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14 Hiring Strategies You Need to Build a Top Performing Sales Team

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To execute your sales hiring strategy and achieve your sales targets, you need the right sales talent. Here are 14 sales hiring strategies you can implement today to ensure you hire the right salespeople for your selling environment.

There is a robust business need for objective sales hiring – devising comprehensive strategies to hire salespeople who will hit quota year-over-year and deliver profitable revenue is a critical component of sales management success. Simply put, you need to build a team that will get you to your numbers.

Here are 14 sales hiring strategies for each stage of the sales hiring lifecycle to make your hiring process more effective:

REQUIREMENTS

1. Build Ideal Candidate Profiles to Match the Requirements of Your Sales Strategy

One of the biggest issues that arises in the hiring process happens before candidates are even assessed: As a sales leader, you haven’t defined what you need from your salespeople. Do you need a hunter who can penetrate the market and close net-new business, a lead nurturer who can close warm leads, or someone to overtake and farm existing accounts?

To attain the candidates who will execute your sales strategy and excel in your selling environment, create a clear outline of the skills, experience, and DNA your ideal candidate will possess then build your job description and recruitment efforts around this.

Traits of your ideal candidate can include:

  • Behaviors required to sell to your client
  • Attitudes required for best fit for role and best cultural fit
  • Skill set necessary to excel in your selling environment
  • Personality characteristics like competitiveness, resilience, conscientiousness, persistence, or drive

ATTRACTION

2. Showcase Your Company as an Employer of Choice

Top performing salespeople are picky when it comes to choosing who they work for. And they should be: they have the luxury of working for the best because they are the best at what they do.

Some tactics for attracting the best salespeople to your company can be executed in these ways:

  • Online – this is likely the first place that potential candidates will look, so make sure your website is professional and the content is up to date.
  • Offices – make sure your offices look like a place of where success is celebrated and top performance is expected.
  • Interactions – when speaking with candidates, discuss marquee customers you’ve done business with. This is a way to demonstrate your company’s pro sales culture and the value it places on customer relationships – something top sellers want to to see in an organization they work for.
  • Reputation – Hire the best and your company will become known for attracting top producers.

3. Stop Relying on Job Boards

Simply put, top performing salespeople are not browsing job boards because they are too busy closing deals and driving revenue for their employer. By posting job descriptions on online job boards, you are advertising to “active candidates” – those salespeople who are likely out of work or going to be fired because they continue to miss quota.  

Relying on job boards to get the attention of the best salespeople in your industry is an ineffective strategy that will only increase your time-to-hire and turnover ratios. Instead, leverage your employee’s existing networks.

4. Use Cash to Attract Top Candidates

One of the secrets of talent acquisition is that great salespeople know other great salespeople.  Salespeople that demonstrate the skills, attitudes, and behaviours that make them a great fit for your company will likely know other people with a similar profile. This is especially true in sales, where networking and relationship building are so critical for success.

To capitalize on your salesforce’s personal networks, develop and implement an internal referral program. The key to making these programs work is to make it lucrative for your team by giving large cash rewards that not only payout when a referral hire is made but when the person referred hits quota.

Salespeople are motivated by money – incentivize them to bring the talented people they know to you.

5. Build a Strong Employer Brand 

In the same way that consumers evaluate a brand before they purchase, potential employees assess the brand of a company before applying for or accepting a job. They will research you as much as you’re researching them. Ensure they are wowed while they are researching your company online.

To attract top performing salespeople, there are several things you can do. When it comes to your online employer brand, be sure to position your company as a market leader. This is important because top salespeople are always interested in working for industry leaders or high-growth companies that are poised to dominate their sector. Respected employers demonstrate their legitimacy by featuring key client logos in the recruiting process and highlight the number of reps making and exceeding quota. By emphasizing your reputation and resources, you gain the attention of top talent.

Further, companies that understand employee branding know that talent engagement is really where employee engagement begins. Engage talent on your website from the first point of contact. Do this by showcasing:

  • Core company values
  • Testimonials of how your employees are living your values
  • Success stories of personal growth, promotion, or role expansion
  • Stories of how your employees are active in their local communities
  • Employee awards and recognition
  • Blogs written by employees about their professional engagement

When you personalize your company values and brand in a way that makes potential candidates feel like they know you, you take a crucial first step to creating a connection with your target candidate pool.

While your online brand is an important place to start, ensure your effort toward attracting top talent includes the interview and assessment, offer, and onboarding stage of your hiring process.

6. Attract Top Performers With Your Company, Not Your Jobs

When publishing an online job description, be strategic about what it is you’re actually selling. The job descriptions for an account executive role at a given B2B company will be 90 percent identical, and yet, some companies struggle to fill these roles while others receive hundreds of resumes for the position.

This is because if you focus on what a candidate has to gain by working at your company – not just simply what they will do as a job –  you won’t have to rely as heavily on the job descriptions to drive candidate flow. The best job descriptions might include compelling stories about long standing client relationships and key accounts. Or, include human elements about the beginnings of your salesforce and how it has grown and evolved the company.  The best salespeople seek challenging and innovative sales environments. Showcase how your company creates this in your job descriptions.

ASSESSMENT

7. Interview for Sales DNA

Instead of simply interviewing based on generic hiring criteria, evolve your assessment process to assess the Sales DNA of candidates from the first point of contact. Peak’s research has found that knowing how to interview for sales DNA is one of the keys to successful sales hiring.

Sales DNA refers to the traits a candidate possesses that will make them successful in their role. Once you have identified all the characteristics of your ideal sales candidate and the DNA that they need to possess, you can test candidates during the interview process by asking specific questions.

