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How to Recruit Top Sales Talent

It could be argued that a sales manager's primary responsibility is to recruit, train and motivate their sales force to achieve peak performance - and of these three fundamentally important tasks, recruiting is not only the least understood but is also by far the most challenging. While there's no perfect system that can guarantee you'll hire the right person every time, there are certain fundamental guidelines you must follow if you expect to recruit your way right to the very top.

No matter what type of business you have, your goal is to hire the best person for every position, from your CEO to the most junior employee. Every organisation wishes to recruit top talent and retain them.

How To Recruit Top Sales Talent: Want It, Don't Need It

Make sure you recruit from want, not need (don't just wait until you need it). To orchestrate a successful ongoing recruiting programme, you must have a game plan. Flow charts can help demonstrate your desired results - write down the obvious.

Be Idealistic

Have an "ideal" employee profile, so you know who you are looking for before finding them. Once a precise description and guideline of what the perfect recruit looks like - you can begin your process.

60/40 Interview Rule

Studies by the CIPD have shown that the most successful interviews follow the 60/40 talk/listen pattern, and that's 60% interviewee, and 40% interviewer to ensure the right balance of talk and listen and not simply 'ask question, answer, ask question, answer'! Preparation is the key to an excellent interview to ensure no awkward silences. Have at least 50 written interview questions. Have sub-questions prepared to help the candidate elaborate and communicate in detail on their previous answers. Remember, a successful interview will follow the 60/40 rule, allowing the interviewee to speak for over half of the time, allowing you to assess their suitability to your business. Remember, a bad interview is one where you talk, they listen, and you like them simply because they listen!

Make It Logical And Objective

An excellent recruiting strategy must utilise many tools to help reduce the emotion and help to make a more logical and quantitative selection - these must be used to test and profile potential sales recruits. Psychometrics, sales aptitude and emotional intelligence tools help to gauge the personality (and anything else you would like to know about a possible future employee).

 

It's Not All In The CV

Don't hire sales candidates based entirely upon CV's. If you want to recruit absolute top sales candidates, you must hire based on talent and attitude. Hiring effectively is a continuous process that comprises both scientific elements and creativity. If you have a consistent approach - your recruitment process will be much more successful.

Are You A Buyer When It Comes To Recruitment?

Patience is a virtue..., especially during an interview process. You will be looking for a hard-working, self-motivated team player (and not just a warm body to fill the position). If you are able to approach the interview process with a "buyers" mentality, you're more likely to maintain your objectivity and consequently hire a long-term top sales employee.

The position available should not be oversold; undersold and inherent challenges must not be understated. If you're a buyer, you will understand the importance and responsibility of being straightforward. It is often better to run the risk of scaring off a prospective hire rather than facing a disillusioned salesperson. Emphasising demanding aspects of the sales profession (rejection and hard work) should not be undermined. If you place a few roadblocks and challenges in front of a prospective employee, you are able to verify that their interest is genuine, and it will validate their decision.

The Interview Itself - A 3 Step Interview

Phase 1 "Initial Interview"

    • This can be conducted face to face, online interviewing viaTeams or similar, or on the phone (refer to the Telephone Interviewing blog for tips), but this interview should not be any longer than 20 minutes. The first impression you make will tell you a lot about the person. You should have 6 to 8 open-ended questions prepared, and during the interview, you should refer back to their CV and ask about things that you may have been unclear on. You should also go into further details about roles, experiences and educational background. 

Phase 2 "Profiling"

    • The second stage often employs profiling exercises such as personality, psychometric and emotional intelligence testing and biographical profiling to help ascertain if the prospective candidate is a good match. Systematic profiles help take the emotion out of recruiting. If they pass the profile testing, you'll probably want to sell them on the opportunity more so at this stage - get them excited about the role and organisation.

Phase 3 "In-Depth Interviewing"

    • This is the interview when you can 'dig deeper' and allow the candidate to deselect themselves if they feel it isn't a good match. You may well want to share the pros and cons of the job role at this stage. What's more, standardised questions should be asked to help you understand the candidates understanding of the job, required skill set and knowledge. Most importantly, by now, you should have a clear understanding of whether they would fit into your organisation's culture. You may uncover coaching opportunities for the future (that is, if you decide to take the candidate on).

A three-step interview process allows for reflection, temperament testing and verification of references. If you consider setting up some hurdles between the first and second interviews, you will allow yourself time to measure interest and personal responsibility.

