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How to Hire

by John Chapin

Three times in the past two weeks, prospects or clients have asked me about hiring salespeople; so, here are my tips.


Keys to Hiring Sales Reps

Tip #1: Start with people skills.

If someone lacks people skills, they will never be able to sell effectively.

Tip #2: Look for self-esteem, self-confidence, work ethic, integrity, and the right attitude.

After people skills, these are the key character traits. These can’t be trained; people have them or they don’t. You have to look for these and test them in your hiring process.

Tip #3: Be wary of unemployed salespeople.

Unless someone’s company just blew up, or there is some other crazy extenuating circumstance, salespeople typically aren’t unemployed unless they can’t sell and got fired, or lost their cool and quit. People do switch jobs for legitimate reasons, just make sure the reason is a good one and they can back up the stellar sales skills they claim to have.

Tip #4: Watch out for people making lateral moves, especially in the same industry.

A salesperson in the same industry looking for the same job elsewhere typically does so because they can’t sell and they’re blaming someone or something other than themselves. Even if someone is coming from another industry, why are they making the lateral move? It happens, just make sure the reasons are solid.

Tip #5: A salesperson looking for a big salary is a red flag.

Good salespeople are willing to work mostly or completely on commission because they know that’s how they make the most money. If a salesperson wants a large salary, it’s usually because they know they won’t sell enough to pay the bills. If someone says they need a big salary because they are taking a pay cut coming to work for you, run the other way. Top salespeople don’t take pay cuts.

Tip #6: Have a hiring process.

Have several people put their eyes on a potential hire. Do all your testing, check all paperwork, cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s. Don’t take shortcuts, have a process and stick to it like a pilot doing preflight.

Tip #7: At some point in your process tell people you don’t think they have what it takes.

When you ask the question, “Why should I hire you?” Whatever answer they give, even if it’s the best you’ve ever heard, your response should be, “I don’t hear it. I don’t think you’re what we’re looking for.” You’d be surprised how many times the conversation will go something like, “You don’t?” “No, I don’t.” “Oh, okay.” The people you want should sell themselves at this point. If they can’t, or they won’t, you don’t want them.

Tip #8: Test their sales skills. 
If they’ve been in sales for any length of time, and they’re any good, they can effectively answer objections, know how to compete, have standard closes, and can handle all sales situations. Ask who their primary competition is at their current company and why someone should do business with them versus the competition. In addition, give them some standard objections and ask for their best responses. Ask them for their top closing questions. Ask for their follow-up process. Test them and role-play sales situations with them.

Tip #9: Give them homework. 
Give them assignments during the hiring process. It could be to reach out to the other four or five people they will be interviewing with to set up an appointment, to read a particular sales book and give you an executive summary, or give them some scripts, have them practice them, and then test them on the scripts.

Tip #10: Shake up the testing process.

Telling an applicant you are about to hire that they did not get the job, bringing them to an event with an open bar, playing golf with a candidate, or visiting them at their home, are some great ways to find out what people are really like. Use personality tests, in-office interviews, and other standard, accepted hiring practices as your foundation, but realize that most tests can be beaten, and most people can put their best mask on temporarily. To find out what people are really like, move them out of the typical hiring environment.

Tip #11: Be skeptical of references, especially personal references.

Anyone can find a third cousin twice removed to say the candidate is the best thing since the wheel. Still get references, but be skeptical. If they are that good, the wheel never would have been invented.

Tip #12: Do a background check.

You should be able to find enough information on social media and elsewhere without paying for a background check. That said, a full background check is not a bad idea.

Tip #13: Have standards and stick to them as if your life depends upon it… 
Because the life of your business does depend upon it. Don’t lower your standards because you “don’t have any good applicants, but you have to fill the position with someone.”

Tip #14: Set expectations up front. 
Show them a job description up front which includes: activities they are expected to perform, number of calls they are expected to make, anything they are expected to learn, hours you expect them to work, including any weekends and nights, and how they will be evaluated on job performance.  Also, let them know if there will be travel involved, what training looks like, and anything else they can expect to encounter on the job. Get agreement on the expectations up front.

Tip #15: Watch them before, during, and after the hiring process. 
Other than dressing well, showing up on time, communicating well, being pleasant, etc., do they follow up with you after each step of the interview process and how?  How do they do on any assignments you give them? How do they interact with other people they come into contact with?

Tip #16: Hire slowly and fire quickly. 
Do the work up front and don’t cut corners. If you do hire the wrong person, let them go quickly.

Tip #17: Provide the right environment. 
It doesn’t help to hire the right people if you bring them into an environment where chronic underperformers, negative people, a lack of support, and other similar cancers exist. Have an effective on-boarding and training program along with an atmosphere of professionalism and high standards. Give them a success track to run on that establishes good sales habits.

With the current hiring systems companies use, only about 20% of salespeople work out long-term. Even if you’re at 50%, is it really worth all the time, effort, and money that you waste hiring the wrong salespeople? While the above is a lot of work, if you follow it correctly, you’ll have a 90 to 95% hiring success rate and save thousands of hours, headaches, and, over the long-term, likely hundreds of thousands of dollars.

John Chapin is a motivational sales speaker, coach, and trainer. For his free eBook: 30 Ideas to Double Sales and monthly article, or to have him speak at your next event, go to John has over 34 years of sales experience as a number one sales rep and is the author of the 2010 sales book of the year: Sales Encyclopedia (Axiom Book Awards). You can reprint provided you keep contact information in place. E-mail:


John Chapin
#1 Sales Rep w 34+ years’ experience, Author of the 2010 sales book of the year: Sales Encyclopedia (Axiom Book Awards) – also the largest sales book on the planet (678 pages).

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