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4 Sales Recruiting Tips to Hire Top Sales Performers

Given the high rate of failure with sales hires I’m amazed at the lack of formal training most Sales Managers receive regarding how to properly vet sales professionals. After 20 years in sales recruiting; I’ve learned to look past polish, presence and extraversion and depend on a repeatable and predictive approach. The foundation for this process starts with these 4 sales recruiting tips that we designed for a long-time client.


It is critical to ask every candidate the same questions and to put them through the same interview steps. Only by comparing and contrasting two candidates through the same lens can you objectively determine which sales professional is “better”. To give an analogy, could you imagine a football team evaluating players without a consistent set of drills and criteria? We give a complete description of our vetting process in our eBook on How to Hire Top Performing Sales Reps.

Hire for Strengths (not lack of Weaknesses).

It’s my opinion that most companies’ interview processes select “safe” candidates. Although these “safe” hires lack weaknesses, they also often lack razor sharp strengths.

A key to building an effective vetting process is identifying what the most difficult part of the job is. The more difficult, the more critical it is to hire for this strength. Until you understand this, your hiring success will be based to some degree on luck. If you lack enough data to objectively answer this question look for the One Trait All Top Sales Reps Possess.

Set the Tone.

At the start of the vetting (interview) process we share our interview steps with potential candidates in writing. As a part of that process, we verify sales #s, w-2s and perform a background check. We also share that the candidate’s lone opportunity to bring up potential issues is at the beginning of the process.

After we added this step we noticed four things. 1. Legitimate top performers were impressed with the level of attention in hiring. 2. Some candidates simply disappeared once we pressed them to provide documentation. 3. The candidates that were left gave us accurate answers and took the interview process seriously. 4. Turnover (mis-hires) went down.

Role Play.

My framework for evaluating a sales professional’s abilities to perform a task is to start broad and drill down all the way down. We have two reasons for this. 1. It allows the rep to get comfortable so that we’re actually evaluating their talent and not their ability to perform cold. 2. We’re left with little doubt about the sales rep’s true ability. To be clear, this time is spent vetting a sales professional’s ability to perform the hardest part of the job. If the hardest part is prospecting, for example, that’s where we’ll dig in.

The best way to explain this process is to play out this example.

Start high – “Tell me about your approach to prospecting.

“Please share your prospecting metrics and your weekly prospecting plan.”

“How many net new clients did you sign last year and this year to date?”

“How did you find those leads?”

“Take me into a prospecting call. You can give a specific example or a general approach.”

“Let’s role play this. I’m the … of xyz. Please call me and share the exact script or approach that you would use to convince me to give you an appointment.”

As we’re going through this series of questions we’re looking for: thought and sales processes, confidence (as in our confidence in their abilities and answers) and consistency in answers. If we see potential but we’re not convinced, we’ll dig in even further or perform another role play. In our experience, the role play is the most important of these 4 sales recruiting tips when trying to decide between two comparable sales professionals.

Sales Recruiting Tips – The Next Level.

These 4 sales recruiting tips will help lay a foundation to consistently and repeatedly choose top sales performers. Additional layers required to build a predictive sales interview process can be gleaned from How and Why to Conduct a Phone Sales Interview and 5 Tips to Hire Better Sales Reps

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Chris Carlson

My name is Chris Carlson and I’m the founder and President of Sales Talent. This blog grew out of my desire to document and share what I’ve learned in my two plus decades of sales recruiting and leading Sales Talent. Our posts are aimed at sales professionals and leaders that speaks to talent selection, team building, or career advancement. If you have a topic that you’d like my take on, please reach out to me.

You can find Chris Carlson on LinkedIn or contact him directly at: