8 Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Salesperson

You’ve got your product or service ready, your marketing channels are live and your funnels are ticking along nicely. Now what? The next logical step in your sales strategy is hiring a salesperson, especially if you’re not confident at making sales yourself.

But if you think that means simply posting an ad then sitting back and waiting for a flood of talented salespeople to start beating down your door, think again.

The reality is that recruiting is hard work.

It can be expensive, emotionally draining and time consuming. And it can be a looooong process. From pouring over CVs, arranging interviews, and forensically questioning candidates to weed out the job hoppers. To then setting salaries, KPIs, HR policies, sorting job titles, desk space, technology set up. The list goes on!

And going through all that only to discover you’ve hired the wrong person?

That’s both demoralising and bad for your businesses’ bottom line.

Here’s how to hire the RIGHT salesperson for your business – from planning your ad, to setting up your HR systems – we’ve laid out eight tips to ensure the sales recruitment process is as painless as possible.

A quick note before we start… Hiring a salesperson works well for some businesses, but it isn’t the only way to bring in more sales. There are other (sometimes more cost-effective ways) to get sales, including sales training for yourself or your staff, or outsourcing sales to a team of professionals. We can help you plan the best move for your business.

1. Plan your job ad correctly

Think hard about the kind of person you need and take time to create your own criteria for the role.

  • What skills do they need?
  • What values would they ideally share?
  • What is it about your company that will attract them to you?

You may decide you need a business development manager, as that’s what most businesses in your field hire, but think hard whether this is the right approach for your business. The reality is if your product is sold primarily over the phone, you could find a telemarketer has all the right skills, even if they aren’t as experienced meeting clients face-to-face.

2. Establish a formal recruitment and on-boarding process

Prepare your interview and selection process before you start. If you are not ready to ask your candidates difficult questions, put them through a robust interview and screening process AND test their abilities prior to offering them the job, how can you be sure you have the right person?  Experienced recruiters can scan a CV and see the good and the bad very quickly, but it’s an artform.

If you don’t ask the right questions and test what the candidate tells you, then you could end up with the wrong person in the job.

Costing you precious time and money.

Not only that, your recruitment process is the very first impression this employee gets of the business. The top companies in the world offer relocation packages, sightseeing tours, generous car allowances and career development paths. All thrown at candidates before they even started working. The best people expect to join great companies who are going to look after them.  If you can’t afford the flashy incentives, then the least you can do is have an organised process, clear job title and description, and a salary/benefits package ready at the advertising stage.

A top candidate will be interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them, in order to make their own mind up on how great the opportunity is. There’s nothing worse than finding your amazing candidate, offering them the job only for them to say “no thanks, I can find something better”.

3. Have a solid sales strategy in place

Your candidate will want to feel they have a clear direction and a coordinated strategy to help them sell to the best of their ability. A disorganised approach can turn off the best candidates.

Yes, a good salesperson will have their own ideas and selling strategies to bring to the table but they will expect to work in an environment where they have targets and measures of performance. Setting good motivating targets is harder than you think. They should be achievable but not too easy to achieve, and this may need to be adapted and amended each month.

4. Create an enticing award structure

Salary, working hours, and benefits are a key factor in the number of applications you will get and the quality of candidates that will apply. We are often asked why commission should be paid to salespeople. The answer is: salespeople perform better when they are offered an opportunity to increase their wages through good performance.  It allows them to share in the success of the business and drives them on through difficult periods of time to get those final sales over the line.

Setting appropriate commission is difficult and requires you to think carefully about the cost of the salesperson, realistic sales targets, what level of commission is appropriate, and how and when it will be paid. Not all salespeople will demand commission but many will overlook your ad if just a mediocre base salary is on offer with no reward scheme.

5. Set realistic expectations

If you haven’t thought about what sales you expect from the person within the first three, six and 12 months then it’s time to start. If you have unrealistic expectations the salesperson’s doomed to fail. What if they are failing to meet realistic targets? How will you motivate and help them succeed? When will you decide enough is enough?

6. Get your HR processes set up

If you already have employees then you may be well prepared already, but if this is your first hire in your business then welcome to the glorious world of HR!

Becoming an employer means being responsible for the wellbeing of that employee. Award rates, laws, regulations, insurances, HR processes all come with hiring an employee. Managing this adds a significant time cost to your business, as well as potentially monetary costs to set up your HR insurances, systems and processes. Third party providers can help with off-the-shelf downloads or one-off consultations to get you on the right track. Don’t underestimate the work involved here and make sure your plans are in order.

7. Don’t rush the recruitment process

Recruiting properly takes time. If you rush it, you risk hiring the wrong person which means a significant amount of time and money down the drain.

Typically our recruitment process involves reviewing 100+ CVs. We then assess 10-20 people, arranging introductory chats and interviews with around 5 people, and then proceed to more formal assessment of skills. If we are lucky, one or two will be suitable. Be prepared to speak to A LOT of people who are not right for you. Even a slick process can take 1-3 months before your new employee is bringing in sales for you.

An agency can help with initial screening and if time is an issue it may be worth the extra cost.  Keep in mind there’s no guarantee that screening will be sufficient. You may still need to spend time interviewing your candidates to make sure they are right in your mind, not just the recruiter’s mind.

8. Don’t underestimate the costs

For a recruitment campaign on a budget you might be spending $300 plus the cost of your time.  With an agency the costs are going to be closer to 10-20% of the annual salary of an employee. So think anywhere from $10K-$30K for a good quality sales person. You will save time on screening and posting ads, but will still need to budget time for interviewing, assessing and making the decision on who you bring in.

A good salesperson is going to want a decent package and you should consider anywhere between $80K-$150K depending on your business and their experience.

Many businesses faced with the reality of these numbers quickly realise that hiring a salesperson is beyond their budget.

If this is the case, consider the alternatives:

  • One is sales outsourcing. Costs will depend on the level of activity you require but a typical three month campaign will set you back anything from $3K-$12K.
  • Another alternative is sales training for yourself or your existing team members which could cost you as little as $10K.


Cost comparison: DIY and agency recruiting

salesperson_recruiting_comparisonSet yourself up for recruiting success

If you’ve decided recruiting a salesperson is the right move for your business, then planning and preparation are your friend. Get your sales processes in line and decide exactly what you need BEFORE you post your first advertisement. Then use your criteria to make the selection process as consistent and smooth as possible.

If the time or cost involved in recruitment are putting you off, there are some good alternatives that are often more cost effective. You could invest in some sales training for yourself or your team members, or outsource the work to a company who already has a team of expert salespeople on hand.

Hiring a salesperson isn’t the best option for every business. There are other options that might work just as well, and save you time (and recruiting headaches). We can help you figure out the best path to getting more sales – Give us a call to chat through your options.


About the Author

Chris Hull_True Potential Sales

Chris Hull is the Managing Partner of True Potential Sales. He spent 20 years working in the UK Financial Services industry, including a 10 year stint as Head of Sales Operations for the UK’s largest Independent Financial Services firm. He then decided to put his knowledge to good use and help others improve their sales processes and pipelines. Together with his business partner Jenny White, they created True Potential Sales. They now have a team of salespeople across Australia providing sales expertise and campaigns to small and medium sized businesses. Chris lives with his family and fur-baby Geordie in Woonona, Northern Illawarra.