5 Things to Consider When Hiring Entry Level Sales People
In some ways, hiring sales staff is easier than hiring for other types of positions. Most salespeople are evaluated on the revenue they generate, which means hiring managers have hard data to consider when making their decisions. Success has a clear definition, and past success (or lack thereof) can be a strong indicator of future performance.
But, when it comes to hiring entry-level sales reps, things can get a little tricky. Recent grads are less likely to have relevant work experience, and few majors clearly align with a career in sales.
Some companies choose to navigate this situation by recruiting and hiring only from top-tier schools, assuming that students with the best academic performance will make the best salespeople. In the process, they’re ignoring a huge population of potentially qualified job seekers who hail from schools with less cachet. While hiring managers who adopt this strategy are sure to meet some bright young people (many of whom could potentially be strong sales reps), they simply aren’t using the most appropriate criteria to build a solid candidate pool. Students are accepted to competitive universities based on their grades, test scores and extra-curricular activities; none of these factors necessarily indicate an aptitude for sales.
If a candidate’s alma mater isn’t a strong indicator of how hirable they are, what is? Here are five qualities to look for when recruiting entry-level sales staff.
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to make a cold call or ask a potential client for a sales meeting, especially when you’re new to the work force. Look for candidates who carry themselves with confidence, use eye contact and feel comfortable talking about their past accomplishments. Some sales managers will even say they look for a touch of arrogance, but be careful. A rep who’s young and cocky can appear entitled, which can be a turn-off for clients.
Consider asking candidates to deliver a brief presentation about themselves or an industry topic. You’ll not only be able to gauge how well they perform under pressure, but you’ll get a sense of their level of preparedness. Can they go off script and think on their feet? Ask them slightly off-topic questions to see how they respond. Listening Skills
Good sales people get how important it is to know their audience and understand their needs. This requires solid listening skills, as well as the ability to communicate to the client that their concerns have been heard. Make note of each candidate’s questions during the interview. Are they specific to the company and its goals? Do they reference points covered earlier in the interview? More generic questions (or no questions at all) could indicate that the interviewee hasn’t been listening or doesn’t understand the importance of reflecting back what’s been communicated to them.
Positivity and Enthusiasm
Sales comes with its fair share of rejection. Only “glass half full” types can be turned down multiple times a day and not feel discouraged. Sales reps should be upbeat and have the ability to roll with the punches. Get interviewees to talk about past failures and see if their tendency is to respond to challenges in a solution-oriented manner. Or, try saying this: “Tell me about a time that you turned a ‘no’ into a ‘yes.’”
Most sales transactions aren’t simple. They require multiple interactions and tireless follow-up. Use the hiring process to judge candidates’ ability to stay in touch and top-of-mind. Was their thank you note thoughtful? (If they failed to send a thank you note in a timely manner, they’re definitely not cut out for sales.) Are they good at being persistent without being a pest? Strong salespeople are capable of staying hungry without appearing desperate.
Jenessa Connor is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and young adult author. If you don’t find her in front of her computer, check the local movie theaters and restaurants, Prospect Park or the gym at CrossFit 718.