Mastering the Technique to Hire Right Sales Rep

Uncovering the tricks of the trade that increase the likelihood of hiring a “Go-Getter” sales rep

Despite exploring the art and science behind hiring a perfect sales representative, business owners and recruiting managers have admitted that it still remains an unsolved puzzle.

Background checks and past experience might land you a great hire on one occasion, while at other times it might completely mislead you with a candidate who just fills the chair and adds to the company cost.

Quoting the words of Trish Bertuzzi (Founder and President – Bridge Group, Expert service in Inside Sales and Implementation) – “Companies hire bad breath because it is better than no breath at all.”

The attitude expressed in this statement takes the companies south, if they hire fast and under pressure.

Sales Fact Sheet

Sales positions continue to rank among the hardest positions to fill. A sales effectiveness survey study done by DePaul University (largest private university in Chicago) reveals the average cost of replacing a sales rep to be approximately $114,957.

This calculation includes the cost of separation, replacement, training and acquisition. The fact that average turnover rate for sales jobs is 28% adds to the magnitude of the problem.

Average turnover rate for sales jobs is 28%

So where is the success key? Is it the Interview Skills? Sales Metrics and Tests? Gut feel? References?

The answer is a mix of everything. The question “How to Interview in order to hire right sales rep?” has received multiple takes from the sales industry experts.

The baseline fact however remains steady – The hiring managers have to consciously avoid the red flags and view the process as an integral responsibility rather than just a ‘one time activity’.

Top 5 Ways to Hire Right Sales Rep

A profitable organization has many things going for it. Right from great product, meticulous processes to strategic leadership, company values and the works.

Company’s employees undeniably orchestrate this whole act. What sets the ball rolling is their exemplary performance.

Sales representatives drive the top line of balance sheet and hence their performance is all the more crucial, calling for infallible hiring practices.

The following list attempts to consolidate the best ways out there in hiring the right sales rep.

1) Make the Interview ‘Difficult’ for the candidates

This doesn’t imply asking them questions featured in a game show quiz or competitive exams.

What it means is the process should be taxing enough for them to show you how they rate on sales skills and knowledge.

You don’t have to think hard. Just strew some challenges and objections in their way while they tell you how they would sell a particular product or service.

Hiring process should be taxing enough to show you how they rate on sales skills knowledge

Let them respond to at least 3 or 4 negations that will actually reveal the true quality of the sales rep.

This powerful technique tells you plenty about whom you can hire immediately, the ones that need training if hired and the lot that can be given a pass altogether.

2) Don’t shy away from using Paid Channels

For a position as critical as Sales Representative who is ultimately the face of your company, it makes no sense to play cheap.

Exploring online job portals, professional networks and recruitment consultants who weed out the chaff to give you high rated individuals for a fee, it is in your interest to shell out some money.

It is an investment that pays out when the hired candidate performs and stays.

Plus some of these channels offer you highly relevant profiles specific to your sector, which otherwise is an obstacle for many.

3) Assess their past training and scope for future coachability

As per research by The Sales Board, 82% sales rep fail to differentiate the product and 86% of them ask wrong questions (

This means missed sales opportunity and presses the need on methodical training of sales staff. During the interview check if the candidate:

  • Asks qualifying questions and gathers information about the company’s product
  • Shows motivation to get trained and learn new stuff
  • Demonstrates willingness to use reporting tools and sales software to track performance
  • Indicates leaning to convert coaching into results
  • Is comfortable discussing weakness or is defensive/stressed while discussing past failures/feedback

4) Take your time to analyze the traits

While the desirable traits are relatively easier to spot, the qualities categorized as red flag for sales job should be explored thoroughly while interviewing the candidate.

Conscientiousness, Goal-Orientation, Customer Empathy and Passion for sales definitely give one up to the prospective hires.

The interview questions should be structured to test and dig out the red flags like:

  • Unimpressive first impression; unfit to represent the company
  • Low drive for performance and results
  • Exclusive focus on job rather than career
  • Excessively driven by monetary gains and salary
  • Hiding of facts or non-credible accomplishments
  • Personality that screams more fluff than real action
  • Discouraging background check

5) Avoid common yet costly interview mistakes

Volumes have been said and written on this aspect. However, hiring managers continue to overlook these simple steps and in the process end up spending more.

The custodians of getting the best sales rep should be vigilant to evade these usual mistakes.

  • Skipping the job description. Not all sales job demand same skills. Also, having it clearly spelt out means everyone is on the same page
  • Missing out on the referral pool of candidates to save on referral bonus
  • Not respecting time and talent of candidates. Let them speak. Avoid interruptions, be on time, prepare for the interview, gather info on the candidate and let them know about the interview outcome
  • Rushing through the interview, by not seeking clarification or second opinions
  • Not checking references, over reliance on gut feel
  • Conducting low quality interview that just fills a gap

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Bubba Page, Founder and CEO of OUTRO (a leading referral automation platform) puts it thoughtfully for the organizations looking to ace their sales rep hiring –

“If you give them the right motivation, the right training and the right environment, they could be your top performer and your next VP of sales”.

Company and recruiting managers need to identify what is not working for them in the current process of hiring sales rep.

They have to fix it and re-fix it. This will surely improve their bottom line in the long run.

Not to mention a positive sales workforce that owns up selling in true sense.


Written By

Mitalee Chhatre

Mitalee, a true professional with over 5 years of corporate experience in Human Resources and Health Sector. Contributor on CakeHR where tracks the newest trends and practices of the work-life world.