8 steps to boost sales hiring by using the sales cycle
Sales hiring is a crucial first step, regardless of what field your business operates in. Further, sales hiring is a process that needs to change and grow with your company as it progresses. The salespeople you hire should be catalysts to this progression. It’s really a cycle! In fact, hiring salespeople for your team mimics a sales cycle, itself.
With the rise of competition for top talent, the role of HR has shifted directions. Employer branding and selling the company to potential talent is at the forefront. This, in general, leads HR departments to take a more marketing or sales approach to recruitment. The only difference is that, instead of a product or service, you’re selling your company.
You have to showcase the best parts of the company yet keep it transparent. Broken expectations are usually negative and cause 90% of new hires to leave within one month. For this reason, recruitment metrics optimization is key. Just like in sales, you need to figure out gaps in productivity and fix them to get the best outcome and ROI!
Kickstarting your sales hiring cycle
Now you know you need to sell your company to talent as much as (or more than) talent sells themselves to you. But what happens next? How do you get started? We will run down the sales hiring process like a true sales expert. Just, you know, with recruitment terms.
1. Sales (talent) prospecting
First, let’s break down the two basic types of salespeople you need to decide between: Independent vs. In-house.
Independent sales reps
Independent salespeople are just as they sound: independent. They are separate from your company and often work externally and on commission (rather than salaried).
- Cost-effective and “no-strings-attached”
- Dedicated sites to hiring reputable independent sales reps, like Time to Hire
- Expanded reach
- Non-exclusive (can work with other competitor brands)
- Harder to manage and remain “on brand”
- Usually found through agencies that may charge a fee
In-house sales reps:
Think of in-house salespeople as regular employees. That is what they are, after all. They are salaried, in-office sales professionals that work to sell your company and its products/services.
- Exclusive to your brand ( with first-hand knowledge, no competitors, etc.)
- Reliable long-term results that can be tracked
- Potential for real cultural fit and, in turn, better ROI
- Long-term employees = long-term financial commitment (which only is a con when they are not a good fit!)
- Take longer to assimilate and start showing progress
- Costs in addition to salary (benefits, sick leave, etc.)
Deciding your ideal sales candidate
This step should be a collaborative effort. Your whole team may not know about sales, but sales will affect your whole team. Who do they feel would sell your product accurately and efficiently? What describes your company culture, and how can they fit into that? Gather up a list of the most common responses. The common denominators will give you a guideline of not only whom to hire but how to advertise for the position.
By no means should you use this as your end list, but here is an example of a list of characteristics for the ideal sales candidate to get you started:
- Networking ability
- Listening skills
- Honesty and transparency
- Alignment with company values
The list could go on and on, but narrow yours to a few of the most coveted characteristics. This will be the best bet for making a new hire for your team. Salespeople are also highly customer-facing, so keep your target audience in mind. Once you get to the assessment portion of the recruitment process, consider using a personality test. Crystal is an example of a personality app that is useful for recruitment (and businesses, in general!).
Write the job description
Now that you have narrowed down your list of top characteristics to look for, you need to portray that to potential candidates. Your job description is going to be the number one place to do so. Since you did the grunt work with your team, this step should be simple.
First, start with a sales-oriented job description template. This will ensure that your description is optimized for search engines! They are often more clear, as well. You don’t want to fill a job description with fluff. Salespeople, especially, will see right through this. Instead, pick a concise template and edit it to match your current needs!
Sources of candidates
Much like your new sales hire(s) will have to source customers, you’ll have to source candidates. You can’t just post a job and hope the right hire comes along. While, yes, this may happen, it helps to actively search! Here are some locations to consider when sourcing sales personnel:
- Agency sites (if independent)
- Job boards (general)
- Job boards for sales
- Social media
- Employee referrals (see Step 8)
Regardless of where you start to look for candidates, just remember to stay organized. Even if you find potential talent that doesn’t fit the current open sales role, you can keep talent pools for future outreach. Keep tabs on potential candidate information and their (hopeful) place in your pipeline. The best way to do this is with user-friendly talent acquisition software.
2. Making contact (with potential sales candidates)
Your first point of contact with potential talent is often your careers site or job description. You may not realize it, but that’s a form of contact! Make sure your first impression on them is a good one. Salespeople know the importance of a good first impression (and follow-up, but we’ll talk about that in Step 4!).
This means you’ll need to work on your employer branding. Building an employer brand is just a facet of recruitment marketing! Sales pros will appreciate the effort and skills showcased. Therefore, they will be more likely to apply.
The more obvious point of contact is actual outreach to potential sales candidates. Just like the job description templates, you can find (or create) a template for all forms of candidate outreach. Recruiting email templates are your best bet (even if you are using a different channel of communication!). You can tweak them to fit the situation.
Salespeople will expect a higher level of candidate engagement. While you should always be engaged with all candidates, sales candidates will take particular notice of ways you reach out. Here are just some of the possible avenues to consider:
- Social media comments or direct messages;
- Initial outreach via email;
- Hiring process updates;
- Job offer/rejection;
- Feedback request;
- Updates on open positions.
Although this is the second step, remember that the sales cycle is a cycle! You will need to keep candidate contact (hired or not) in mind throughout the process.
