us and employees by asking opinions in anonymous surveys which protect us from looking in their eyes and hearing their words. Maybe down deep we have a fear that they will ask for something and we’ll have to say no. We can’t become a great company unless we ask, listen, and then consider every reasonable request.”

2. Have collaborative huddles

A collaborative huddle is a group-based sales team building activity that serves a different purpose than a sales meeting. While sales meetings often include updates about:

  • Previous sales activity (number of meetings, cold calls, presentations, etc)
  • Pipeline status
  • Goal status
  • Deal status
  • Scheduled sales activities  

A collaborative huddle addresses mistakes and obstacles your sales reps are presented with. And your team pools their talent and skills to find a solution.

Collaborative huddles are an important sales team building activity because a continuous obstacle that goes unaddressed can cause a sales rep to become unmotivated and disengaged. As a result, they may look for opportunities elsewhere.

scientific america Some obstacles include:
  • A client who’s hesitant to work with them
  • Going up against a big name competitor to win a deal
  • Issues penetrating a target account
  • An unsatisfied or disgruntled client

Also, two heads are in fact better than one, according to Scientific America. People perform better and make more intelligent decisions when they put their heads together, versus working alone. It allows open communication and collaboration to address challenges that sales reps may not be able to solve on their own.

Steven Johnson“An idea is a network,” says Steven Johnson during his TED Talk titled:  Where Good Ideas Come From. “I’ve been kind of on this quest to investigate this question of where good ideas come from. What are the environments that lead to unusual levels of innovation, unusual levels of creativity? I’ve started calling it the “liquid network,” where you have lots of different ideas that are together, different backgrounds, different interests, jostling with each other, bouncing off each other — that environment is, in fact, the environment that leads to innovation.”

To implement this sales team building activity, HR Leaders need to ensure their sales leaders are scheduling regular meetings so sales reps can collaborate on their issues. 

time for sales meetingAdvise your sales leaders that these huddles can be held on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis, and can be combined with their regularly held sales meetings to save time. We recommend setting aside 20-30 minutes at the end of the sales meetings to allow your team to collaborate on their issues. Depending on the size of the sales team, your sales leaders may need to schedule more or less time.

3. Create a team-based selling environment

A team-based selling environment is where a group of salespeople work towards a common sales goal. Each rep is closely connected with their team members and combine their knowledge, experience and skills to prospect and develop new business as a group.

Creating a team based selling environment is beneficial because top performing salespeople work to engage with their colleagues and coordinate their abilities to hit their targets.

team selling statsWith the amount of sales teams who practice team-selling increasing from 22 percent to 49 percent, team selling now accounts for 44 percent of the overall impact on a company’s profitability.

This means that HR Leaders have the opportunity to not only increase employee engagement and decrease sales turnover, but also increase profitability through team selling.

A large media company saw great success in a team-based selling environment. They invested in an internal social-networking platform with a goal of getting their sales reps to exchange information about complex accounts. As a result, cross-selling increased, sales cycles decreased and conversion rates went up.

Here are some examples of sales team building activities HR Leaders can use to create a team-selling environment:

Create a scoreboard

Having a scoreboard does more than just keep track of how your sales reps are doing against their targets. They foster healthy competition amongst the sales team and they help your sales leaders understand what aspects of their sales process are working and what’s not.

This sales team building activity is another way HR Leaders can be proactive about making necessary process changes to keep sales reps loyal and engaged.

For example, your sales leader notices there is a drastic difference between the amount of presentations given and the amount of deals won. HR Leaders can address the issue by helping to facilitate workshops and improve on presentation and follow-up skills.

bob ruffolo

Bob Ruffolo – founder and CEO of IMPACT, states:

“Sales success requires great salespeople in a great system.
You can get by with one or the other, but top performers can only do so much with a broken process and most likely won’t stick around”


When creating the scoreboard, make sure your sales leaders hone in on what metrics are important and over what period of time they will be measured. The scoreboard should include each sales rep’s name, their specific targets and their actual results.

