The Art of Hiring Top Performing Sales Reps

Cartoon bird, one in a boss chair interviewing 2 others.
Kyle Vamvouris
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14 min Read
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As a business owner or manager, you know that hiring the wrong person is the most costly mistake you can make. - Brian Tracy

Hiring the right sales representatives is crucial for the success of any sales team. But, many founders struggle with this process, often hiring and hoping for the best. This leads to inconsistent sales reps, high turnover, and a bunch of questions about the leaders' decision-making.   

If you can't trust your hiring, you'll never have total confidence in your ability to scale your team properly. That's why you can't rely on anything less than a structured, repeatable process that you can apply whenever you need to add to your sales team. 

How To Hire Top Performers for Sales 

Step #1: Create an Ideal Candidate Profile

We use a tool called the Ideal Candidate Profiler, that looks like this:

The aim here is to outline exactly who you're looking for. Do they have experience in the space? Have they sold to this persona or company type before? Do they have experience with your type of sales motion? Are you looking for someone with a book of business that they'll bring over to your company?

Once you have a clear idea of the skills, motivation, adaptability, experience, and network attributes that you're looking for, you can use the Ideal Candidate Profiler to make sure the people you're interviewing actually are a good fit.

If you skip this step, you might find yourself talking to wonderfully charming, interesting people - but you'll quickly get away from your plan and potentially build an imbalanced team that doesn't match your actual needs. 

Step #2: Use an Objective Candidate Evaluation Framework

We developed a framework that we call "S.P.A.R.C.", which stands for:

  • Success: Do they have a successful track record?
  • Positivity: Are they upbeat and generally positive?
  • Articulation: Can they explain things clearly, both verbally and in writing?
  • Relevance: How relevant is their background/values?
  • Coachability: Can they take feedback well? 

Depending on the role that we're hiring for, we'll create a weighted scoring system.

When you score the candidate, you can use scores from 1 - 4 for each S.P.A.R.C. category. 

A score of 1 would mean they're in the bottom 50%. 

A score of 2 would mean they're in the top 50%. 

A score of 3 would mean they're in the top 20%.

A score of 4 would mean they're in the top 10%. 

You then take each person's score and average it (remember, this is a weighted average that the spreadsheet will handle for you!). If the candidate scores below a 3, they do not move forward. Here's what the S.P.A.R.C. framework looks like:

When we're hiring salespeople, we generally look for four green flags:

1: They've sold in your industry.

2: They've sold to your specific buyer persona(s).

3: They sold a similar product or with a similar selling motion.

4: They have a history of high performance.

If you find someone who meets these criteria, you probably have a great candidate on your hands who's worth talking to. 

Step #3: Have a Structured Interview Process

Here's what our process looks like at a high level:

And here's a little more detail about the steps in the flowchart: 

1: Start with an email screening test: This can be as simple as "PS hit reply and change the subject line to your name, so that you show up at the top of our inbox". If they don't do this, they're out - it's a basic way to screen for attention to detail. 

2: Review their resume: This is a basic check that they seem like a good match.

3: Follow up with a phone screening: Here's where you can use the Ideal Candidate Profiler above.

4: Next, give them a writing exercise: We like to ask a candidate to pick 3 potential customers for our product/services and write a brief paragraph explaining why they'd be a good fit. 

5: Pick a path based on the role you're hiring for: If you're dealing with AEs, a mock presentation is a great way to see how they think. SDRs, meanwhile, can go straight to main interviews if they seem like a fit so far. 

6: Conduct main interviews: Get 3 people from your team to interview each person, using the S.P.A.R.C. framework for scoring. People who score lower than 3 are eliminated from the process.

7: Check references: You'll usually get a bunch of positive feedback from the contact person, so this is a chance for you to learn more about how they work and if they'd be a good cultural fit for your team.  

8: Negotiate terms & hire: If they've gotten this far, congrats! You're ready to add them to the team and get them onboarded. You can use our Sales Compensation Model to figure out the numbers that would make sense for your team. 

Step #4: Use the Right Interview Questions

There are endless "great" questions that you can use in an interview, but here are a bunch of our favorites (feel free to use this, edit them, or add your own): 

Q1) How much time do you spend cultivating customer relationships versus hunting for new clients? What's the philosophy behind the breakdown?

