How To Hire Sales Representatives by Melissa Sepp on Jan 10, 2018

Need to hire a top-notch Sales Representative? Look no further! This short guide will tell you everything you need to know about building the dream sales team: what salespeople do, what skills they should have, what questions to ask and how to filter out the best candidates.

This guide includes:

  • What do Sales Reps do?
  • What skills to look for in Sales Reps?
  • How to hire Sales Reps?
  • What questions to ask from Sales Reps?

What do Sales Reps do?

First off, the role of Sales Reps can vary greatly from company to company, but in general, all sales representatives will be involved at some level in selling products to customers. 

One thing that successful sales representatives have in common is that they are all results-driven and highly motivated, they know how to communicate with customers and keep a good relationship with them.

Typically a sales rep will be responsible for all stages of the sales process, from initial cold calling to closing the deal. 

They’re main tasks include:

  • Carrying out market and competitor research
  • Cold calling to generate new leads
  • Getting new customers by following up on leads
  • Answering customer questions and resolving any initial complaints
  • Selling (and upselling) products to existing and prospective customers
  • Aiming the sales targets and keeping the team informed of progress
  • Maintaining good customer relationships to ensure continuing sales

What skills to look for in Sales Reps?

skills to look for in sales representatives
  • Sales skills – it almost goes without saying that a successful salesperson needs to know how to sell. That includes knowing how to approach customers, persuade them to make the purchase, negotiate with them and finally close the deal.
  • Prospecting skills – prospecting is where sales reps make outbound contact to prospects in the hope of selling them the product. This involves a combination of soft skills such as communication and self-confidence.
  • Communication skills – good sales is based on good communication, knowing how to talk to people persuasively, and accurately describe the benefits of the product they’re selling.
  • Motivation skills – sales industry is heavily results-oriented and needs to have motivated and high-performing employees consistently reaching their goals.
  • Time management skills – sales representatives need to manage multiple clients, schedule multiple appointments and keep to regular deadlines.
  • Dealing with feedback – sales work is very results-based as well as often being very competitive. If sales workers start falling behind on targets, they will need to demonstrate that they can take constructive feedback and learn from it.
  • Flexibility – salespeople often need to modify their techniques to stay ahead of competitors. This means that the role might not be suited to someone who prefers working according to routine.

How to hire sales representatives?

After talking to lots and lots of Sales Reps and hiring managers who’ve recruited great salespeople, we’ve learned that the best way of hiring top-performing and effective sales representatives is to test their skills before conducting any interviews

You need to know that you’re going to end up with employees who will drive up sales results. Giving them a chance to demonstrate their basic selling skills is a more efficient first step than using regular resumes and cover letters. Here’s why:

Aside from being time consuming to evaluate, resumes are not an effective way of measuring skills. Candidates can exaggerate and sometimes even be untruthful on their resumes, and it can be difficult to check them for accuracy. 

It’s easy to list on your resume that you achieved an impressive sales figure in the last year, it’s a lot more difficult to demonstrate the skills that it would take to achieve this.

Setting up a few sales-related question as the first-pass filter will enable you to immediately put candidates’ claims to the test. Additionally, it will allow you to weed out any mediocre candidates straight away. 

Current figures show that each corporate job opening is attracting around 250 resumes on average. That’s a lot of reading. If you can start off by screening applicants with a short job simulation, you’ll instantly narrow the field down and can be confident about ending up with a pool of strong candidates.

Read on: Why You Should Stop Using Automatic Resume Screening Software

What interview questions to ask from Sales Reps?

Here are a few sample questions that you could ask from sales reps instead of asking them to send their CVs, along with what to look out for in each answer.

1. Presentation skills

Here, you are looking for candidates who can think on their feet and find a solution such as moving to a written method of communication. A red flag would be if the candidate chose to proceed and hope for the best.

questions for sales representative

2. Goal-setting skills

This gives a good indication of how the candidate will perform under pressure. Those who offer clear solutions such as ‘I’ll try and close a few deals with prospects in the pipeline’ or ‘I’ll go through existing customer contacts to bump sales’ will be better candidates than those offering no or vague ideas.

goal setting question

3. Communication skills

This is an opportunity for the candidate to show how they might be able to turn the situation around into a potential future sale, as well as demonstrating their written communication abilities.

communication skills

4. Open-ended questions 

Once you’ve filtered out unqualified candidates with the help of a short, simple skill test, it’s a good practice to give candidates some homework to see their qualifications even in more depth. It can be either a short video presentation of them trying to sell you something, a thorough written research about prospects and products that they would sell, or some situational tasks. Some good questions to ask in this stage of the hiring process are:

  • Sell me something
    This is a fairly basic one but it gets right to the core of what a sales representative is supposed to do. Keeping the object of the sale open will show you how well the candidate thinks on the spot. A red flag here would be failing to find a suitable item to sell or running out of steam early.
  • How do you keep your motivation high when something happens that adversely affects your motivation or confidence?
    This question obviously doesn’t have any right or wrong answer but enables the candidate to demonstrate what techniques they use to keep themselves driven, even when things don’t go well. Things to look out for here would be detailed answers linked to areas such as self-improvement rather than simplistic answers like ‘money’.
  • Which companies would you prospect into if you were tasked with selling a new in-store security system for retail chain-stores?
    This tests candidates’ ability to gather market information and understand the potential market for a product. Red flags for this would be targeting the wrong businesses or failing to find enough suitable businesses.

Further reading

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