The success of your business depends, to a large extent, on the performance of your sales team.
And while most HR managers understand this better than anyone, many struggle to source and hire top sales performers, or to retain them. In a survey of 2,000 sales and revenue leaders, 58% of the respondents experienced higher voluntary sales turnover in 2020.
In this article, we’ll look into the best strategies you can use to source and recruit top sales performers, as well as the mistakes most companies make when hiring for sales roles.
Let’s dive in.
Table of contents
- 3 mistakes that prevent companies from recruiting top sales performers
- 11 steps to follow when recruiting top sales performers for your sales team
- How to hire top sales performers using skills testing
- Which skills tests are ideal for recruiting top sales performers?
- ✅ Source top sales performers with TestGorilla's sales representative tests
3 mistakes that prevent companies from recruiting top sales performers
Focusing only on candidates’ resumes and failing to consider factors other than experience are two hiring mistakes you should avoid. The other is using intuition or gut feelings when seeking to hire a successful salesperson.
1. Focusing only on sales performers’ resumes
Focus entirely on a resume and you risk being given misleading information. Sixty-six percent of employers agree that candidates exaggerate their skills. Three of the biggest lies found on candidates’ resumes include:
- Making up relevant experience
- Claiming to have expert skills, when they have limited skills
- Claiming to have worked for longer periods with certain employers
As a sales manager or recruiter, going beyond a resume screening is fundamental to ensure you verify candidates' claims. You might have tried the following evaluative methods:
- Interviewing sales performers
- Checking references
- Asking sales performers to deliver a sales pitch
You might also try using custom questions as part of skill-testing platforms. These can take the form of multiple-choice, essay, or video response questions.
2. Failing to consider factors other than experience
Experience is important when hiring a top performer in sales.
You’ll want to ensure candidates not only have sales experience but that their sales performance applies to your industry. But also bear in mind that other factors matter – that certain personality traits can help candidates in this role.
Mark Thacker, president of Sales Xceleration, writes in Forbes that the top personality traits of top sales performers include:
You should be looking for these traits when hiring, not just experience. But how can you determine whether top sales performer candidates have these personality traits?
This needn’t be a difficult task; skills testing platforms provide personality tests that can accurately screen for these traits. Learn more by continuing to the end of this article.
3. Using intuition to make a hiring decision
You might have an intuitive feeling about a top sales performer candidate, but is this “feeling” accurate? And is it fair?
Using intuition can in some cases be the equivalent of using unconscious bias, which can have a huge effect on diversity and inclusion.
So, you might consider the following steps when hiring the best salespeople to avoid unconscious bias and hire exceptional talent with a standardized process.
11 steps to follow when recruiting top sales performers for your sales team
Effective hiring starts with knowing which top-performing salespeople you want to target and ends with ongoing training — here are the 11 steps to follow when recruiting top sales performers.
1. Define your ideal salesperson
Put together a list of expectations you’re looking for from top sales performers by creating a job description profile.
As Baylor University states, this will help you fully summarize the duties, essential functions, and responsibilities associated with the position.
Consider the ideal personality traits of top sales reps
Next, define your ideal salesperson in terms of the skills you are looking for. As well as knowability, trustworthiness, and likeability traits (mentioned above), some skills you should look for include:
- Top negotiation skills. According to Harvard University, “negotiation skills encompass back-and-forth communication designed to reach an agreement with a consumer or client.” Part of this involves problem-solving and dispute resolution, which candidates should be comfortable doing.
- Exceptional communication skills. There are six top communication skills for negotiation, as stated by Accent on Business: knowing the purpose of the negotiation, knowing how to deliver the message, knowing how to mirror the client’s speech, active listening, practicing the sales pitch, and creating suspense. Are your top sales performers equipped with these skills?
- A thorough understanding of your brand. As mentioned, sales experience is important, but knowledge of your brand is critical. If you’re an inside sales e-commerce organization, your top sales professionals should know about your e-commerce brand.
2. Target the right people by writing a clear, succinct job description
Now you’ve got your list of top skills for sales reps, focus on the job description. This is critical as a sales job description can influence a job seeker’s decision to apply. It should be clear and concise, sell your brand, and contain certain crucial elements.
What should you include in the sales job description?
A sales job description should start with an appropriate job title. Job-seekers will often search by job title on job sites, meaning you should mirror the exact keywords they are searching for.
The job description should then continue with a strong, attention-grabbing summary, and at this point you should mention your company and brand.
Hinge Research Institute’s 2020 Employer Branding study revealed that 57% of job seekers consider culture as important as salary when it comes to job prospects, so be sure not to miss this out.
Next, mention the benefits of the role, including the generous compensation package successful top sales performers will receive.
Finally, include a concise list of responsibilities, qualifications, and skills. Being succinct with the qualifications is important as you might dissuade some candidates from applying if you over-elaborate on these details.
3. Perfectly present your company brand
The question is: how should you present your company brand? As stated by YOLO Insights CEO Rebecca Barnes-Hogg on Business News Daily “[Candidates] want to understand your products and what you stand for”.
You’ll achieve this when you let top sales performer candidates know about your company’s culture as part of your brand in the job description. Mention it within the first couple of lines.
Think about which words best define your company’s brand. Are you innovative? Is your brand “fun” or “relaxed”? Then use the optimum phrases to describe your brand in the job description. For instance, as mentioned by Susan Milligan on SHRM, Coca-Cola is for sharing.
