8 Tips to Recruit Elite Sales People, and KEEP Them

by | Aug 8, 2023 | Sales Team Development

A major question here is: Why accept mediocrity? If you are looking to recruit, then strive for getting the best, the most productive, the most motivated team with all the right skill-sets to make your company a top player in the market.
However, based on my 20 years of experience working in sales consultancy and training industry, I’ve observed that a common problem many managers, sales directors and CEOs face is the hiring of high quality sales people that are productive even from day one.
To address this common issue, and improve at recruiting quality sales people as well as retaining them, below are some considerations to bear in mind.
Finding Quality Sales People

1. Know what makes a good sales person

Here’s a massive conundrum – very few people actually know what it takes to be a great sales person. Some core characteristics to look out for include:

  • High intelligence
  • The right personality profile that fits your team
  • Good track record of success
  • “Can-do” attitude to work
  • Good ability to learn and grow
  • High levels of curiosity

There are several methods to draw out these characteristics during the interview process, which will be the focus of another article. However, in sum, the interview is akin to a sale, and likewise there is an art to drawing out the right information from your candidate, similar to how one would do so with a client.

2. Know where to find great sales people

  • Word of mouth is the best way to find them
  • Build a database of potential sales people already known to you
  • To further add to the database, you can use:
  • LinkedIn navigator to discover sales personnel from other companies in your industry
  • Contacts from your current team
  • Contacts from friends and contacts
  • Contacts from ex-employees
  • Using the sources mentioned above, continue topping up potential names on a weekly or monthly basis. It will take time and discipline to maintain a growing database but having a pool of quality candidates at hand will prove to be invaluable for recruitment.

3. Have a clear process for initial engagements with sales people

Once you have a database of potential candidates, it is crucial to define a process for engaging them. Moving beyond the traditional recruitment model, think of this process as being more similar to a sales process – rather focus than grilling candidates, it is an entire process of finding them, engaging them and getting to know them. Keep in mind, cold-calling will not be as effective as an introduction or an inferred referral.
In sum, define a clear engagement model that involves getting in touch with those on your database on a regular and personal basis – remember, it will take great tenacity as well as skill to convert such candidates into a first interview. 

4. Have a great interview process for great sales people

Goes without saying that this a meeting of two sides, where you are working out whether you are a good fit for each other. This is not a one-sided affair, where you are the only one making the call. There are important rules to uphold.
It goes without saying that the interview is a 2-way meeting where both sides are working out whether each would be a good fit for the other. Never make the mistake of thinking that you are the only one making the call. Rules/considerations to bear in mind when interviewing great candidates include:

  • He or she does not need to be there with you
  • He or she is not necessarily looking for a job
  • He or she is probably happy at their current position
  • Do not assume they turned up because they are desperate to join you
  • For quality candidates, do not quiz or test them as you would in traditional first interview meetings. Use the first meeting to get to know them, like them and understand who they are and what they are looking for. Once you get beyond these, you can then have a slightly more formal fact-finding process.
  • Do not make hasty assumptions or judge them for being at the interview – they will notice and disengage with you

Retaining Quality Sales People

Alright, so now you’ve got elite sales people to join your team, but how do you get them to stay for the long haul? (And then celebrate their work anniversaries on LinkedIn, of course).

1. Love your company

It seems obvious that you should love your company, but this is not a forgone conclusion in most organisations. This is a classic signal to look out for within yourself and likely also reflects a significant drop in the energy and passion that you are putting into the company. However, in today’s standard, it is not acceptable to accept mediocrity and people can tell. No one of quality will want to work for or stay long in an environment without passion and they will leave at the first chance.

2. Love your clients

The core tenet of success in recruitment is to ensure a client-centric approach and make it known to the team that it is all about your clients and delivering great service to them. One major complaint I hear from sales people revolves around the over-emphasis of their company on money and revenue rather than the quality of service delivered. Of course, it is good to be profitable, but certainly not at the expense of the client or the relationship that the sales person has built up with them.

3. Make sure your business is in good financial shape

Let’s imagine someone goes through the whole process of engaging with you, meeting you, understanding and liking what you do and is interested in coming on board. Now imagine how they feel after going through all that just to find out that your company’s broke, want them to work for free and have not engaged with them in an honest and upfront fashion. That way, you would only be wasting everyone’s time and it will reflect very poorly on your company.
The rule is to always be honest about your financial status: let them know about whether you’re a start-up or a medium-sized business etc., and do not try negotiating a deal without knowing the current remuneration rates for sales people. Sales people need many things to work well and money is one of them. However, keep in mind that you do not always need to pay top prices, there are many factors besides money that are crucial to top sales people that give you room to negotiate (e.g., see below on training and development opportunities).

4. Training and development opportunities with good career progression

Elite sales people want to constantly improve at what they do and it is crucial to provide training that helps them develop and progress in their career. Important key areas that they can need help with range from, but not limited to:

  • Lead generation
  • Time management
  • Building a support team
  • Negotiation and listening skills
  • Technical information and skills
  • Running a high-end sales practice
  • Team management skills

Remember, top quality sales people do not suffer fools gladly. Even if you manage to attract them to come on board, if you cannot help them improve and cannot develop them further, you will isolate them. This may mean you will also require coaching yourself, in terms of how to bring out the best in your sales people and to engage with them effectively. If you can do so, then even the elite will stay loyal to you and help bring your company to the top.

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About the author

Fraser Morrison

Fraser Morrison

As the CEO and co-founder of 1000Steps, I apply my 33+ years of sales experience to help professionals excel. Specializing in sales process optimization, I'm committed to driving client success and achieving outstanding outcomes.