December 11, 2019

How to Hire the Best Sales Candidates

By Rhys Metler, Vice President, Sales and Recruitement, SalesForce Search

Hiring high-quality sales producers seems straightforward, but many sales managers get it wrong. 

The current job market is heavily candidate driven – with more available sales jobs than good sales candidates to fill them. At SalesForce Search, we’ve seen more counteroffers and competitive offers than ever before. 

Since the landscape for sales hiring is so competitive, you need to develop a strategic plan to build a great sales team. Here are three things sales managers can do to source great sales candidates. 

1. Develop a proactive outbound sales recruitment strategy.
Many of our clients have mapped the talent market in their industry and made a point to identify the top performers – even when they’re not actively recruiting. 

Why is this important? Elite sales performers develop rock-solid reputations in their industry and territory. Usually, word spreads quickly about great sales talent. Introductions, referrals, and recommendations happen so fast now due to tools like LinkedIn and Google reviews. The bottom line is: Many top performing sales candidates don’t need to apply to job postings because new career opportunities are presented directly to them.

A proactive outbound recruitment strategy allows you to immediately advertise a job opening to the best of the best in your industry when an opening becomes available. This approach takes time and discipline, but will generate better candidates in the long run. It will also eliminate the need to post jobs that attract unqualified candidates. 

2. Invest more in sales training and skills development.
The best sales managers don’t just hire top producers – they develop them through coaching and training. Many companies employ average sales reps who have the potential to be great. If you don’t have the internal resources to elevate your sales training game, consider hiring an external trainer/resource.

If you want an idea of what competitive companies do in terms of sales training, coaching, and development, check out the 50 Best Companies to Sell For list from Selling Power.  

3. Eliminate unconscious bias from your sales recruitment process.
More and more, sales leaders are waking up to the fact that diverse teams bring in more revenue. 

A 2015 report from McKinsey & Company, and a 2016 report from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, have shown that companies with more diverse representation in senior management tend to achieve greater profits. McKinsey says companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

Despite this, the sales profession continues to be homogenous. Consider, for example, the issue of gender diversity. The “2019 State of Gender Equality in Sales” report, produced by Xactly Corporation, reveals women make up just 29 percent of individual sales roles and 26 percent of all sales management roles. Meanwhile, teams led by women tend to have slightly higher win and quota attainment rates (94 percent) than male-led teams (91 percent).

The most recent research about recruitment tells us we all have unconscious biases that influence our hiring decisions. This can impact who we look for to fill sales roles and can sometimes cause us to favor certain candidates over others – mostly without being fully aware of why. 

LeanIn.org has some great resources to better understand and eliminate unconscious bias from your sales recruitment efforts. And simple gender decoder tools can help you strike gender-coded words from the job descriptions you post online. 

Recruiting great people is not complicated, but it does take discipline and work. Use these three tips to hire more top producers for your team. 

Rhys Metler is vice president, sales and recruitment, at SalesForce Search.