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8. Introduce Science

Effective hiring leverages the power of science. One way to introduce science into your sales hiring process is by using psychometric testing to assess candidates. This testing is a learning tool for you to objectively assess candidates’ communication and behavioural style. Its purpose is to predict the behaviour, performance, and motivating factors of an individual in a specific context (i.e. an employee in the workplace).

Typically, psychometric assessments measure:

  • Aptitude
  • Mental cognition capabilities
  • Behavioural skillsets
  • Motivating factors

Using the data from each candidate’s results, you can identify how someone will fit into your team culture and how they will be received by your customers.

Ultimately, psychometric testing is key to understanding if someone is naturally “wired” to handle rejection, ask difficult or challenging questions, or possesses the necessary persistence to successfully sell.  It’s an objective tools that can be an invaluable part of hiring the right people for your specific selling environment.

9. Don’t Overvalue the Resume

Resumes are not the best source of information about how a candidate might perform in a given role. They are a good source of information on a candidate’s education, years of selling experience, and verticals sold into, but fail to provide more insight beyond that. Extensive research conducted by Google supports this finding, reporting no clear connections between resume contents and employee performance.

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10. Assess for Criteria Other Than Experience

Over 50 percent of sales leaders cite “selling experience within the industry”, while another 33 percent cite “selling experience in [an]other industry” as key criterions when evaluating candidates (Aligning Strategy and Sales). While industry experience is an important selection criteria, evaluating a candidate based only on experience is a mistake. In the context of selling, experience is a multidimensional attribute. It may refer to: a customer group, a technology, division of the selling organization, or a territory.

A candidate may have selling experience similar to your product, but your unique selling model, sales environment, and company culture aren’t necessarily transferable from another organization. Don’t simply rely on experience in your assessment process – have a process for how to hire the best salespeople.

11. Start Conducting Exit Interviews  

As counterintuitive as it is to make effective exit interviews a tactic in your hiring strategy, conducting proper exit interviews can help create lifelong advocates for an organization. They provide invaluable information about your sales leadership’s effectiveness. This helps you lower turnover rates, understand where there are leadership gaps, and reduce the cost of sales turnover.

Conducting effective exit interviews that aim to understand the employees’ experience also has an additional benefit of breeding ambassadors for your brand. Employees regularly leave company reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com after their tenure at a company. When they feel heard and understood, they are more likely to produce approving reviews. When you have past employees leave positive reviews of your company, you end up with a channel of organic, favorable online content about your company.

12. Get HR the Tools They Need

HR should be a key player in executing your hiring strategy.

But for for HR to do their job effectively, it’s up to the VP of Sales to communicate what type of seller they need (hunter/farmer), what selling experience is necessary for the role, and the cultural fit required for success in your selling environment.

You can provide further guidance for HR about how the sales organization functions, especially in the areas of:

  • Team performance
  • Culture
  • Hiring timelines and ideal profiles
  • Compensation plans
  • Individual development plans

Foster your relationship with HR and help them understand your needs so they can more effectively do their job.

OFFER

13. Make Your Compensation Plan the Best in the Industry

You know that salespeople generally have a larger appetite for risk than other workers, so a pay plan that offers reward based on risk appeals to them. Make the rewards of exceptional sales performance a clear part of your sales hiring strategy.

The best compensation plans not only prove above market pay but are also simple and heavily reward the behaviors required to execute the sales strategy. They are further aligned with sales cycle predictability – the less predictable the sales cycle, the lower commision is and higher base.  Ultimately, to attract great salespeople you need to provide a great compensation package that is above industry standard and heavily rewards strong performance.

“Sales reps work harder for the chance to earn a reward than they do after receiving one.”

– Doug J. Chung, professor of marketing at Harvard Business School

RETENTION

14. Make Retention Efforts Proactive

World-class sales organizations don’t think of retention efforts in “one size fits all” terms. Instead, they make retention strategies personal. It’s as simple as asking, “what motivates you?” to your sales reps.

While it’s a given that your reps are motivated by money, understanding how to motivate them in ways other than cash can be a huge differentiator in your employee value proposition. Your A players may be motivated by more challenging accounts, larger or less developed territorries, personal and professional growth opportunities, opportunities for more vacation time, or workplace flexibility. The first step in retaining your top performers is knowing exactly what will keep them working for you.

Building a Top Performing Sales Team Starts with Your Sales Hiring Strategy

While your sales hiring strategy is the key to building a better sales team, excellent strategy that’s met with poor implementation results in failure. As Cespedes explains in Aligning Strategy and Sales, “companies don’t execute strategy; people do.”

You can have an excellent strategy, but if you lack the right people who will implement and execute that strategy, you have a failing business model.

The battle for sales talent isn’t ending anytime soon. You can increase your odds of winning it by leveraging technology, making every touch point of your company world class, and using objective assessment methods in your hiring strategy. With the right sales hiring strategies, you have all the tools you need to build a top performing sales force at your fingertips.

Want more? Visit the Peak Sales Blog for everything you want to know about building a top performing sales team, from How to Close Your Top Sales Candidate, to conducting Faster, Better, Sales Onboarding.

Jasmine Bosch

Content Marketer at Peak Sales Recruiting
Jasmine specializes in B2B and enterprise sales content marketing. She attained a master’s degree at Carleton University, and is a frequent contributor to the Peak Sales Blog.

Jasmine Bosch

Jasmine specializes in B2B and enterprise sales content marketing. She attained a master’s degree at Carleton University, and is a frequent contributor to the Peak Sales Blog.

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