How To Hire Salespeople

The only thing more important than hiring great front line managers is knowing how to hire salespeople. No amount of incredible management experience or training can overcome hiring the wrong people for the role, so don’t put yourself in that position without thinking through the following steps first!

  • Have a process
  • Build a profile based on current successful sellers
  • Evaluate candidates against that profile
  • Take detailed notes, include risks
  • Discuss candidates as a team to align
  • Review 3-6 months after hire
  • Revise hiring profile
  • Rinse / repeat

Have a process

Candidates should be getting the same experience in order for you to be able to expect consistent results.

Build a profile based on current successful sellers 

Look at the people that are succeeding on your sales floor and figure out what they have in common. Similarly, look at the people that are failing to find out what they have in common. Remove the failure traits from the success traits and you have the minimum list of traits you should be interviewing and selecting for. The goal should be narrowing it down to 3-4 traits.

Successful Traits – Unsuccessful traits = Hiring Profile

Pro Tip: Do not start by just writing out a list of the things that you would like in a hire. This is a wish list based on theory, not a checklist of traits based on actual success on the floor.

Evaluate candidates against that profile

It’s harder than it looks: What questions are best for uncovering what traits? What constitutes of evidence when claiming someone has a certain trait? Does having stayed late once in their previous career demonstrate the type of drive you need in this role?

Once you’ve learned what questions to ask — and where the bar is for each trait — then you need to train the interview team. You hiring results will only be as good as your weakest interviewer, so make sure everyone learns the same skills.

Take detailed notes

After a long interview I can barely remember specific details.

Imagine how tough this is after 3 or 4 interviews in a row. Take detailed notes around the questions you asked, what the answer was, and whether or not you believe it indicates that a candidate has a particular hiring trait.

Once you’ve done hundreds of interviews for a profile, you can do away with lighter notes but in the beginning, detailed notes critical for optimizing a profile and making sure each interviewer is aligned.

Discuss candidates as a team to align

For candidates that saw multiple interviewers, sit in a room and discuss what you uncovered about that candidate in regards to each trait. See where people disagree, learn new questions, and observe how the same candidate can interview completely differently depending on the interviewer.

Quarterly hire review

Review the people that have been hired every quarter, compare them to your hiring profile, and look over your notes from the original interviews. Start with the traits, figure out what qualities they have based on their time working in the office, and how those traits compare to what you expected based on the interview. Did you miss any traits completely? Look back at the notes that where taken and figure out if your read from the interview was accurate. This is a huge opportunity for learning and the best way to calibrate a hiring process.

Revise hiring profile

Take the lessons learned from your quarterly hire review and build them back into the profile. On the extreme end of the scale, you might have completely missed on a trait and you could change hiring traits completely. On the more nuanced side of things, you might just realize that you don’t have great questions to get to the bottom of a trait and, as you learn over time, you can improve them.

Iterate: Rinse and repeat

Hiring anyone is easy — you’re effectively just giving away money. Hiring the right people is hard. Have a process and improve that process over time.

This is a guest post by Evan Bartlett, co-founder of Building The Sales Machine, a platform and event series designed to help and connect people who are building sales teams, sales operations, and revenue operations mainly within startups.


Evan Bartlett

Evan Bartlett is the co-founder of Building The Sales Machine, and Sales Director at ZocDoc. Building the Sales Machine (BTM) is a quarterly meet-up for experienced sales leaders that are scaling sales organizations.