Reference Check, Reference Check, Reference Check

In addition to the 'standard' questions regarding character, work ethic etc. it's always a great idea to ask their referee questions along with the basis of "In your opinion, if (candidate's name) were to fail as a salesperson, what do you think the reason would be and why?" Such questions are not anticipated and frequently invite the most insightful discussion.

Tick It Off

It is strongly recommended that you use a checklist - it will allow you to stay on track and help you remember those all-important questions. Merely relying on your memory is a poor business decision and one that usually comes back to haunt you (and your sales targets!). Also, please make sure you take good notes throughout the interview - and remember the 60/40 rule, listen more than you talk.

You must keep in mind several benchmark questions during the interviewing process. Throughout the interview, ask yourself whether the candidate makes a favourable first impression, and would you want this person to work for your competition?

Temperament Profiling

A sales hiring manager who lacks the benefit of character and personality understanding may be inclined to place too much emphasis on their gut-level feeling during the hiring process.

So what traits should you look for in a prospective hire? Personally, there are two mandatory qualities that a new sales candidate should possess: loyalty and dependability. If individuals are not loyal to a company, they are likely to violate company policies and procedures. Disloyal employees are often the first to leave as soon as the going gets tough - you can look for signs of stability on their CV and ask for their opinions on previous employers. It further makes no sense whatsoever to invest vast amounts of financial and emotional capital training someone that you cannot depend on.

The importance of matching the job description to the correct candidate cannot be overstated. Temperament evaluation between the first, second and third interviews should be administered to recruit the right sales candidate.

Make Sure You Don't Hire The Quitter (or Could you be the Cause?)
Retirement, promotion and transfer are understandable reasons for salesforce turnover; however, the quitter is often unpredictable. You must not underestimate your staff turnover. If your personnel turnover is high, it is most often caused by improper recruiting, inadequate training and a lack of incentives to excel. If recruitment has not been implemented successfully in the past (or future), you may well find yourself with high turnover and a sales team with low morale; before recruiting, it may be worth evaluating why staff have left and learning from the lessons.

 

Use Priceless Resources That Are All Around You

Think about your culture and share your vision with your employees. They may be able to recommend potentially good candidates who fit the role perfectly!

Word Of Mouth

Treat every single candidate like a valuable employee. Make use of phone calls and handwritten letters, share information or experiences with every candidate and always be quick and courteous when returning a call. Give solid constructive feedback that is useful to unsuccessful candidates. Whether or not the person gets the job, you can recruit top talent by getting reasonable 'kudos' in your sector by getting others to talk about the positive experience with your company even if they were not successful.

What To Make Sure Doesn't happen

Make sure you get the information you were looking to find out during the interview taking into account that, of course, the candidate may have been telling you exactly what you want to hear! Try not to emphasise 'warm' and 'fuzzy' feelings, visual perception and gut feelings. Before you make the hire, ensure that you have obtained objective, reliable information that clearly states why this candidate is perfect for the role.

Don't Lose Them, Redirect Them

Staying flexible is imperative. If your new hire proves to be a good fit for your company but unfortunately not for the specific position filled, if possible, try moving them to another position that capitalises on their strengths and experience. It must be remembered that employees who are a good fit culturally can be hard to find - remember, some of the greatest business leaders started in their corporations in a different role to that they were hired for, but their mentor saw something within them.

To Conclude

Make sure when you are recruiting your next sales employee to do so with fresh eyes, and if it is on a "need-to" basis, do not rush into it (it often only goes wrong in the end). Develop a methodology and a recruitment strategy that reflects the values, objectives, and branding of your company using a fair, defensible, and transparent structure. In addition, remember to review the sales candidate at each stage and be creative about it!!

Date published: 6th March 2024

Rob Scott, Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, Author Photo

About the author

Rob Scott

Rob is the Managing Director of Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, a national recruitment agency specialising in sourcing sales and marketing staff for businesses across a broad range of commercial sectors. Before setting up Aaron Wallis, Rob spent ten years at a specialist Sales and Marketing recruitment division of a £0.5BN recruitment group, leaving in 2007 as Marketing & Sales Director to establish Aaron Wallis.
 
With over 24 years of experience in sales recruitment, Rob is a History graduate with an MBA (Merit) and a PgCert in Management Practice.  In 2007, 2009 and 2013 Rob conducted the most extensive surveys of sales professionals in the UK and is a trusted authority in the sales industry. From guiding employers through the recruitment process to helping candidates find their dream job, Rob's advice has been quoted in leading publications such as Business Insider and The Independent, as well as OnRec, which host The Online Recruitment Awards every year.