4. Use alternative hiring methods
As described by Forbes, here are two alternative hiring methods to choose from when hiring top sales performers:
- Artificial Intelligence. Use chatbots and machine learning to enhance the hiring process and the candidate experience simultaneously. Chatbots are ideal for automating screening, while machine learning is an option that assists your job description posting process.
- Use text recruiting. There are text-based apps for recruitment that streamline your response time to candidates. Compared with email, which has a 25% open rate, the open rate of text messages in recruiting is 88%.
5. Sell the opportunity
You can make your top sales performer job description stand out by treating it like a sales pitch for the role. Rebecca Barnes-Hogg suggests that making the description about candidates and their interests will capture their attention.
Appeal to candidates’ interests by selling the perks of your organization, but sell them in the right way. For example, consider the difference between saying your company “offers snacks” to its employees, and saying you offer “an abundant supply of healthy snacks in the fully-stocked canteen”.
6. Make sure your candidate is a good fit for your organization
The most successful companies hire for cultural fit, which means candidates' behaviors and values align with your organization’s cultural values. Consider this when hiring, because a good cultural fit leads to increased productivity.
Do your top salespeople candidates fit your organization’s culture? Here’s how you can find out.
Skills testing platforms feature culture add tests that will assess how candidates’ values and interests align with your company values. The benefit of the culture add test is that organizations of any size , from startups to global sales corporations, can use them.
7. Use skills testing to evaluate the soft skills of top sales performers
Skills testing top sales performers is useful; you can learn if candidates have the exact skills you’re looking for. You’ll be looking for hard skills (such as negotiation with prospects) and soft skills. Some of the most important soft skills in sales, according to TalentLMS, include:
- Time management
- Emotional intelligence
A time management skills test will help with checking candidates’ time management skills; problem solving skills tests will assist you with testing decisiveness. You can also use personality tests to check top sales performers’ empathy and resilience.
8. Be prepared to answer questions from top sales performer applicants
Top sales performer applicants will ask challenging questions when you invert the interview process, such as:
- Why did the previous employee decide to leave the role?
- How can I go about getting feedback on my application?
- How crucial is this role from the perspective of senior management?
- What makes this position difficult to manage from your perspective?
As a sales candidate recruiter, you will need answers to these questions to make the best impression on top sales performers.
Your responses will be unique to your organization: not only should you research the appropriate data for these questions before the interview, but you should also prepare and practice how you’re going to respond to questions like these.
Check with senior management how critical the role is and how they manage the position so you can answer these questions with accuracy and confidence.
9. Offer competitive compensation
Develop a competitive compensation plan by deciding on the plan structure. This will involve selecting between a commission-driven salary or a combined salary and commission package.
Sales organizations offer commission-based compensation frequently, but other packages might be more attractive to your candidate. These include gross margin commission plans and relative commission plans.
10. Carry out the onboarding process
Although 20% of staff turnover can occur in the first 45 days of employment, according to career transition expert Melissa Llarena, effective onboarding processes help with retention.
Ensure the expectations (such as sales targets and how to seek out prospects) are clear. This will help candidates learn how to perform efficiently and operate according to your requirements.
11. Implement training using skills test results as a guide
For training, skills test results have a bonus: you can use them as a point of reference and create training sessions for your top sales performer candidates. If you’ve checked the skills test results and know that your successful candidate lacks skills in sales pitches, focus on this in the training.
How to hire top sales performers using skills testing
The steps you should follow to hire top sales performers using skills testing are:
- Selecting the right skill test
- Tailoring it to match your brand
- Sending the skill test to candidates
- Analyzing the results
Which skills tests are ideal for recruiting top sales performers?
Use Salesforce CRM, negotiation, and communication skills tests for recruiting top sales performers. Here’s more on each of these tests.
1. Salesforce CRM skills test
If you’re hiring a sales manager or a sales representative and need to assess their Salesforce customer relationship management software knowledge, use the Salesforce CRM skills test to evaluate their abilities.
The test will assess three main areas:
- How well candidates manage leads
- How efficiently candidates manage opportunities
- Whether candidates can manage accounts and contacts
2. Negotiation skills test
To find top sales performers who can negotiate with prospects in sales conversations, learn about their sales skills, selling approach, and sales methodology with the negotiation skills test.
From employee representatives to top reps, this test is ideal for sales roles.
The negotiation skills test evaluates the following areas:
- How well candidates drive their negotiations
- How well candidates can influence their prospects
- How well candidates can use empathy and emotional intelligence
- How well they can leverage the counterparty’s psychology
3. Communications skills test
You’ll get a fuller perspective on your top sales performers’ communications skills with a communications skills test. It will assess:
- Active listening skills
- If candidates can use professional communication etiquette
- Their level of open-minded verbal communication skills
Source top sales performers and evaluate their skills the simple way
Hiring top sales performers doesn’t have to be an impossible task.
You might think high turnover rates seem daunting in this field, but a good onboarding process will help keep turnover low.
Keep in mind that you can enhance the hiring process with key skills testing features, such as:
- Custom questions
Don’t stick to resume screening alone; use these two features to evaluate top sales performers and put training programs together. Then watch as your candidates become high achievers who outperform average sales reps.
Start your journey with TestGorilla
In sum, making skills-based hires is the best way to make sure you are only recruiting top performers for your sales team. Access your free plan with TestGorilla and start hiring the best.