The Secret to Risk Free Sales Representative Hiring

OK, maybe not completely risk free, but at least I have your attention.  The reality is that there will always be risk in recruiting and hiring, but in 10 years of recruiting Sales Professionals, and seeing a lot of what works, and a lot of what doesn’t, I’ve become a firm believer in 2 strategies that seem to withstand the test of time:


#1 – Hire from within your industry.  The best indicator of future performance is a candidate’s track record within a similar position, so what better way to ensure ROI on your next sales hire than to hire a top-performer who currently sells a competing product or service for one of your competitors?  From there you’re screening primarily for culture and personality fit, and that’s supposed to be the fun part anyway, right?!  The challenge here is that the best salespeople in your industry are most likely busy, currently employed, and not surfing help-wanted ads, so you need to figure out a way to proactively market your employment opportunity to them. 


#2 – Hire from within your customer group.  No, I don’t mean steal employees from your customers! (but at least I have your attention again).  I mean find out if there are any commonalities to the other products and services that your customers purchase, and recruit from that talent pool.  They bring the relationships, you bring the product or service training!  Some of the best window salespeople formerly sold lumber or bricks to the same builders.  Odds are good that a salesperson who has successfully sold robotic arm assemblies to automotive manufacturers will also succeed in selling conveyor systems to those same auto plants and the same engineers.  Added bonus: If they are calling on your customers already, your reference checking should be smooth, and refreshingly honest!


These two strategies may seem obvious, but I still talk to a lot of businesses that hire new salespeople from outside of their industry and customer group because they feel like they have to.  “We advertise our open positions on all of the major internet job boards, and we don’t receive applications from the right candidates.”  If this is you, it may be time to modify your recruiting strategies.


Depending on your industry, I’m sure there are many exceptions to these two strategies.  One that I see often are those companies that have a well-executed college recruiting program and an equally awesome onboarding and training program, Sales Manager’s that are excellent trainers/mentors, etc., so as to bring in raw talent and turn them into effective Sales Pro’s.  Most of my clients are small and medium sized businesses that lack the internal resources to pull this off, and so, for the rest of us, we must continue to dramatically reduce risk in sales hiring by attracting and landing talent from within our industry, or, at the very least, hiring sales talent that our customers already know and trust!