How to Find Top Sales Talent and Hire Them

BY C. Lee Smith
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If you’re ready to learn how to find top sales talent for your startup or small business, you probably feel plenty of pressure. The person you bring on board has the potential to make or break the organization. You can’t afford to make a mistake. This situation demands the use of the best hiring tools.

Why Managers Make the Wrong Hiring Decisions

Too many SMBs and startups look no further than their best friend or the recommendation of a colleague when they’re trying to expand their sales department. They often feel they don’t have enough to offer to top tier talent so they settle for someone who is less than optimal. The other problem in a fast-​growing startup is the need to quickly fill an open position in order to keep the momentum going. In that high-​stress situation, managers act in haste instead of learning how to find top sales talent. When the new hire doesn’t work out, it may take them several months to separate the person from the organization. Meanwhile, costs are mounting.

Anne Gherini describes another common problem that SMBs and startups share. These organizations don’t have a ‘buffer.’ In large companies, slackers can hide for a long time. Similarly, in most large businesses, jobs are clearly defined. In smaller organizations and startups, employees are often asked to quickly expand or change their roles to meet a need. What managers really need to know is how to hire a sales rep.

How to Find Top Sales Talent: Sales Skills Assessments Reveal Best Characteristics

When you’re seeking how to find top sales talent in that climate, you need individuals with unique skills and mindsets. Don’t be quick to reject applicants who haven’t previously worked in SMBs or startups. And don’t be fixated on hiring individuals who possess specific academic credentials. The best asset in your decision-​making process will be a sales skills assessment.

A comprehensive assessment reveals a candidate’s mindset. And that mindset tells you where they are going. If you only look at job history, you’ll get a picture of where they’ve been. That's no way to engage in hiring sales talent.

To improve your hiring outcomes, review the behavioral assessment results. These details indicate how the candidate is likely to react under stress. Resilience will help your rep in stressful situations, especially when they are trying to open doors in order to sell a solution that isn’t well-​known or doesn’t yet have a sizeable share of the market. More often than not, they’ll encounter closed doors. They must draw on their resilience to keep trying after multiple rejections.

The assessment results regarding work tendencies will also show you which candidates have the most hustle — a critical factor needed to generate success for most SMBs and startups. In many cases, the solution seller who is quick to answer a prospect’s questions is the one who will eventually close the deal.

How to Hire a Sales Rep — Curiosity

In my experience, there is no substitute for valuing curiosity as a factor when assessing sales talent. Curious sales reps take extra time during discovery to explore a prospect’s pain point. In any selling situation, curious reps rule because they think about what the prospect has told them. And they then talk over the technical issues with their product development team in order to come up with unique suggestions for the prospects.

When reps work at an SMB or a startup, they’ll often encounter situations where the solution isn’t an exact match for the buyer’s needs. Their ‘what-​if’ style of thinking can lead to product design improvements. And when the prospect becomes a client, they may become a reference account because they trust the rep as an advisor. And that's an asset that many startups and SMBs need. When you're hiring sales talent for your startup, use a comprehensive sales skill assessment to understand your candidates' mindset and work tendencies.