With the countless ways available for the modern hiring manager to find talent, choice paralysis may become a real danger when hunting the perfect sales rep. That’s putting aside even the issue of quality, which can vary wildly between two superficially identical candidates. There’s a reason top companies maintain full-time hiring departments (or outsource to high-end staffing agencies)—finding the perfect sales rep, or any other staff member, takes experience and effort. Fortunately, there are a few things anyone can do to bring them closer to finding their company’s best possible sales rep, getting that sales rep hired, and keeping them on the team.
First, you need to identify necessary skills and traits for your sales rep. Think about this carefully—even if you need someone who can perform a particular task or use a particular piece of software, you don’t necessarily need to hire someone who already has that skill. If it can be taught and learned in a reasonable timeframe, it probably doesn’t belong on your necessities list. This step is as much about culling wants from the needs list as it is establishing concrete mandatory criteria—you’ll want that flexibility moving forward.
Once you know what you need, it’s time to consider what you want. Wants can entail professional skills, pedigree, personality traits, experience in tangential industries—anything you can think of that would be nice to have in an employee, figure it out. Taking the time to consider these and establish a rough priority for them will go a long way in sifting through your candidate pool after the initial needs-based culling.
Before you finalize your list, make sure you’re not overlooking the obvious. Many companies hire without considering issues such as the likelihood of an employee staying with the company. And you definitely want to consider culture and team issues—if you hire a genius sales rep who worked at a major food company, their skills will be great, but will they work well with the sales rep in the next office that started their career with your tech start up? Remember that you’re not just looking to grab individuals that meet your criteria list, you’re looking for team members; people that will make your entire company operate at a higher level.
Finding the perfect sales rep is only the first step, of course—you need to get them on board (and keep them, but we’ll get to that). First, consider where they’re coming from and where they’re likely going, career-wise. You can get more talent for your dollar hiring recent graduates, but you might end up in an arms race trying to hold onto them. The trick lay in offering compensation that’s more enticing than money, and a work environment that keeps employees happy with where they are. Benefits and vacations will secure talent far more effectively than dollar values, at the end of the day.
Keeping turnover low, and thus keeping that superior sales rep working for you, means having the right leadership. This also helps to develop your talented sales rep into a top-tier performer, so there’s no reason to excuse poor leadership. That means challenging your sales rep with goals that are attainable but take effort, praising success and keeping failures private, and generally working to foster a positive relationship without coddling. Good coworkers, personalized incentives (tickets to a favorite team’s game, time off for a marriage anniversary), and the like all play a role as well. Remember, a sales rep should be equal parts scientist and artist, utilizing their charisma and their knowledge of the science of sales together to succeed. A miserable sales rep simply cannot achieve that.