3. Qualifying the (sales candidate) lead
Once you’ve contacted the candidate(s) of your dreams and made a shortlist, it’s time to qualify the leads! In sales, this refers to ensuring that the lead is an actual prospect. Similarly, recruitment requires you to determine if a candidate is a prospective hire. There are a few ways to go about this.
Interviewing and assessing
Ideally, you’ll want this step to involve someone who has sales experience on your team. If you don’t have one yet, you’re in luck! You can borrow ours.
Lodewijk, the Head of Sales at Recruitee, offered some insight:
a. Ask the right questions.
For this, you’ll want to consult the list of characteristics you made with your team in Step 1! You don’t need candidates to give you exact answers you’re looking for. But it helps to have a general idea in place. Craft your interview questions around the sales characteristics you prefer.
Lodewijk recommends checking out a set of questions that you can find here. He uses a lot of them in practice and stands by the advice at the beginning of the article! Don’t be too generic. But don’t make it complicated. It’s all about balance.
b. Make a scorecard.
Interview scorecards are crucial. They help you keep track of interview assessments in real time. Otherwise, you may forget important details about the interview. Lodewijk recommends making a scorecard with your top seven sought-after characteristics! This will be helpful later on when narrowing down the ideal hire. Grab an ATS that comes with interview scorecards in the system. This way, you can share them with your whole team and get an overview of who performed best.
c. Have a clear idea of what is unteachable.
At Recruitee, we are big proponents of considering the candidates who are willing to learn. However, in sales, there are some things that are harder (or impossible) to teach. There will be some traits that are inherent to sales-driven individuals. If these are on your “top 7”, you need to consider that someone without them may not be the right fit.
For example, a successful salesperson is self-driven by success. This is something ingrained in their personality and, therefore, harder to teach if it’s not already there.
4. Nurturing the (sales candidate) lead
This step goes hand in hand with candidate engagement. Are you keeping in touch with candidates about their progress in your hiring pipeline? Even if they’re not shortlisted, it’s still important to follow up and be transparent. You never know which rejected candidate will feel jaded. This could lead to negative reviews on Glassdoor. More importantly, it can ruin an opportunity to reach out to that talented individual later for a different position.
5. Making a (job) offer
Instead of offering customers products, you’re offering candidates jobs! Much like in sales, you will have competitors. What are you doing to outweigh their offers? How can you ensure that your job offer is accepted? Salespeople will likely know their worth. Make sure to do research on market rates and salaries. Offer what is fair, but don’t overpromise something that you can’t deliver. That goes for salary and any other benefits used to promote working for your company!
In this instance, you can use an email template, as well. But make sure to always personalize it! You want the job offer to feel warm and inviting rather than cold and impersonal. Sales reps can spot a generic pitch a mile away! Make sure to mention something that you particularly liked about their interview. Let them know exactly what they can expect on their first day.
6. Handling objections (to job offers)
Of course, not every pitch leads to a sale. And in this case, not every job offer is accepted. It’s important to deal with this in a respectful manner. Much like nurturing the candidates that may not have made the cut, you still need to prevent burnt bridges with candidates that reject your job offer!
You can always come back with a counteroffer. But in any case, always ask for feedback on what you could do better. Let them know that you’re ready to improve. And you never know: they could return to your company once that has happened!
7. Closing the sale (aka making the hire)
Your offer has been accepted, and you have a new hire to add to the sales team. Things are going great! Onboarding is all set up. You’ve invited them to a welcome lunch. What more would you have to do?
The recruitment process doesn’t quite stop after you’ve closed the deal. Once you make a hire, you still need to follow up with their progress. Keep track of their entire employee life cycle! This will inform you later whether or not your recruitment process is producing quality hires. You want to tweak it, if not, because the end goal is to have long-term sales staff that will represent your company to its fullest potential.
8. (Employee) referrals
Aforementioned as a source of candidates, employee referrals can be a great way to get qualified leads for new positions. In sales, networking is key. Your new hire is likely to know other sales representatives that may be looking for a new gig. Here are a few things to keep in mind about employee referrals for sales positions:
- Happy employees make the best testimonials;
- Salespeople can pitch the job opening well to their network;
- It needs to be an easy process for them to refer sales candidates to your business.
Sales is a fast-paced environment. Your sales team will likely be busy and already juggling multiple tasks and conversations. They know more than anyone that people like the grunt work to be done for them! The easier it is to refer someone, the more likely they will be able to do it. Tap into their networks, but do so carefully. Sales reps will refer candidates on their own if they are truly passionate about their job and the company they work for (your company!).
Sales recruitment analysis:
Congratulations, you’ve completed the sales hiring cycle! Again, don’t forget that it is, indeed, a cycle. For the next go around, you’ll need to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work in your previous sales recruitment process. Sales analysis actually lends a lot of valuable insight into how you can analyze your recruitment!
- Leads = candidates
- Buyer persona = ideal candidate profile
- Sales funnel = hiring pipeline
- Source of customers = source of candidates
- Brand = employer brand
- Landing page conversion = careers site conversion
- Qualifying leads = qualifying candidates
- Demo = interview
- Closing a deal = job offer
- Lead nurturing = candidate nurturing
Hone in on these areas of your process. What worked well and brought in qualified sales candidates? What could use some improvement? Tapping into the expertise of your newly hired sales personnel is a great resource. Ask them for feedback. Continue to improve your sales hiring. Sell your company as the perfect place to work for people that are passionate about selling, themselves!