How to Accelerate Growth? Hire Sales Representatives The Right Way

hiring sales representatives

It seems like a great three-part plan for revenue. Step 1: hire sales representatives. Step 2: Salespeople sell. Step 3: Profit.

I hate to break it to you, but that’s not always how it works. The hard thing about hiring salespeople is that sometimes you hire the wrong one and they end up costing you.

Actually, according to Sales Hacker and others, bad sales hires cost you 50-75% of their annual salary. So your $50,000 rep costs you anywhere between $25k-38k when they leave (and they probably haven’t sold much). The numbers get worse the more senior the rep, I’ll let you Google that pain on your own.

At SalesReach we were determined to make the right sales hires. When I was able to get all my thoughts down about what it would take to hire sales representatives the right way I was inspired to write this post and share it with you.

How to hire sales representatives the right way and avoid costing your business

I’ve been in sales for over 20 years and I’ve made the wrong hire and even been the wrong hire. I’ve seen it happen too many times.

Sales is the most managed out of any position. Ask any CEO, they know exactly who is their best salesperson and by how much better they are at their job. Hiring might be hard and it becomes painfully clear how wrong you were almost immediatly.

It can be surprising to see a solid industry veteran who’s not that good at rapport building or a youngster who’s got that natural charisma.

After a while, I settled on the conclusion that hiring salespeople is not about years of experience or traditional measures on a resume, but the type of person they are.

I’ve seen successful sales representatives come from the most unlikely of circumstances. To make the right hire you have to know how to spot the right personality traits.

Elias Torres, Founder, and CTO at Drift had an awesome LinkedIn post about this just as I was writing this guide, I had to put it in.

Hire for traits, not just experience

This concept is captured perfectly in Chet Holmes’ book “The Ultimate Sales Machine.” It’s a must-read.

In his book, Chet makes it super simple. You have to spot the qualities of a good salesperson before you can make them a great salesperson (more on that later in this post).

My adaptation of “The Ultimate Sales Machine” list of qualities that make for a great salesperson is below.

Traits of a great salesperson:

  • Resilient ego—they have the strong ego necessary to close as many deals as possible without taking rejections personally.
  • Empathetic—they love people, are influential, fast, energetic, persuasive, and communicative, and therefore bond better with prospective customers.
  • Adaptability—they are focused on their own growth and demonstrate a willingness to learn, they’re coachable and they’re like a chameleon in any setting.

Without a doubt, hands-on experience is tough to beat but too many people assume that with enough experience comes the perfect candidate. That’s flat out wrong in my experience.

Holmes makes it sound easy in his book. I want to show you how to actually do it.

To find great reps don’t interview them—buy from them

A few weeks ago when I was putting together my plan to hire sales representatives I made one really critical decision.

I decided to reach out to my network for feedback. A lot of people answered the call.

One of whom was another role-model. Dan Tyre, HubSpot’s original sales hire and author of “The Inbound Organization” has helped my business immensely. When I called him he was on-point and as helpful as ever.

On the phone, he made one really good point that I’d like to share with you.

Don’t risk it on an average hire just to fill the position. Instead, screen out all applicants as fast as possible.

For more wisdom from Dan Tyre here’s his plan for hiring great sales representatives.

How to rapidly increase your chances of hiring a great sales representative

Where should your sales representatives feel most comfortable?

My answer: on the phone (especially today).

When you start taking applications for your sales team. Flip the script, you’re the skeptic now. Do it right away, they’re selling you on themselves.

It’s a sink or swim scenario. Look to see if you can pull out the top three qualities of a great sales representative from the list above. Try to ask questions that will reveal to you who they are.

Other sales manuals, including Chet Holmes’ book, will tell you to attack them, be aggressive.

That’s not me and that’s not who works for me. That’s why it’s important to, do so in a way that is appropriate for your company culture. I want to see persuasiveness, not aggressiveness.

