How to recruit the Right Salesperson for your Business

How to recruit the right salesperson for your business

I hope you’ve had a great week? It’s been a bit calmer here after some stormy conditions here last week with gale-force winds and heavy rain with some treacherous driving at times. As ever, always take care on the roads at this time of the year if you’re someone who spends a lot of their time travelling.


This week I’ve been getting to know a new client. They have built a successful small business from scratch single-handed, and they’ve done remarkably well. They want to take things to the next level, and part of their plan is to hire a salesperson to drive new business.

Like a number of my clients, not only has this person never hired a salesperson before, they’ve also never managed one. She has asked me to help her with selection, recruitment and managing her first salesperson – hopefully the start of a great sales team.

I’m often asked by salespeople what it is that I would look for in a good salesperson, so I thought going over some of my top tips for how to recruit one would be useful for everyone.



Here are some key points to take into account to help you recruit the right salesperson for your business (and if you are a salesperson, the attributes you need to demonstrate to get a role).

Prepare thoroughly

Please, don’t rush into this. It’s the biggest reason for failure I come across.

You need to make sure that you have done your homework on your industry or sector. You should know the “going rate” for good people and the current job market conditions. You should have put together a solid “person specification” for the role (this is something I spend a good amount of time on with my clients – it’s vital). You should have clear shortlisting criteria. You should have designed a comprehensive but flexible interview framework.

And a number of other steps along the way!

If in doubt, get some help, mentorship or guidance from somewhere. Don’t go it alone for your first recruitment exercise.

Make sure you have a clear and compelling vision for your business

At first glance, this sounds obvious. But you’d be surprised at the number of business people who aren’t able to articulate this clearly and with passion.

Remember, recruitment is a two-way street, and you need to be able to “sell” your opportunity to the candidate in front of you. After all, you’re expecting them to get excited and passionate about what you do in front of potential clients, so you need to be able to be just as passionate in front of your potential new sales team.

You MUST have clear targets for your business and growth plan

This is vital, and it’s often overlooked as part of the recruitment process.

If you don’t have SMART targets for your growth, how can you target your salesperson? How can you manage performance against that target? How do you know if YOU are doing a good job as a manager?

There’s nothing worse than hiring a salesperson, then deciding the targets, then changing them when they aren’t right. Not only is this off-putting for your salesperson, but it’s also virtually impossible to effectively performance manage them. There’s always going to be a valid excuse for missing targets if the targets are constantly moving around!


Recruitment Agents – Used one with specialised skills

Now then, here’s where things get a bit controversial! Most first-timers will immediately think of using a recruitment agency. After all, they have access to a large bank of candidates, they can do the initial screening for you, they are seen as the “experts”, right?

Well, yes and no.

I think if your business is in a very technical field – engineering, software development, medicine, that sort of thing – there may be something to be said about using a specialist recruiter for that industry sector.

However, for the vast majority of smaller businesses, when it comes to choosing the right salesperson for you and your company, a general recruitment agent may not be the best route to take.

Why not?

Well, a recruitment agency won’t guarantee that any hired candidate they provide will actually succeed longer-term in your business. They will also still charge you once the new hire completes the agreed probationary period – the going rate is between 12% and 25% of the position’s salary!

There are some very good recruitment agents (email me if you want my personal recommendations in this area) who will spend time understanding your culture and what a successful hire will look like for you but you will still have to do all the heavy lifting in terms of selecting the best candidate.

A potentially very useful source of candidates is to actually look within your own sector. Use LinkedIn to discover people working for bigger organisations that you admire and who are doing well in your field. Some of their sales staff might be looking for a change or a new challenge. They may well relish the opportunity to work for a small organisation that’s seeking aggressive growth. You may even be able to offer them a commission structure that’s better than their current package!

There are other excellent ways of finding high-quality candidates – drop me a line if you’d like me to work with you to help you find them!

Don’t just interview your candidates

The vast majority of businesspeople will make their choice of salesperson based on collecting CVs and doing a round or two of interviews.
Now there’s nothing wrong with this, particularly if you are a seasoned recruiter and manager of salespeople – you’ll know the right questions to ask to flush out the answers you need to help you decide!

However, if you’re inexperienced in recruiting or managing salespeople, you really should consider giving each candidate some form of aptitude test. I give my clients an Emotional Sales Intelligence test tool as part of their recruitment strategy.

Emotional Sales Intelligence (or ESI) is a concept that I’ve developed over many years, as long-time readers will know. It’s a focus on both the traditional “soft skills” (like active listening, empathy, body language mirroring, trustworthiness, etc) and those intangible “extras” that very successful salespeople use to be able to read their prospects and react in the most appropriate way.

No hire is always better than the wrong hire

This is the most important lesson to learn about recruiting. Most people think that the end goal of this recruitment process is to hire a salesperson.

It’s not!

The real goal is to hire the right person. If you are not sure, then saying “no” is always the correct decision! Unwinding a bad hire is always, ALWAYS, much worse and more time-consuming than running a recruitment process again.


So, there we go. A whistle-stop tour around the world of sales recruitment. There are so many other factors we haven’t had time to talk about, like commission plans and salary, target setting, probationary periods, references… It’s a big job!

As I said at the beginning, recruiting your first salesperson is just the start. Performance-managing your new hire is a vital and on-going requirement, too.

What are some of your experiences of recruiting (or being recruited)? Are you ready to grow your business by increasing sales but don’t know where to start? Do you want some help putting together a recruitment plan, or on setting targets or commission rates for your new team?

For help on these or any other sales topics, you can always contact me by email on You can also find me on several social channels – LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook – by searching for “jameswhitesales”.

Have a relaxing weekend, and I hope you have a superb sales week ahead of you.



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