Examples of metrics your sales leaders may include:
  • Individual quotas for each sales rep (if you do a team quota, list the overall target and the revenue each sales rep has generated to achieve the collective goal)
  • Level of activity (number of cold calls, sales meetings, trade shows, etc)
  • Number of Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)  
  • Pipeline size
  • Number of deals closed (new and existing business, or a combined target)
Some tools your sales leaders can use to create the scoreboard include:


smartsheet insightsquared

Implement gamification

Gamification is used to describe the application of traditional game elements to other activities to encourage engagement and drive. In a selling environment, HR Leaders can use it it to encourage collaboration and healthy competition amongst the team.

gamificationWhile gamification is often associated with younger generations – such as millennials – it can be implemented and used to motivate all generations. Top performing salespeople are driven individuals who have a desire to compete and win. Gamification fulfills these desires.

One organization in particular that has had success after implementing gamification into their selling environment is Stanley Black & Decker. Their goal was to bring in gamification to drive results with their more seasoned salespeople, especially those who tended to resist new technology.

The results they achieved were a 29 percent increase in pipeline activity, a 43 percent increase in documented opportunities and 70 percent of employees showed engagement.

gamification success story

Before choosing the kind of gamification to implement, help your sales leaders determine their goals by having them think about this statement:

If our sales team did more of X, or did X more effectively, we would hit our targets this quarter/year.

Once the goal is established, determine what gamification is most effective in achieving your sales leader’s desired results.

Some gamification options to provide your sales leaders include:

1. Leveraging their peers

To encourage collaboration on your sales team, create a system awarding points when sales tips are exchanged. It facilitates a team-selling environment while aiding reps in achieving their individual targets.  

2. Taking a new product to market

product sales increaseIf your sales team isn’t talking about the new product with their clients, create a leadership board that rewards reps when they pitch it. HelloWorld used this concept and created a hashtag that was logged into Salesforce by the sales reps. As a result, they saw the product sales increase by 230 percent and the product pitches doubled.

3. Leverage your sales process to increase win rates

Collaborate with your sales leaders to analyze the sales process and determine what stage holds the highest win rate. Once that is determined, run a contest that gives points once the sales reps move an opportunity into that stage. This not only advances opportunities but it also helps keep your client data accurate.

4. Selling a particular product or service

If you have a product or service you want sold quickly – perhaps sales for this particular product are down or you have a new product launching – create a contest that awards points every time a sales rep successfully sells said product or service.

4.  Facilitate side projects outside of their role responsibilities

millennial side projectsUsing side projects as a sales team building activity is a way for HR Leaders to increase their sales reps’ sense of purpose within the organization – which fosters loyalty and decreases voluntary turnover.

They allow your salespeople to feel like their role has a greater impact on the company as a whole. In fact, 78 percent of millennial employees say it’s important to have side projects as another area of growth opportunity.

In a recent interview with HR Magazine, Anita Rai, Employment Law Partner at Taylor Vinters, stated:

“…most people do not know how to bring their ideas to fruition, they might be open to developing their idea with their employer. This will help the employer keep a hand on what is going on with their employees and how they are feeling, as well as potentially lead to interesting business opportunities,”

When considering what kinds of side projects to offer your sales team, think about these areas of the project:  

  • The format in which it will be given
  • The time they will be allocated
  • The results you would like to achieve.

debbie maddenDebbie Madden, CEO and cofounder of Stride – an agile software development consultancy, based in New York City – explains that for 13-years she has been holding quarterly open space meetings where the entire company comes together for a whole day to discuss new ideas:

“Almost every single cool thing at Stride has come out of our Open Space meetings. It’s not a hackathon, so we’re not creating ‘products.’ We’re creating policy. [An] amazing idea that came out of a Stride Open Space is our monthly Lean Coffee. We talk as an entire company about the single most important issue facing our team at the time. The issue is self selected and voted on by all of Stride.”

Some projects you could facilitate include:

1. Peer mentorship opportunities  

Going through the onboarding experience can be daunting and is filled with the pressures of ramping up. Tenured sales reps have knowledge about the company, its products and services, its clients, and best practices.

HR Leaders can have tenured sales reps provide lessons on products and services, sales best practices, and much more. The new sales reps could also shadow the tenured sales reps in the field as they move through their sales cycles.

peer lead teachingAs a result of peer-lead teaching, your new sales reps can experience a 2 percent increase in sales training “stickiness” – which refers to how well information in retained – according to the Sales Leadership Council.

