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Recruiting & Hiring

Webinar Recap: How to hire top sales people

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In partnership with Lisa Hagy of Wiley, Talent Gear hosted a webinar where we uncovered some tips to help companies shape their hiring process around finding top performers for their sales team.

We’re all looking to hire the best possible candidates who will perform at the top of the curve. However, attracting and hiring these individuals can be particularly challenging in certain areas of the business. Sales is one of these areas. In partnership with Lisa Hagy of Wiley, Talent Gear hosted a webinar over at Human Capital InstituteHow to Hire Top Performing Salespeople - where we dug into this issue and uncovered some tips to help companies shape their hiring process around finding top performers for their sales team.

We know hiring a bad fit can cost an organization dearly. In general roles, Zappos found they lost $100 million to bad hires each year. When you narrow in on the impact of a bad sales hire, the Harvard Business review found sales-driven organizations could lose as much as $300,000, not accounting for lost opportunity costs.

Beyond the dollar figure, Lisa pointed out, “bad hires can negatively impact organizational productivity, performance and culture.” Those attending the webinar reported that past bad hires had cost them time, employee engagement and brand equity.

Lisa touched on some tips to help attract the right candidates, but the heart of her insights centered on hiring and how we can empower hiring managers to find the best fit. To do this, you must help them understand what that fit looks like as it relates to the marketplace, your organizational sales strategies, and the attributes of your ideal candidate.

This can be tricky to define, so Lisa broke it down, outlining eight critical sales practices and how they show up in different candidates. These practices represent how candidates sell, how they work alone and how they work with others, so you can assess their sales skills and how they may fit within your team.

How they sell


This relates to how a sales person seeks out opportunities to engage with clients. Someone who likes to take the reins and find their own clients will be a good fit if your sales team is responsible for building a robust pipeline. If you have a strong lead-gen process and your marketing team is passing off qualified leads to your sales team, a candidate who takes a more passive approach to prospecting could perform well.

Initial contact

This is where a sales person would take steps to make the initial introduction to a potential client. In some roles, it’s important for the sales person to be proactive about reaching out and making the first introduction. For candidates who prefer a reactive approach, they should be placed in a role where they can respond after a the prospect reaches out.

Building and maintaining relationships

Once an introduction is made, sales people must focus on creating and establishing a connection by attending to the client’s needs. How this is accomplished depends on whether your sales cycle is short or long; more transactional or relational. Of course we all want repeat clients, but how those clients prefer to be sold to will determine which style is the best fit for your open role.

Closing the sale

This is the point where a sales person will transition from discussing a prospect’s needs to completing the sale and turning them into a client. Every sales person should be a closer, but there are different types of closers. Are they more strong and assertive or are they laid back? Your product, market, organization, brand and target clients all help determine where on the spectrum your sales people should lie.

How they work on their own


What type of initiative does the individual take to achieve success? Are they self-directed or do they prefer to wait for instructions? It may seem that, of course, you want someone who is self-directed. But if you operate in a highly regulated industry, you will need someone willing to lean on management’s instruction without feeling stifled. In industries that aren’t as regulated and organization’s where management may not be readily accessible, someone who is more self-directed is going to be a better fit.


You must also consider how a candidate strategizes ways to maximize resources to attain goals. Do they prefer to stay within a defined parameter or to get creative. If your product and sales process is highly complex and technical, it may be best to focus in on individuals who stick within the lines. If it’s easy for your sales team to understand the details with minimal training, go with someone who is ready to strike out on their own and address any questions/client needs that come their way.

How they work with others


Naturally, you want a candidate who is willing to grow and learn, but coachability isn't just about their ability to handle feedback. It's also about learning how they prefer to receive that feedback. This can help the hiring manager understand if they'll be a fit and, after they've been brought on, help their supervisor understand how to get the most from them.

Working with a team

By understanding how a candidate works collectively and cooperatively, you can determine where they might fit in your organization. What does the role require? What are the candidate’s behavioral attributes? If the team is relatively independent and the potential hire thrives on competition, they might be the perfect fit. If the individual likes to know their efforts are contributing to a bigger picture, they may be better suited on a team that leans on each other to succeed.

Lisa went on to explain how these practices along with traits found when observing top performers on your current sales team can help you build a benchmark — a profile of success of sorts. A profile you can use to objectively hire candidates you know will thrive within your organization and help you grow.

Check out the full webinar for a few case studies and more insights. Make sure to tune into the Q&A to learn about top traits of top sales people, identifying imposters and using selection assessments.

And don't forget to download Talent Gear's exclusive ebook - The 8 Critical Skills of High Performing Salespeople.