Hiring The Right Salesperson – Part 1: Knowing Your Red Box

Hiring Part 1Throughout the year many sales leaders are working hard to fill open positions. While the goal is simple enough — to improve coverage and drive growth — finding these diamonds in the rough isn’t always easy.

Much of the feedback we’re hearing from clients right now sounds like this: “I should’ve already filled this position, but instead I’m staring at 20 resumes. They all meet the requirements of the job description and somehow, they are all the TOP SELLER in their company, have GROWN THEIR TERRITORIES BY 50%, are STRONG RELATIONSHIP-BUILDERS and would describe themselves as ACTION-ORIENTED CLOSERS. Sometimes, I think the biggest sale they make is of themselves to get the job”

Invariably, these comments are followed by the remark, “It all sounds great, but how do I sort through this and get someone who not only produces what their resume promises, but who is also the right fit for our company — so I don’t have to do this all over again in a year? Our organization is very different and not everyone is a good match. We have a complex offering, a very different value message and a unique culture.”

This is no small challenge. During our most recent Sales Leader Alliance meeting, sales leaders cited their success rate in hiring someone who truly made a meaningful contribution to the company at about 1 out of 7. Sales people are, after all, some of the most adept interviewers on the planet. They can be warm, articulate and skilled at focusing in on your biggest needs. And it’s no wonder — it’s what they’ve been taught to do for years.

The Red Box
So, how do you find that person who’s going to drive the numbers, enjoy the work and be a solid contributor to your growth engine?

A good salesperson isn’t necessarily the RIGHT salesperson. Before you start to look at candidates, know what type of salesperson your organization needs. It’s not always necessary to have someone from your industry: Someone with transferrable skills may work just as well.

The key to hiring the right person lies in clearly identifying the type of seller who will succeed with your products or services. While it may sound straightforward and simple enough, it’s not nearly as easy to execute.

Sales leaders looking to score a trifecta with their next sales rep will benefit from answering the 10 questions below. Go through the exercise now and map out the “red box” your sales role falls into and thus the skills your sales rep will need to be successful:

1. Are you looking for a hunter or a farmer?
Hunter or Farmer? Pivotal Advisors

Hunters need to be highly skilled at finding clever ways to get in, creating referral networks and urgency for prospects to act even when they’ve never met. Farmers, on the other hand, utilize current contacts to build deep, credible relationships and create networks within a given account.

This is just an example of some of the differences in sales positions. As you work through the remaining questions, think about the skills required at each end of the spectrum.



2. Will the sales rep have to close many transactions or just a few highly complex, larger sales?
Type of Rep - Pivotal Advisors
3. Will the sales rep be selling direct or through a distribution channel?
Type of Rep - Pivotal Advisors
4. Do the sales people work autonomously or are they tightly managed?
Which Box Are You - Pivotal Advisors
5. Does the sales team need to be technical or do they have technical support resources behind them?
Which Box Are You - Pivotal Advisors
6. Is your brand easily recognized by potential buyers or does the sales person need to introduce you?
7. Does the sales rep sell individually or are they frequently part of a larger selling team?
8. Is your value based on low cost or value, or on selling a premium advantage?
9. Are the sales people expected to generate their own leads or does marketing create the demand?
10. How leveraged is the incentive plan — high commissions or significant base salary?

As you can see from the graphic, finding your red box, or even narrowing the search to a general area is critically important to finding someone who will be highly productive in your environment.

Does this sound familiar? What challenges have you faced in hiring the right salesperson? What strategies have been the most effective in meeting those challenges?

Stay tuned for the second installment of this four-part post, where I will discuss what to do once you’ve determined your needs — and how to apply a selection process that will truly unveil the right candidate.




This entry was posted in Growth Strategy, People, Sales Leadership by Mike Braun. Bookmark the permalink.

About Mike Braun

Mike is a founder and owner of Pivotal Advisors, a national sales improvement firm dedicated to driving a new level of discipline, visibility and predictability into sales forces. Mike is a sought-after speaker, facilitator, consultant and expert in designing sales structures, processes and habits that drive results and create competitive advantage. His most recent work includes high-profile projects in sales strategy, effective hiring, sales process and measurement and sales management execution.

2 thoughts on “Hiring The Right Salesperson – Part 1: Knowing Your Red Box

  1. Although the hunter/farmer analogy has been around for a long time, it is never more true than today. Some of challenge is also, that from hiring manager standpoint, that the analysis of the job function and skills needs to be carried forward the post hiring and employment phase. I see that all to often their is a breakdown once employee is on board. The support systems, incentive and recognition systems need also to align with the pre-employment framework. For example, if the “farmer” was hired to “grow the base” then providing incentives to “find new partners” is inconsistant and unmotivating.

    Looking forward to seeing your next installment!

  2. Bill,

    That’s a great addition to the discussion. Putting together a strong On-Boarding program and supporting the new rep with systems that are aligned can reduce the time to proficiency and get them off to a quick and successful start. This is critical to achieving your growth plans.

    Thanks for the follow-up

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