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Our employers say...

Very professional service and will certainly be in contact for future recruitment.

Director, Blakedown Sport & Play Ltd

Rob is a true recruitment professional that goes the extra mile that I have never experienced from any other recruitment agency before. If you need sales people call Rob or someone in his team, as they really are experts in sales recruitment.

Sales Director, Inside Business

Aaron Wallis has continuously provided us with suitable candidates that have been proactively sourced. Having used countless recruitment companies, Aaron Wallis are the only company that I can count on to deliver.

Managing Director, JARK Healthcare Recruitment

Generally good standard of candidates. Especially liked the personality profile. Overall good value for money and will certainly use you again.

Managing Director, Medicash

Sophie did a great job at understanding our business and our needs, she is extremely professional and we hugely benefitted from her experience and expertise.

HR Manager, The Data Privacy Group Ltd

I just wanted to thank you for your help with our recruitment process which went very smoothly and has – we hope – found us just the person for the job!

Managing Director, Citrefine International Ltd

George is a joy to work with, and I'd recommend him to anyone seeking that unicorn hire - he found me mine, and I'm delighted!

Director, Education Support

Thank you for your dedicated help during the recruitment process - we came to you after unsuccessfully searching elsewhere, and hired, not one, but two! Quick response times, and a really personal approach, without being pushy.

Managing Director, Accora Ltd

I really liked the YouTube presentations which made the service seem both simple and accessible. The company came to see me, and my management team, at short notice to present their service and I liked the support and advice that I received about maximising the results from the applicant.

Managing Director, Leisuresec plc

We appointed Aaron Wallis in February and the successful candidate, out of the six which Aaron Wallis introduced, was able to join Alphametrics before the end of April. The whole process took less than three months. I would recommend Aaron Wallis' services to others without hesitation.

Chief Financial Officer, Alphametrics

I have used Aaron Wallis to fill a number of our Sales Development Manager roles and I have found them to provide a very professional service. I will use their services again in future recruitment campaigns.

HR Business Partner, Greene King

Rob’s knowledge of the recruitment industry and his thoughts and how to make it better for his clients have always been eye opening. I would recommend Rob to anybody who is looking for a professional, knowledgeable and flexible recruitment specialist.

CEO, Friday Ad Online Services

Really good service. Just the right amount of contact and easy to deal with.

HR Manager, Zircon Software Ltd

As always we were extremely impressed with Rob's understanding of the role and our specific needs.

Managing Director, Speck & Burke

I found Aaron Wallis to be very professional and efficient, taking time to understand the role and the type of candidate we were looking for. The candidates they put forward met our criteria and were of a high standard. The service they provided was exemplary and I would have no hesitation in recommending them, and will certainly consider using them again in the future.

HR Assistant, Fischer Connectors Ltd

Since joining DSGi, Rob has been a supplier of permanent staff and has performed to an extremely high standard, successfully filling 98% of roles he has worked on. If anyone is looking for a good sales and marketing based consultancy with an informal yet professional approach, I would recommend Rob.

Senior Recruitment Consultant, DSG International

In an industry where people over promise and under deliver, Rob and his teams have consistently provided a high-quality service. It is great to deal with someone that has an excellent understanding of UK industry, and a passion for sales.

Sales Manager, TR Fasteners

I have always found Rob to be very knowledgeable about our industry sector, and it is refreshing to see after all of these years that Rob continues to quickly and accurately understand my requirements.

HR and General Manager, THK

Thanks for all your help during the recruitment process. I have been extremely impressed with Aaron Wallis especially when compared to other agencies we have dealt with. I really felt you grasped the type of person we required and found strong candidates.

UK Sales Manager, Nexcom

We were impressed not only by the quality of candidates you found for us but also the level of information, preparation and qualification you put into the process. You continually kept us informed of each person’s feelings about the process, which is very important but often overlooked. I am looking forward to working with your company again in the future.

Commercial Director, Incentive Facilities Management

George came recommended by a colleague and has been a pleasure to work with. He was great at updating us on his progress and ensured a great experience for both client and candidate.

HR Manager, Annapurna Recruitment Ltd

Understood the type of person we were looking for and good follow ups - not too frequent.

