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5 Secrets to Hiring A Stellar Sales Team

Lionseye insights from AC Lion


Adding the right sales staff is trickier than you think. Bad reps don’t just cost you in salary, but also in lost leads and opportunity costs. The cost of a bad hire can really set you back.   Those reps are the face of your company and need toreflect your company’s mission and goals. Hiring and onboarding successful sales executives gives you an advantage over your competition and helps you sustain your business growth.

How do you find the ones that will succeed at your company? Here are the five secrets I learned over the years to help successful companies find the ideal sales force. My staff has done over 90,000 interviews and we know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

1. Look for patterns of achievement

Look for a history of success in academics, sports and professional arenas. Have candidates demonstrated that they consistently attained results and met their goals? If they’re recent college grads, look at their academic achievement, GPA and competitive sports background. For those in the workplace a while, look at how their professional experience demonstrates desirable results, leadership skills and ways in which the prospect conquered new challenges.

According to Inc. Magazine, you only need to ask one interview question: What single project or task would you consider your most significant career accomplishment? Then ask the candidate to amplify how they achieved the feat—including good decisions and not-so-good decisions made. What in hindsight would they do differently? Why do they consider it the most significant success? What was the impact?

2. Persistence and Resourcefulness

Good sales repswant to win and close deals, but remain upbeat and passionate despite rejection after rejection. Resilient candidates choose to persevere at all costs…or figure out new ways to tweak processes and come up with clever solutions. Highly effective sales people are optimistic. Many are often enterprising and inventive.

During the interview process, look for those who have bounced back from adversity and demonstrated a drive to achieve. Perhaps they also developed a new process at their last job.  Ask the candidate to describe one or two of the most difficult challenges or rejections they’ve face—and how they responded.

3. Do a Deep Dive on their Prior Sales Process

Hitting quota and having good contacts are great accomplishments, but may not be the only predictors of success at subsequent jobs.  Dig deep into their sales process and sales cycle.  Have them walk you through a typical sale, including lead generation, appointment setting, qualification, proposal/bid process, closing, etc. What’s the length of the sales cycle?  Common obstacles?  What is successful at one job is not always 100% transferable to the next position.

4. Hire A Specialist to Deliver Talent

Because so much is at stake in helping your company grow and scale, don’t just be discerning when choosing the engineers or vice presidents. Many companies find it worth the investment to hire recruiters to find the best sales people. The benefit is that recruiters filter prospects, deliver targeted candidate fast and efficiently, and can offer human resource directors, hiring managers and leaders of new startups highly qualified, pre-vetted candidates. This saves an enormous amount of time, especially when time is of the essence.

Recruiters also usually represent the star candidates in their requisite fields.  For example, AC Lion has built sales and business development teams, including CROs, SVPs, AEs and SDRs, for all facets of the digital, tech and enterprise landscape. After conducting over 88,000 interviews, the 20-year-old firm can boast that they’ve learned a thing or two about how to weed out the high-achieving prospects from the mediocre candidates!

5. Coachability

The most successful salesperson will be intrinsically motivated and driven, but will also welcome learning and be willing to be corrected and taught. After conducting over 1,000 interviews, Chief Revenue Officer and top sales exec at HubSpot. Mark Roberge determined which attributes correlated with the greatest success. He found that coachability was the #1 predictor of sales success at his company.

Look for people who were coached in school or during past jobs. Alternatively,you can also suggest a role play during the interview, and probe a bit with feedback. Use the classic sales question “Sell Me This Pencil” or try a 21st century version “Convince me to watch your favorite move or TV show tonight in 2 minutes.” Those most open to reflecting upon their weaknesses, who are not defensive, but enjoy the interviewer’s frank feedback are likely to rock in results.

To fortify your business with a highly engaged and talented sales team, you can no longer rely on resumes and referrals, nor on traits like a candidate’s intelligence, experience and high energy level Those salespeople who will actually deliver consistent and even superlative results were vetted, have a history of success, exhibit resilience and resourcefulness, and can be coached to take your organization to new heights.