Q2) What do you think our company/sales organization could do better?

Q3) Tell me about something interesting you have learned recently.

Q4) Have you ever had a losing streak? How did you turn it around?

Q5) Explain the steps you take, from the beginning of the sales process to the end.

Q6) You have spoken to person A and person B. I'm curious, from your perspective, what do you think they will be most excited about with you as a candidate, and what do you think their biggest concern will be?

The aim with all of these questions is to learn how they think, how they'd fit with your team, and how they'd perform in the face of the many different challenges that come with sales. 

The more candidates you speak to using a structured, repeatable process, the better you'll get at identifying the right sales talent for the right sales positions. 

The Three Poisons That Kill Sales Teams

Let's call out the fact that many teams are simply not set up for success. A talented sales rep with a lot of potential and a great attitude can quickly be held back by three things that "poison" many sales teams.

Poison #1: The Individual Sales Reps Don't Know What They Need To Be Successful

When new team members join your sales organization, you need to have a clear way to communicate exactly what you expect them to accomplish and how you expect them to hit these goals. 

That means having a strong onboarding plan for new reps and a clear sales playbook that is easy to read, digest, and reference in the future. 

Poison #2: The Leadership Team Doesn't Use Data to Effectively Enable Their Reps 

You might hire the perfect sales rep with a ton of potential, but if you don't plug them into a data-driven system, you'll quickly stunt their growth and handicap their performance. 

The best sales managers and leaders will create an environment for reps to thrive with clear feedback loops, specific sales metrics to own, and a strong balance of training and coaching. Your reps deserve nothing less than this to give them a fair shot at performing at a high level.

Poison #3: There's a Culture That Tolerates Poor Performance

Lastly, many sales teams develop a culture that allows - and therefore enables - poor performance. If you hire salespeople into this sort of environment, it's unfair to expect a new rep to suddenly transform your company's culture. 

You need to make sure that you're bringing new sales reps into a situation that's positive, transparent, and has healthy competition. On an individual level, each rep needs to know that they have a clear path to development and growth.

The consequences of hiring the wrong person for a sales role

Hiring the wrong person for a sales role can have severe consequences for your company. It can lead to wasted time and money, as well as a negative impact on your company culture. 

When you plug the wrong person into a complex system like a sales process, it can make you question everything. Is the problem the person you hired? The tools you've given them? Something about your product or service?

If you're not confidently adding the right people to your team, it can make even a great product and a strong process look shaky. 

Keep in mind that sales jobs are notoriously volatile as sales professionals can often change jobs relatively easily. If you have a high-performing sales rep choose to leave your team and join another company, can you replace that person?

Here at Vouris, we often talk about how many founders' hiring processes are just "hire and hope". You hire someone...and HOPE they happen to work out - but that's not the way to approach building a professional sales team that's expected to grow your company, right?!

Ready to Hire Top Performers?

Now that you know our four-step process to identify and hire great sales reps, get out there and get started! You can download the tools mentioned above, along with all of our other free sales resources below:

{{download-all}}

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About The Author

Kyle Vamvouris

Kyle Vamvouris, our CEO, spearheads Vouris with remarkable drive and charisma, firmly establishing us as an industry leader in sales training consultancy. Recognized as an authority in B2B tech sales, Kyle brings a nuanced understanding of the SaaS and Service landscapes, truly comprehending the complexities and nuances of constructing and nurturing high-performing inside sales teams.

As a business owner or manager, you know that hiring the wrong person is the most costly mistake you can make. - Brian Tracy

Hiring the right sales representatives is crucial for the success of any sales team. But, many founders struggle with this process, often hiring and hoping for the best. This leads to inconsistent sales reps, high turnover, and a bunch of questions about the leaders' decision-making.   

If you can't trust your hiring, you'll never have total confidence in your ability to scale your team properly. That's why you can't rely on anything less than a structured, repeatable process that you can apply whenever you need to add to your sales team. 

