A Guide to Recruiting Sales Professionals

Ken Sundheim

Recruiting the right sales professionals can enhance revenue generation, heighten competitive advantage and sustain corporate success. While companies from all over the world actively seek more efficient, intelligent and passionate business development representatives, few hires deliver the desired success.

Running a sales and marketing recruiting firm for the past 10 years, I’ve realized that you can never get hiring perfect. However, following a set platform can significantly increase your odds of recruiting difference makers who consistently generate revenue.

What to Look For

Look beyond the piece of paper. When analyzing a sales resume, don’t judge a candidate solely by the document. An applicant with the seemingly perfect pedigree on apper, doesn’t necessarily translate to someone who possesses the ambition, personality and intelligence needed to make a difference.

While being too stringent on job seeker backgrounds can severely limit options, you still want to seek out resumes which display:

  • A past history of meeting and exceeding quotas
  • A past history of employment stability
  • A perceived ability to manage sales cycles
  • Knowledge of consultative and/or solution selling

Moreover, once interviewing these applicants, determine their level of integrity, passion, confidence, positive energy and commitment to success. And do your best to decipher if the applicant’s personality is:

  • Conducive to future leadership
  • Likely to form solid relationships with clients
  • Fitting within the culture of the organization

Interviewing Process

The interviewing process should not last more than 5 weeks as prolonged recruiting projects quickly lose momentum. On the flip side, the staffing process shouldn’t take fewer than 3 weeks to ensure you do your due diligence. Never rely on one meeting.

During the interviews, clearly lay out your expectations, comprehensively describe the position and get to know the candidate on both a professional and personal basis. In addition, touch upon the following:

  • The sales territory the representative is expected to cover.
  • Estimated travel
  • Needs of your clients and target market
  • The product/service features that differentiate your firm from others in the space

Balance out the number of job seekers whom you interview. I recommended you meet more than 3 candidates, but fewer than 10. Too few and you have little room for comparison; too many and the recruiting process becomes disorganized.

If possible, make sure every candidate is interviewed by several people. Listen when a trusted colleague tells you his or her gut is responding negatively to an applicant.


Compensation is a balancing act. You should have a fair balance between base salary and upside on commission. When you under compensate, you are likely to get turned down by the prospective employee during the offer process. If they do accept, you are likely hiring an employee who will come to resent the organization, frequently miss sales goals, lack motivation and provide subpar client service.

On the flip side, higher incentives can lead to worse performance. In 2009, individuals from the London School of Economics analyzed various corporate compensation plans. They concluded that financial incentives can result in a negative performance of an employee.

Asking an employee what pay they want can also be a mistake on the part of the hiring manager. When asked, sales representatives often pull irrational numbers from their head. Once they convey those numbers to you, they are likely to stick to those requirements.

Instead, find out what the individual is making now as well as what they made last year. Kindly request that you see their W-2 to confirm the numbers are accurate. Also, utilize this number to formulate the amount of base salary you intend to pay as well as a solid commission plan.

Noteworthy Advice

Recruiting from competitors is not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s important to understand that bringing over a potential hire from a different industry allows the sales rep. to start fresh and typically costs less. In the past decade, our headhunters have seen more longevity and success from employees who come from parallel or different industries as opposed to competitors.

Throughout the interview, the candidate should be engaged and ask intelligent questions, such as when the desired results need to be achieved and how the company is currently going about meeting its goals.

In the End

It’s arguable that business development representatives make more of a direct impact on a firm than any other division. Formulating the right sales team can allow your company to quickly take market share from competitors as well as turn one time clients into repeat customers. Conversely, failing to do so can hinder your ability to drive revenue.