Sales Hiring: How to Interview and Assess Sales Rockstars

by blackwoodimpact

Conventional business wisdom says sales is a numbers game. However, good leaders know that quality is as important a factor as quantity. Nothing can affect your company’s bottom line more than the people who are tasked to grow it. That is why it is critical to hire the right people for your sales organization. They must be aligned with your goals and have the skills to meet and exceed your expectations.

Your sales team is on the front lines of advancing your company’s revenue agenda. Having underperforming or ill-fitting team members will hurt your business on many levels. When you fire a salesperson, you are likely losing out on the opportunity to generate greater revenue during the time you are trying to replace them. It then takes another significant investment of time and money to train a new salesperson and help them develop a pipeline of leads. If that hire happens to be a bad fit, the process starts all over again. According to the US Department of Labor, the cost of making a bad hire is at least 30% of the employee’s first-year salary[1]. No business can sustain those types of losses. So we have developed a tool to help you hire the best sales team from the outset.

Before You Hire

Before you begin the process of hiring, you should take inventory of your company’s readiness to receive a new team member. In a previous article, “Three Guidelines for Picking Your Marketing and Branding Team Wisely,” we recommended going through a self-audit process. We provided a downloadable toolkit in our article “Is Your Team Ready for Change?” The same principle should apply when bringing on new sales team members.

Explore these questions that relate specifically to your sales organization:

  • What are the strengths of your current sales team?
  • What competencies are lacking?
  • What skillsets and personality types have not been a good fit for the company?

We also recommend you dig deeper into your self-audit process, and consider the types of products and services you sell and your clientele:

  • What sales styles are best for promoting our products/services?
  • Do we need a salesperson who is better suited for long or short sales cycles?
  • What sales styles or tactics would be a good match for our prospects and current clients?
  • Would strong phone skills or in-person relational skills be the best fit for our process?
  • Are we in need of a salesperson with in-depth industry knowledge, so they can be knowledgeable product demonstrators?

Here is something else to consider. Determine whether or not you want to hire someone with more or less experience. If you are looking for someone to “hit the ground running,” so to speak, who has extensive experience in your industry and a list of contacts they can start reaching out to right away, then understand you will have to pay for that level of quality. You may pay out a higher base salary or a more generous commission, but you’ll spend less time training them, and you will likely start seeing a high return on that investment within weeks instead of months. If you don’t mind investing time in training and mentoring someone newer to the field, then you can likely get away with offering a lower compensation package.

Last, but certainly not least, be sure to have duplicatable procedures in place before you make your hire. Your sales process should be documented. Having an up-to-date CRM is beneficial for tracking deals in your pipeline. Reporting and expense policies should be clear. Sales enablement tools should be readily available (proposal templates, leave-behinds, inbound leads, and more). This helps maximize your team’s effectiveness without tying them down with time-consuming administrative tasks.

How to Hire by the Numbers

Blackwood Impact Group has created a Sales Hiring Matrix which you can download for free and use the next time you are considering candidates. It is our contribution to helping make the process of selecting new sales team members more objective. The matrix provides a methodology for rating each of the candidates. Additionally, it also offers a way to compare them to each other.

Whether one person or a small committee of people has the power to approve a new hire, our Sales Hiring Matrix will give you data points so you can quantify how a candidate performed throughout the hiring process. When you use the Sales Hiring Matrix, you will input your data and see the candidate’s raw scores comparatively. Subsequent tabs will also reveal a graphical representation of the results. The matrix helps you rate your candidates into three categories: behavior, sales skills, and cultural fit.

If a committee is deciding on candidates, the Sales Hiring Matrix can be used in one of two ways. Each committee member can provide scores in their own iteration of the tool and compare or average the results. Alternatively, the committee can collectively agree on the candidate’s scores and record the results in one master matrix.

The Sales Hiring Matrix not only helps ease the stress of onboarding new team members now, but it can also be a viable tool for later. Once you have at least a year or two worth of past candidate scores, you can use it in a variety of ways. You can track the performance of individuals hired under this system and see if the Sales Hiring Matrix was a good predictor of success in their role. If you find the matrix to be very accurate, it can help you be even more precise in your continued hiring practices. You can compare the pre-hiring data to your employee engagement survey data, and let it inform future policies.

Hiring your new sales team members is too important of a decision to leave it up to chance or subjective methodologies. Our free Sales Hiring Matrix will show you how to hire by the numbers. Download it for free today.


1 –