Having the tenured sales reps teach the new sales reps bridges the knowledge gap, decreases ramp up time, and offers the tenured sales reps opportunity to improve their leadership skills.  

2. Two second lean

Salespeople are busy and often so focused on hitting their targets that they don’t have time for side projects. However, encouraging them to practice “two-second lean” allows them to work on a new project and decrease the time needed for everyday tasks.

These “two-second lean” projects could include simplifying the way information is inputted into the CRM, decreasing travel time, or simplifying how expenses are submitted.   

3. Professional certifications

professional certificationEarning a professional certification not only validates you sales rep’s expertise but it also gives your clients a higher level of confidence in your business. Your sales team will become more engaged since you are invested in their professional development and helping them take the next steps in their career.

Companies like Microsoft, IDC, CompTIA and Novell have experienced increases in productivity due to their professional certifications preparing employees for their day-to-day challenges.

Some professional certifications you could offer include sales methodology training, seminars for presentation skills, leadership skills, etc.

5.  Have a Corporate Community Initiative (CCI)

Companies that encourage community involvement not only distinguish themselves from their competitors, but also see the benefits of happier employees. Community involvement as a sales team building activity shows your sales reps that their role serves a larger purpose.

Corporate Community InitiativeIn a recent study done by Deloitte and Points of Light Institute, 74 percent of the white collar workers who participated in their CCI stated that it had a positive effect on their careers.  

In addition:

  • 83 percent of professional women reported that their CCI developed their leadership skills
  • 78 percent reported improvements in their communication skills
  • Over 50 percent reported improvement in other workplace skills.

Below are some examples of companies who leverage CCIs to develop their employees’ skills and grow their employee bond:

Dow Corning

An employee was sent to Bangalore, India to participate in Dow’s international volunteer program. This program sends employees on a pro bono basis to work with NGOs and entrepreneurs in emerging countries.

CCI employee developmentOne employee, an electrical apprentice, worked for four weeks with a local community and a team to improve the manufacturing process at Sustaintech – a local clean cookstove producer.

Throughout the experience, this employee learned leadership, problem solving, and out-of-box thinking skills. After returning to work, she stated she was excited about her future with Dow and hoped to move up in the company in the future.

Team One

professional developmentEmployees from Team One’s Atlanta office take over for the staff at the Atlanta Children’s Shelter one day every month. The volunteers look after the children so the shelter staff can hold their monthly meetings. The volunteers also help with classroom decorating and provide creative projects for the children.

An Account Coordinator stated the volunteering has deepened her understanding of the advertising industry and corporate philanthropy. She attributes her professional development to the volunteer program and gained valuable skills to help her work effectively with coworkers and clients.

Doing these activities with remote employees

More and more salespeople are doing their job remotely and at different times of the day. From 2012 to 2016 the number of remote employees rose by four points, taking it from 39 percent to 43 percent.

remote employee statsThis means that employees have fewer face-to-face interactions with their managers and coworkers, and they’re communicating more through e-mail, instant messaging and conference calls.

To ensure HR Leaders are conducting effective sales team building activities with remote employees, we recommend using video conference software. Video conferencing encourages both participation and more face-to-face interaction.

Video conferencing is particularly useful for collaboration meetings, team-selling activities and side-projects.

Some video conferencing tools you can leverage include:

Lifesize Highfive clickmeeting

With CCIs and stay interviews, bring your remote employees into the office once or twice per year. As stay interviews are done annually and during slow business periods, bringing them in for a face-to-face meeting yields better results.

Decrease Your Voluntary Employee Turnover

loyal employees entrepreneurUsing sales team building activities not only decreases voluntary turnover rates but also increases employee loyalty – which is the heart of successful companies, according to Entrepreneur.

The more employee loyalty HR Leaders facilitate, the more the sales reps will go above and beyond to help their organization improve and succeed. Loyal employees share their expertise, they boost morale, and they consistently hit their sales targets.  

Keeping your sales team engaged and feeling positively about your organization will help ensure your turnover rate stays to a minimum and your top sales talent continues to generate revenue and profitability for your organization.


Download your list of Stay Interview Questions here.

Back to the top