Time-Tested Strategies for Hiring Sales Performers

Four keys to better sales hiring

Are you still dealing with high-turnover, under-performers, and missed quotas? The greatest challenge of any sales manager is in the recruiting.

Getting the right people, on time, with the right skills that fit the corporate culture is a challenge.

So how do you pick the best sales talent?

four keys to hiring salespeople

As a contingency sales recruiter with fifteen years in the recruitment business, I’ve worked with hundreds of hiring managers in all types of companies.

Although I never make the ultimate hiring decision, I do select the sales candidates who will get serious consideration from sales hiring teams.

I have the advantage of comparing sales candidates across markets, solutions, and skill-levels around the country.

What do I look for before presenting a sales candidate to one of my clients?

1.  I always, always, always look for tenure.

It’s not in vogue, but it’s true.

The majority of sales people are moving every year or two and want it to be normalized.

They don’t want to be considered “job-hoppers.”

They want to be considered brilliant. 

I disagree.

I find time after time, if someone’s stayed with a company for four or more years -- it tells me a thing or two about them.

One, they have experienced the success of hitting quota and have most likely surpassing quota expectations.  Otherwise there’s a high probability they would have been fired or “laid-off.”

Two, it tells me they have staying power.

If I have someone who’s looking for a job the second they get in a new one, I just can’t take a risk on that kind of track-record, no matter how exceptionally brilliant they are. I need salespeople with staying power.

I look for people who stay.

2.  I look for sales experience at one large software organization.

If they can handle an Oracle, IBM, or SAP for a few years it tells me something about the candidate. They can manage themselves in a large, red-tape environment.

They know a thing or two about following the rules and managing frustration. I like sales candidates who have survived in these types of environments because they work well with many different types of managers and are adept at adjusting to constant change.

3. I look at compensation rather than quota obtainment.

Quota’s change, they’re ephemeral. They’re complex and aren’t reliable predictors of success. I find salary and W2 information to be a reliable indicator of performance.

It’s very rare to find a poor performer with a W2 of 200K or more.

4. I watch behavior and look for interest.

It doesn’t matter how great a potential sales applicant is if you can’t land them. Behavior never lies.

If calls aren’t returned, emails are ignored, or interview feedback isn’t given, it’s a sign this candidate is not interested. I can’t waste time on people who don’t want the job; I have to find people who seize opportunity today.

I have successfully worked with salespeople throughout their careers.  Although by now it feels intuitive, the attributes I seek have been developed over years of practice, careful study, observation and trench-level experience.

If you’re the kind of company that faces the challenge of hiring salespeople, you can minimize mis-hires by sticking to these rules.


If you’re looking to hire sales professionals, I can help.

Don’t settle for what comes to you. I can help you go out and get the kind of salespeople who’ll help you win the new business you need to succeed and hit your goals. 

Sonja Hastings is a software sales recruiter with Optimal Sales Search. Learn more about Sonja Hastings HERE.