Managing Director, bigHead Bonding Fasteners Ltd

Giles is highly professional and was a pleasure to work with. He achieves excellent results through his personable skills and tenacity. I have no hesitation in recommending Giles to anyone who considers employing his services.

Commercial Director, G4S Government & Outsourcing Solutions

I could not suggest anything I would like you to do better. The service you provided materially exceeded my expectations. I would especially like to commend Simon Bonner; he is easily the best recruitment consultant I have ever dealt with. I particularly valued his advice and guidance throughout the recruitment process. 

UK Sales Manager, BTS Holdings Limited 

I can't fault Sam or AW! Sam was a pleasure to work with and provided great support from the start. Sam always provided me with timely updates when required and provided outstanding candidates!

Director, Waste Managed Ltd

George is a rare find in the world of recruitment - communicative without being pushy or over-bearing. He listens and understands what the customer needs as gets to know the business to ensure he provides fully competent candidates who fit.

HR Manager, Big Dug

Giles Phillips is a rare find in the minefield of sales recruitment; an honest and thoughtful recruiter who considers the needs of both the client AND the candidate to create perfect role matches. I look forward to working with him again in the future.

Marketing Director, City of London Police

Our candidates say...

The service provided by Aaron Wallis has been just great. I was constantly informed about what was going on with the process interview and the agent has always been supportive and kind to me.

L. Colagrossi, Candidate

I would highly recommend thank you to Darren for helping me secure my new job role! Excellent service all round!

G. Thompson, Candidate

Sophie has been fantastic and always so attentive, highly recommend.

T. Ashbourne, Candidate

I had a very good experience with Aaron Wallis. The company itself is offering great content for all things related to the hiring process. I definitely recommend.

J. Ostermeier, Candidate

Wanted to say a huge thank you to Simon Bonner who has just helped me secure my new role. He was one of the most professional recruiters I have ever worked with he was supportive really quick at replying and really put me at ease.

J. Marcinkiewicz, Candidate

I can honestly say that the time and expertise you gave me was way beyond any other recruitment consultant I dealt with. You are a rarity in your industry.

S. Akers, Candidate

Excellent service, very professional and friendly, would and have, recommended Aaron Wallis.

E. Heley, Candidate

Fantastic service, helped me find my ideal job quickly and smoothly. Would highly recommend them.

C. Caine, Candidate

George Humphries was a complete professional at every point, from our first phone conversation to his “good luck tomorrow” text on Sunday before I started in my new role.

E. Fry, Candidate

Sophie helped me secure a new role I have been searching for. She took her time to explain clear and concisely all I needed to succeed at the interview stage. Thanks again Sophie!

O. Oladejo, Candidate

I have to say using Aaron Wallis Recruitment has been nothing but an absolute pleasure. I've used many agencies over the years as the client and the candidate and its not always been a pleasurable experience!

L. Knowles, Candidate

The Recruitment agent I used, Simon, was extremely helpful and really went the extra mile to ensure all of my questions were answered, and that I felt as comfortable and prepared as possible. Very professional company and would definitely recommend to others. Thank you Aaron Wallis!

A. Callaby, Candidate

Aaron Wallis is an outstanding recruitment agency specialising in high calibre sales positions. I was working directly with Darren Dewrance who went above and beyond my expectations in sourcing me my perfect role. I was kept in regular communication with Darren and he worked extremely hard to secure my dream job. Highly recommended and Thanks Darren for all your expertise and hard work.

R. Sealy, Candidate

Excellent experience. Knowledgeable staff and really went the extra mile. Found my ideal position and I couldn't be happier. Special shout out to Sam and George: who made the process smooth and easy for me. Highly recommend.

K. Pearce, Candidate

Very polite and friendly and was very helpful finding me my next new role.

K. Craggs, Candidate

Sophie contacted me about a role explained the details clearly and made sure I was ready for the interview. She kept in touch every step of the way till I started the job. Thank you Sophie for a great experience.

S. Powell, Candidate

I would highly recommend Aaron Wallis Recruitment, Darren was extremely helpful and provided me with plenty of advice and support throughout the whole process.

D. Bretherton, Candidate

The most professional recruitment agency I've ever worked with. Robert Scott was extremely proactive and send me a detailed briefing before each interview, ensuring I was well prepared.

D. Bermant, Candidate

Less than two weeks after joining Aaron Wallis I was offered my new job. I got a £10,000 rise in my basic salary, car allowance, a laptop and many other perks, which will help to further my career. I definitely would not have found my dream job without the help of Aaron Wallis.

