Adapted Growth

How to Hire Salespeople Who Will Succeed

Knowing how to hire salespeople might be one of the trickiest parts of the job.
Photo by Van Tay Media on Unsplash


If you’re the owner or manager, you already know how challenging it is to find the right people. It’s even harder in sales. You think you know how to hire successful salespeople, but it keeps proving to be more difficult than you expect.

How many times have you hired a new salesperson that looked great on paper? They killed it in their interview, and then… meh? 


Hiring Salespeople is Harder Than it Sounds


If you’ve been struggling to find the right people, it’s not just you!

Many salespeople come with a lot of baggage—poor training, unhelpful cultures in previous positions, or lack of motivation from so much grinding.

Even the ones who look great in an interview might not end up being as successful as you’d hoped.

They might not be terrible, but compared to what they presented when you first met them, they’re just not living up to that first impression.

Or maybe they are closing tons of sales, but they aren’t:

  • following your process,
  • gelling with the rest of the team,
    or putting any thought into incorporating your company’s values into their job.

Either way, they wind up not being a good fit.

Could you have predicted that from the interview? Candidly, maybe. That’s why knowing how to hire salespeople is such an essential skill. And it’s not one that comes naturally, so don’t fret!


How to Hire Salespeople


Here’s the thing, hiring is always a bit of a gamble. But the one role that may be hardest to hire for is the salesperson. Most salespeople know what questions to expect in interviews and how most managers want them answered.

The role and culture of sales haven’t really changed much for decades (which is crazy if you think about it!), so people still have a very limited view of salespeople during the hiring process. Of course, once they join a company, they’re usually expected to be something else. But too many interviews don’t prepare them or disqualify them for that.

The other problem with hiring is that sales is an incredibly challenging role to fill. That particular skill set can be tough to identify during an interview.


The Interview

Managers try to find that mythical perfect salesperson by using the “sell me this pen” role play. Candidly, that’s a waste of time. Again, it’s too easy to plan for, and that’s not really how good salespeople work. Most success is usually found through a different kind of sales skill set.

Other standard interview questions don’t always make sense for interviewing a salesperson.

“Tell me about a time you had a conflict at work and what you did to get past it.”

That’s an excellent question for a future manager or a customer service role, but it doesn’t make sense for a sales job.


Better Questions

Asking a potential salesperson how they plan and work through processes is much better than asking how they resolve conflict.

Ask them:

  • how they plan their day/week/month,
  • what process they have to prioritize their leads, territory, and inherited book of business,
  • how they incorporate a new sales process into their habits.

These questions will highlight how vital planning and strategies are to them and how flexible they are in handling something new.

Hopefully, you’ve created and documented proven processes for how you want your salespeople to find and qualify leads. You want to ensure that the person you hire can adapt and adopt those processes you put so much work into creating.

When learning how to hire salespeople, being able to pinpoint people who can learn and adapt is one of the biggest hurdles.


Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash


Roleplaying Sales Situations

Next, roleplaying sales situations can be beneficial because you want to get an idea of how they sell.

But forget the “sell me this pen” scenario.

Roleplay a sales conversation that happens during the discovery phase, not the pitch. Find out if they know how to ask questions that will uncover their prospects’ needs.

Anybody can pitch features and benefits. But asking great discovery questions is what separates the “getting by” salespeople from the truly successful.

After that, ask them to roleplay a situation where you say no to the sale. See how they respond. This can give you an idea of whether they’re the kind of salesperson always looking for only the best-fitting clients or the type that will try to close every sale, no matter how good the fit is. It will also let you know how they handle conflict in a sales situation.


Pay Attention to the Details

While asking these questions and going through the roleplays, pay special attention to their soft skills.

Being a salesperson requires a higher level of communication. They have to gain trust and rapport, sometimes quickly, to create lasting relationships with the best kind of clients and quickly and gently disqualify bad leads.

Above all else, listen! Pay attention to the questions they ask. Are they just asking questions about pay and vacation? They might just be looking for any job, whether or not it’s a good fit.

Some may ask specific questions about company values, expectations for teamwork and support, communication between departments, etc. That shows they are dedicated to sticking around and building a career where they fit in.

It may also show that they’ve done their homework about your company before the interview.

Those types of salespeople are usually the ones you want to hire.


Assessing Doesn’t End After the First Interview

If they knock that first interview out of the park, the next step should be to have them take an assessment, preferably DISC.

However, you shouldn’t use assessments to disqualify potential salespeople outright. But they can make either a second interview or their onboarding/orientation much more productive.

And personality assessments will help you find the best way to motivate them and communicate with them throughout their time with your company.


Knowing how to hire salespeople well pays off!


There’s always a bit of risk with hiring. It can be expensive, time-consuming, and ultimately unsuccessful. But if you look at your hiring process and see that it’s either a) the same as it is for every other role or b) is the same one people have been using since the dawn of time, it’s time to change it up.

Asking better, more appropriate questions for salespeople and finding out how they’ll perform within your company will help take a lot of the guesswork out of hiring your next great salesperson. (It also helps to look at your culture and pay structure to attract more desirable candidates!)

If you still don’t know where to start in your search for the perfect salesperson, want more information about how to hire salespeople, or would like to begin using assessments for your sales team, contact me here.