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Good Salespeople Are Hard To Find

By Barrett Riddleberger, Founder of Resolution SystemsHere’s three strategies for improving your odds when it comes to finding qualified salespeople.

Just a few years ago, a manufacturer looking for top sales talent would have a number of qualified candidates to choose from for a sales role.  The company would assess each candidate carefully and select the individual best-suited to join the sales team. 

Today the scenario is reversed -- in spite of the economy and rising unemployment. Organizations are universally looking for good salespeople, but fewer are available. It’s harder to find individuals who can consistently achieve sales quotas and remain educated on changing markets, industries and products.  As a result, it’s common to see a top sales candidate considering multiple job offers.

So if you think you can post an opening on an online job board and wait for premium sales talent to appear -- think again.  You must employ new tactics to acquire quality salespeople today. Once you’ve found someone who might be a good fit, you’ll need to act quickly so you don’t lose them to a competitor. 

Here are three tips that can improve your odds of landing top candidates who are a good fit for your operations.

1.  Look beyond the rĂ©sumĂ©

Though we all rely on rĂ©sumĂ©s, they can be misleading.  On one hand, a strong rĂ©sumĂ© can make a mediocre performer look like a superstar.  On the flip side, a mediocre rĂ©sumĂ© can camouflage a top performer by failing to reflect their special skills. 

Let’s say you’re looking at the rĂ©sumĂ© of a 35-year-old who has spent only two to three years in a string of sales jobs.  Don’t get nervous. Plenty of Class A salespeople get hired by mediocre companies.  They leave when they can get a better job with more money and responsibility or to escape bad management decisions that are impacting their life or career. 

So remember that you’re hiring a human being -- not a piece of paper. There are many reasons why a candidate’s résumé looks the way it does. Take a closer look before closing the door.

2. Conduct preliminary telephone interviews

To jumpstart the process of screening candidates, consider preliminary telephone interviews.  With the right questions, you can find out if they are “interview worthy” in three to five minutes.  For example, if you were to interview a new business development salesperson, here are some examples of questions to ask:

• How many months over the last year did you achieve or exceed quota?
• Out of your top ten accounts, how many were inherited? How many did you acquire yourself?
• What was the primary method of contact for your top five accounts?
• How many appointments were you required to set each week?
• How many cold calls did you make each week?
• How many cold calls did you make to get the required number of weekly appointments?

The more detail you can acquire about their sales habits and results, the more intelligent the decision you can make when hiring salespeople.

3.  Move through the Hiring Process Quickly

Speak to a top salesperson who has recently changed jobs and you’re likely to hear a common complaint.  The company they really wanted to work for moved too slowly, and they had to go with their second choice. 

Don’t miss out.  After you’ve prescreened the candidate by phone, quickly decide how you’ll proceed.  Either invite the individual in for a face-to-face interview or remove them from the hiring process.  But don’t lose a great hire through inertia.  

Barrett Riddleberger is founder of the sales consulting firm Resolution Systems and is author of “Blueprint of a Sales Champion:  How to Recruit, Refine and Retain Top Sales Performers.”  For more information, visit