C. Hoy, Candidate

I have to say coming across and having dealings with Aaron Wallis proved to be very successful. Being highly experienced did not seem to count for much during my job search bit a conversation with Robert Scott gave me a real confidence boost and enabled to get a position at the age of 63. Great service!!!

D. Burgess, Candidate

Sam was by far the most professional and helpful of any individual I've ever dealt with through a recruitment agency. He was supportive and thorough throughout the process. He definitely goes the extra mile for you. A pleasure to deal with. I would highly recommend him. An asset to Aaron Wallis

M. Wyer, Candidate

I had the absolute pleasure of working with George Humphries on finding a placement best suitable for me.

A. Van Der Mescht, Candidate

Simon was knowledgeable on his clients history, background and what their requirements were and he worked around time zones, holidays and a pandemic to get the right result.

J. Tooze, Candidate

Rob was really helpful when I was putting together a presentation for the second stage interview. Overall their communication was great and kept me updated of any progress

J. McGrattan, Candidate

Fantastic customer service, communication was brilliant, happy polite people to talk to, made everything a lot easier and smoother. Thank you for all your help getting me back in the work force, Keep up the good work :-)

K. Everitt, Candidate

For anyone looking for work, I can't recommend Aaron Wallis highly enough.

C. Rockliffe, Candidate

Darren at Aaron Wallis was really encouraging and helpful. He was very responsive and regularly made phone calls to explain the job opportunities available, and guided me through the application process.

A. Brown, Candidate

George above and beyond to make sure I had everything I need to secure my new role. Outstanding Professional.

A. Kirkland, Candidate

Perfect from start to finish. Simon deserves a shout out. Best recruiter there is. If you need a job, this guy will get you one. He's like the super man of recruiters. Top man, can't recommend him enough.

M. Crisp, Candidate

Friendly, proactive, communicative. Overall a really positive experience.

R. Houston, Candidate

Professional and responsive from start to finish. I would highly recommend. Special thanks to Sophie J for her help and support throughout.

N. Leney, Candidate

The detail put into the preparation for interviews and the detail of the job description was first class. Rob and Simon in particular are amongst the best I've ever dealt with.

K. Peacock, Candidate

When talking with Simon you felt relaxed cared to help you find a position that suited your needs

D. Pinder, Candidate

The staff at Aaron Wallis were fantastic. Throughout the process, they maintained excellent communication and I always knew where I stood.

M. Owusu, Candidate

Very good advice and support was given during the course of the interviewing process. Potential job seekers would be well advised to use this company whilst looking for their new career.

R. Speakman, Candidate

Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment are a very friendly and professional recruitment organisation who listen to your needs, work with you and act on your behalf which sets them apart from many of their competitors who in my experience are willing to throw anything at you. We discussed my history, my preferences and my wishes - one opportunity was introduced. It was perfect. I start at the end of June.

R. Buckley, Candidate

Wanted to say a huge thank you to Simon Bonner who has just helped me secure my new role. He was one of the most professional recruiters I have ever worked with.

J. Marcinkiewicz, Candidate

George is a fantastic recruitment agent and provides a great service. It was a pleasure I thoroughly recommend George to anyone.

C. Beaugie, Candidate

Aaron Wallis (and in particular Rob Scott) have been fantastic throughout the recruitment process, and even a few months down the line, still continues to care. Rob clearly cares about each individual and has a wealth of knowledge and expertise, which shows in the work he does. Each candidate is not just a number, and the support received from Aaron Wallis has helped me get a career which I truly enjoy.

M. White, Candidate 

Good swift process with Aaron Wallis, informative regarding the role and the process was moved at a good pace with healthy interaction. Would recommend them to anyone pursuing a change.

S. Bartlett, Candidate

I had a great experience. Helped me every step of the way to get my new job. Sophie was very polite, kind and helpful!

J. Parnham, Candidate

A great recruitment company to work with. Excellent experience with Aaron Wallis through the entire recruitment process. The team was really professional and extremely helpful. Darren was a pleasure to work with. He was friendly, supportive and gave me great advice. Thank you very much!

A. Bauchet, Candidate

Managed to get me placed within a week! Really friendly and easy to deal with. Always available for a call and my biggest challenge was I was in work at the time I was looking for my next opportunity (which is stressful) but Sam made that easy.

P. Fitzsimons, Candidate