The bottom line on the phone interview, you are the customer. See if your interviewee can convince you to take the next step.

After all, you are hiring for your customers so hire someone who’s great to buy from.

This also goes back to why I founded SalesReach in the first place. Reps who care for and provide the best customer’s experience win bigger and better deals.

In fact, that’s where my head went immediately. My top choices for candidates for my company were salespeople who’ve I’ve been incredibly impressed by as the buyer.

Recommended books on sales hiring
From left to right: “Wise Guy” by Guy Kawasaki, “Inbound Organization” by Dan Tyre and Todd Hockenberry, “The Ultimate Sales Machine” by Chet Holmes

Reciprocity wins, reward your reps with a great commission

One of the first things I did with my first commission check was to buy a brand new white BMW.

Not a great choice. I don’t advise buying expensive, depreciating assets, but I do advise giving your best reps that option.

Your best reps should be rewarded, handsomely.

You have to be clear with your hires what the path towards success looks like. Share with them how they will be rewarded for going above and beyond.

At SalesReach, we’re looking to make early hires. This might not be what you’re doing at your company. It does not matter. There are two things you must do.

Two things you have to do to retain the best reps

  1. Provide a clear commission plan. At the end of the day if your rep does not know what success looks like, will feel like, or what the purse is—they’re far less likely to get there.
  2. Top performers get the best rewards. No matter how you structure it, your top reps should feel like top reps.

At SalesReach, we’re looking to make the early sales hires. This might not be what you’re doing at your company. However, I wager that it does not matter what stage of growth you’re at.

At the end of the day if your rep does not know what success looks like, what it will feel like, or what the purse is—they’re far less likely to get there.

We decided to rip a page out of Jason Lemkin’s book and give our hires an incredible offer and offer a commission plan that I would have made my decision to buy a BMW one without regret.

Your goal here is to ensure that everyone reaches their maximum potential a great commission plan is one way to do that. I see it as one of the most important things to get right and I stand by the plan that gives massive returns for top performance.

Hiring sales representatives is a great responsibility

Every interview is an opportunity for the hiring manager too. You get a chance to make an impact on someone’s trajectory even if they’re not a fit for your company.

One of my favorite people on this earth, Guy Kawasaki, has a saying, “Be nice to people on the way up, they’ll be nice to you on your way down.” In fact, Kawasaki gave Marc Benioff (who’s now CEO of Salesforce.com) his first-ever job.

You can listen to Kawasaki’s story about hiring Marc Benioff here (jump to @2:50).

This is how I end each of my interviews when looking for sales reps.

I end every candidate interview with one simple proposition and let them know that my network is open to them.

For whatever reason, if this is not a good fit I want to help them find something they will because it meant so much to me when I did. Literally, sales saved my life.

If it’s not a good fit I ask them where they would love to be and what they would really love to be doing?

Why do I open my network to job applicants who are not a good fit?

#1 We just spent time together and now I know enough to help advocate for you. Making a couple calls on your behalf isn’t really that tough and allows me to potentially help someone else in my network where you would bring tremendous value.

#2 I would never want anyone working for me because “they need a job” or because they fear this is their only chance at a role. If I can help bring them a right fit role, it helps me ensure I am filling my chairs with the right fit candidate for my business. In both cases, everyone wins.

It’s always surprising that after I offer my network not nearly enough take me up on it. Those who do though make me smile.

That’s someone to watch on their way up—a natural salesperson.

Reps are rocket fuel

You have the skills you need to get some great people on your team, selling for you. I’ve shared with you my favorite resources and advice from my role-models. Now you need to go find the rocket fuel that is going to take your business to the next level.

Here’s my correction to the plan most companies get wrong.

  1. Know you’ve hired GREAT salespeople
  2. Enable and reward the best salespeople
  3. Profit.

Once you do, let me know how it goes by messaging me on LinkedIn.


👉 See how SalesReach can help you secure the top talent in your recruiting efforts, book a demo today.