How to Hire the Right Salesperson: A Guide for Business Owners

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John Nieuwenburg

John Nieuwenburg has been a professional business coach since 2004. Prior to becoming a coach, he held executive positions with Tip Top Tailors and BC Liquor Stores. In 2019, MacKay CEO Forums awarded him with Canada’s CEO Trusted Advisor Award in the Small Business category. Since becoming a coach, John has worked with over 350 clients, taking them through a systematic process that helps them feel organized, confident and in control of their businesses.

When I work with owners who want to scale their businesses, one of the first ideas that come to mind is to hire a salesperson.

If your business is ready for it, this is a great idea.

The key is to know how to hire the right salesperson to ensure that they are the best fit for your business.

In this article, I will share some tips for how to hire a salesperson that aligns with your business goals.

1. Look for these Key Traits in a Salesperson: Empathy and Ego-Drive

The Canadian Professional Sales Association lists five characteristics that make great salespeople.

  • Empathy
  • Focus
  • Responsibility
  • Optimism
  • Ego-Drive

In my opinion, the two that are most important are Empathy and Ego-Drive.

Empathy is the ability to identify and react accurately to the behaviour and emotions of customers, establish rapport, and have good listening skills.

Ego-Drive is the enjoyment of competition, leadership qualities, and the ability to influence others.

You want to hire a salesperson who scores high in BOTH attributes.

Salespeople who are high in Ego-Drive, but low in Empathy are the caricature of the aggressive salespeople we don’t like.

Salespeople who are high in Empathy, but low in Ego-Drive have hungry children. 😉

When people make decisions – like whether to buy something – there’s a certain level of fear.

Great salespeople act as a guide to help someone get to a decision that’s really in their best interest. And it’s okay to take a strong role in leading this conversation as long as you do it with the right level of empathy.

2. Use Behavioural Interviewing to Identify Top Performers

Behavioural interviewing is based on the idea that the best way to predict future behaviour is to examine past behaviour.

To conduct a behavioural interview, identify key behaviours that a successful salesperson should have and ask questions that explore their past experiences.

For example, you could ask about:

  • Their greatest sales achievement to date
  • Steps they took to close a sale
  • How they handle resistance

As you interview, ask questions that dig in deeper to the candidate’s answers to understand the specific circumstances, people involved, and what their role was.

I always recommend that you have two people present – one to conduct the interview and the other to take notes and score the candidate’s answers.

This ensures that the conversation flows smoothly, and the evaluation captures a good level of detail.

For the second follow-up interview, switch roles.

This way the person who was previously taking notes can ask the questions that were on their mind – and the original interviewer can see the candidate from a different perspective.

3. Make Sure Your Business is Ready to Hire a Salesperson

I’ve often said that delegation is the key to freeing up your time and growing your business.

However, you want to delegate in the right order. (Read more here: Building Your Capacity to Scale.)

Many business owners want to delegate sales too early.

Lead generation can be delegated. However, until your business reaches a level of size and maturity where it makes sense, lead conversion and business development should be done by the owner, who has the relationships and loyal customers.

In many cases, the urge to delegate sales comes from the owner’s discomfort with selling.

The good news is that sales is a skill that can be learned and once you know how to do it, it becomes more comfortable, and many owners grow to enjoy it.

When your business is ready for it, hiring good salespeople can take you to the next level

If you want to scale your business, you will eventually need to hire the right salespeople and build a sales team.

When choosing candidates, look for Empathy and Ego-Drive – and use behavioural interviewing to get insight and evidence of their skills.

Would you like some support growing your business, hiring a salesperson, or learning how to sell better?  Book a call with me today. Together, we can help you achieve your business goals and build the life you want.

The Ultimate Guide to Scaling Your Business

w5 what does it mean to scale your business

How to grow your business without sacrificing time freedom

This post is part of my Ultimate Guide to Scaling Your Business. Visit the guide homepage to get my best advice and coaching exercises to help you:

  • Develop systems and processes to free up your time
  • Hire and manage a great team to run your business (mostly) without you
  • Make the mindset changes that enable you to grow your business bigger - faster than you dreamed possible