This is how you can find and hire great salespersons

How do I find and hire great salespersons?

I know how difficult it can be to find and hire great salespersons. In particular if you need to trade experience and skills for budget restrictions.

As a startup you can find and hire great salespersons networking in startup communities. They will be young and less expensive, and you can start by hiring or a temporary basis. Hire permanently if it works out as expected. Other options are agencies, headhunters or by approaching a salesperson in the industry that you admire.

Finding great salespeople is difficult. Attracting the right salespersons, the great salespersons, is part of the challenge. In my personal experience it boils down to four things to attract, find and hire great salespersons:

  1. Calibrate expectations because great salespersons are picky who they work for. You will be interviewing the wrong persons unless you’re very clear what you look for and what you offer.
  2. You get what you pay for is often true when you recruit. Great salespersons know their value.
  3. Lead or micromanage defines how attractive you are to great salespersons.
  4. Accepting differences in the way you skin a cat is key to selfpropelled, experienced salespersons.

So, let’s discuss each of these for areas in more detail and how to find and attract great salespersons. This is primarily based on my own experience recruiting people but also observing what I believe is great salespersons compared to average or substandard salespeople.

Read more about how risky it is to hire salespersons for a startup.

Where do I find great sales persons to recruit to my company

Find and hire great salespersons

A great place to find salespersons to recruit can be incubators and office startup communities. In particular if you have an early stage startup. Networking plays a great role at these flexible office rental palces.

WeWork in the US and Epicenter in Europe are two examples of such startup incubator communities.

I started my own consulting business renting an office at Epicenter. On of the biggest eye opener to me was the openminded sharing culture. Make use of that when you try to find and hire great salespersons.

Another way to find sales professionals for shorter periods, up to a year, is with employee for hire agencies. Many of them have arrangements where you can offer permanent employment with persons you have hired temporarily.

A third alternative is headhunting when to recruit key team members such as senior sales executives or sales team leaders. An obvious advantage using a headhunter is that someone helps us find several candidates.

The cons using headhunters is that we as the employer still have to do the actual hiring. I mean, we will still have to be very clear what we look for, calibrate expectation and evaluate the person for cultural fit. There is no way around this if we want to find and hire great salespersons.

Cost of using headhunters can also be a challenge if you’re on a tight budget. Headhunters typically charge the equivalent of one third of the agreed annual compensation package for the person being recruited.

A fourth option is to ask investors, that you may have,to recommend a great salesperson. This is often a better option than using your LinkedIn network. With LinkedIn contacts people tend to help personal friends in difficult job situations, rather than suggestion the best candidate for a job opening.

Calibrating expectations to attract, find and hire great salespersons

If I am not extremely clear what I look for then it’s difficult to attract, find and hire great salespersons. Great salespersons need to be attracted to a business and the task at offer. They know their value and are picky who they choose to work for.

You can recruit salespeople, but you need to attract great salespeople.

There is a risk you discuss work opportunities with the wrong salesperson if we’re not very clear about objectives. Great salespersons have learned to understand the importance about what we need, what we offer and who we are.

Great salespeople, in my personal experience, are rare to attract. Let that sink for a while. You attract great salespeople because they are picky who they work for. Not being attractive as a business and as a leader makes you talk to the wrong people.

You get what you pay for when you try to find and hire great salespersons

There is a bit of truth in the saying that you get what you pay for. To find and hire great salespersons you need to be able to pay market compensation for high achievers. Going cheap is destinated to get you average or below average salespersons.

There are exceptions hiring young and untested salespersons if they eventually turn out to be highly talented sales individuals. But they still need to be trained and in my own definition of great salespersons I include experience.

You can’t go cheap when you try to find and hire great salespersons. That does not mean you need to over-compensate and compensation is important to those high performing individuals.

I will warn though from giving slices of ownership away when hiring team members. Proof is in the pudding. You really do not know if a particular hiring is great or not until a year or two years later. An alternative can be earned and vested stock options.

Leadership is key when you aim to find and hire great salespersons

Your own leadership style and experience is key when you look for great salespersons to hire. You will not find and hire great salespersons if you describe a work situation where you clearly micromanage your employees.

Pointing a finger towards poor performing team members means that you point three fingers towards yourself. Your own leadership style and how you motivate, engage, steer and follow up is key for high performers. They like to be seen, you need to lead them, not manage them, not let them loose.

Great salespersons sense micromanagement behaviors already during the interview phase. They are great salespersons partly because they can read people. Your own leadership style and behavior will be important when you aim to recruit great salespersons.

Great salespeople, in my experience, are rare and hard to find but like to be led by a visionary, knowledgeable leader, not by a micromanaging boss. It starts with you as the founder.

Accepting differences in how to execute helps you attract great people

There are different ways to skin a cat. You need clear sales targets, specific target customers, a well-structured sales methodology and sales funnel, but you also need to give some leeway on how to execute.

You will find it hard to find and hire great salespersons if everything is dictated to its smallest detail.

Entrepreneurs that I meet are pre-occupied with sales, administration, operations and strategy. As a startup founder you need to be a jack of all trades. I often hear that entrepreneurs look for a copy of themselves when they consider hiring a salesperson. Look elsewhere, you fill not find a copy.

As humans we’re all different, as professionals we’re quite different.

In my strong opinion you need to accept the following if you aim to find and hire great salespersons:

  1. Founders and entrepreneurs are passionate about building a business. To stretch what’s imaginable beyond what seems possible to most people.
  2. Employees, how senior they may be, are not founders or entrepreneurs. They are employees. The greatest of great employees will do more than a good job. To them it’s important that the job they do mean something more than simple job satisfaction. They need to feel that they contribute and are important for a journey. But they are not a founder, or an entrepreneur. The buck of building a business does not stop with them.

Accepting the differences between being a founder and being an employee is a necessary start if you aim to find and hire great salespersons. You will not find a copy of yourself, look elsewhere.

To find and hire great salespersons is very much about attracting high performers

In conclusion, there are places and forums where we usually can find and hire great salespersons, but it requires more than that. Great salespersons are picky, they choose who they work for.

To find and hire great salespersons we need to be very clear about objectives, what we expect and what we look for. Calibrating expectations is a two way mission when targeting high performers.

Going cheap and expecting not to offer market level compensation packages is to hope for the lottery win if you target high performance individuals. Usually, you get what you pay for, or at least it helps.

To find and hire great salespersons starts with you, the founder. You will not attract great salespersons with the most generous of compensation packages unless you’re a true leader and inspiration. You will be judged by the best.

I hope this blog post with a mixture of my own experience and what I have observed with other entrepreneurs is of help for you. Good luck!

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Jonas Florinus

Jonas Florinus

Jonas has 25 years operational experience growing businesses, 10 years with venture capital and private equity and more than $8 billion in personal transaction experience. For the last 5 years Jonas has been an entrepreneur himself.
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