6 Best Practices for Hiring Successful Salespeople

by Frank Colletti, VP Sales, N-able by SolarWinds

Hiring successful salespeople is never an easy task because you are interviewing people who excel at selling themselves. As an employer, your goal is to get beyond the applicant’s charm to discover the person’s job experience and quality of performance. You want to hire the best sales person for the job -- not the friendliest, funniest or best dressed.

Over the years, my team and I have developed several best practices for hiring successful salespeople. Here are six of them:

1. Drill into the Sales Metrics

Don’t get sold by the impressive resume or the winning smile. I like to drill into the metrics of the applicant’s performance at his or her current job -- to find out about the average deal size, the average size of transaction, the sale cycles, and so on. In doing so you find out what they know, and what they don’t. It’s also a great tell to how much experience he or she has, and what level of understanding they have around quotas and other sales metrics.

2. Exploit the Resume

Dig into the applicants’ hobbies and interests.  Most just glance over these areas, but this is a great way to learn more about the people sitting across the table. A person’s hobbies also tell you a lot about their mindset, values and of course personal interests. Ask questions, and dig a little to discover what makes them tick. 

Another point around the resume – try to keep an open mind about people. For example, if someone’s resume screams ‘job-jumper,’ don’t rush to judge. Sometimes people end up in bad circumstances and aren’t given a reasonable chance to prove themselves. You might just find a ‘diamond in the rough’ who will be a star performer and thrive in your company culture.

3. Ask About Their Sales Skills

Great salespeople express themselves quickly, articulately and with charisma. However, the best ones support their claims with metrics and storytelling.  Hire the ones who can do it all.

4. Sure, Talk About the Job, but Anticipate Great Questions

Good salespeople ask really good questions, such as: ‘How many people on the team are meeting their targets each month?’ ‘How realistic is the quota?’ ‘What’s been your growth over the last year or two?’ ‘Will I be selling mostly to repeat customers or will I have to do a lot of cold-calling and prospecting?’ These questions demonstrate how well a person understands the ins and outs of performance-driven, customer-first sales team. It also shows that they are serious about finding the right company, not just any company.  

5. Prepare and Change Topics Quickly to Keep Applicants on Their Toes

Interviewing people is something that you must prepare for and take time to do properly. In my view, interviews shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. You’ll likely know in the first 15 if you have a real candidate, and then use the next 15 to validate your instinct.

Another best practice...never hesitate, especially with salespeople, to put them under pressure by introducing new topics and changing direction, and by exploring angles that make them supply more information or facts than they gave on the resumes.

By catch your interviewees off guard you can see how they react to adversity and awkward situations -- the meat-and-potatoes of typical sales calls.

6. Always Listen to Your Gut

We hear it all the time, but it’s true. Your gut will guide you into the types of questions you should ask each applicant. Decide early on whether the salesperson you’re looking for is a hunter or a gatherer.  This decision will help you to ask questions appropriate to each applicant’s modus operandi and very nature.

Finally, never forget that conducting an interview is really a psychological game. You need to drill down so you can see what they are made of and whether their experience might be a good fit for the job and your corporate culture. Remember you’re not out looking to find a new friend. You’re looking to find the right person to help your company and your customers succeed.


About the Author: Frank Colletti is vice president of sales for N-able by SolarWinds, a global leader in remote monitoring and management (RMM) and service automation software. In this role, he is responsible for building the sales infrastructure and culture that supports the company’s managed service provider (MSP) partners worldwide, including new customer acquisition and vertical market efforts. With more than 16 years of experience in sales leadership, Colletti brings an in-depth understanding of sales and MSP expertise to N-able. Since joining the company in 2003, he has made significant contributions to the success and year-over-year growth of N-able and its MSP partner community.