How To Hire Top Performers for Sales 

Step #1: Create an Ideal Candidate Profile

We use a tool called the Ideal Candidate Profiler, that looks like this:

The aim here is to outline exactly who you're looking for. Do they have experience in the space? Have they sold to this persona or company type before? Do they have experience with your type of sales motion? Are you looking for someone with a book of business that they'll bring over to your company?

Once you have a clear idea of the skills, motivation, adaptability, experience, and network attributes that you're looking for, you can use the Ideal Candidate Profiler to make sure the people you're interviewing actually are a good fit.

If you skip this step, you might find yourself talking to wonderfully charming, interesting people - but you'll quickly get away from your plan and potentially build an imbalanced team that doesn't match your actual needs. 

Step #2: Use an Objective Candidate Evaluation Framework

We developed a framework that we call "S.P.A.R.C.", which stands for:

  • Success: Do they have a successful track record?
  • Positivity: Are they upbeat and generally positive?
  • Articulation: Can they explain things clearly, both verbally and in writing?
  • Relevance: How relevant is their background/values?
  • Coachability: Can they take feedback well? 

Depending on the role that we're hiring for, we'll create a weighted scoring system.

When you score the candidate, you can use scores from 1 - 4 for each S.P.A.R.C. category. 

A score of 1 would mean they're in the bottom 50%. 

A score of 2 would mean they're in the top 50%. 

A score of 3 would mean they're in the top 20%.

A score of 4 would mean they're in the top 10%. 

You then take each person's score and average it (remember, this is a weighted average that the spreadsheet will handle for you!). If the candidate scores below a 3, they do not move forward. Here's what the S.P.A.R.C. framework looks like:

When we're hiring salespeople, we generally look for four green flags:

1: They've sold in your industry.

2: They've sold to your specific buyer persona(s).

3: They sold a similar product or with a similar selling motion.

4: They have a history of high performance.

If you find someone who meets these criteria, you probably have a great candidate on your hands who's worth talking to. 

Step #3: Have a Structured Interview Process

Here's what our process looks like at a high level:

And here's a little more detail about the steps in the flowchart: 

1: Start with an email screening test: This can be as simple as "PS hit reply and change the subject line to your name, so that you show up at the top of our inbox". If they don't do this, they're out - it's a basic way to screen for attention to detail. 

2: Review their resume: This is a basic check that they seem like a good match.

3: Follow up with a phone screening: Here's where you can use the Ideal Candidate Profiler above.

4: Next, give them a writing exercise: We like to ask a candidate to pick 3 potential customers for our product/services and write a brief paragraph explaining why they'd be a good fit. 

5: Pick a path based on the role you're hiring for: If you're dealing with AEs, a mock presentation is a great way to see how they think. SDRs, meanwhile, can go straight to main interviews if they seem like a fit so far. 

6: Conduct main interviews: Get 3 people from your team to interview each person, using the S.P.A.R.C. framework for scoring. People who score lower than 3 are eliminated from the process.

7: Check references: You'll usually get a bunch of positive feedback from the contact person, so this is a chance for you to learn more about how they work and if they'd be a good cultural fit for your team.  

8: Negotiate terms & hire: If they've gotten this far, congrats! You're ready to add them to the team and get them onboarded. You can use our Sales Compensation Model to figure out the numbers that would make sense for your team. 

Step #4: Use the Right Interview Questions

There are endless "great" questions that you can use in an interview, but here are a bunch of our favorites (feel free to use this, edit them, or add your own): 

Q1) How much time do you spend cultivating customer relationships versus hunting for new clients? What's the philosophy behind the breakdown?

Q2) What do you think our company/sales organization could do better?

Q3) Tell me about something interesting you have learned recently.

Q4) Have you ever had a losing streak? How did you turn it around?

Q5) Explain the steps you take, from the beginning of the sales process to the end.

Q6) You have spoken to person A and person B. I'm curious, from your perspective, what do you think they will be most excited about with you as a candidate, and what do you think their biggest concern will be?

The aim with all of these questions is to learn how they think, how they'd fit with your team, and how they'd perform in the face of the many different challenges that come with sales. 

The more candidates you speak to using a structured, repeatable process, the better you'll get at identifying the right sales talent for the right sales positions. 

The Three Poisons That Kill Sales Teams

Let's call out the fact that many teams are simply not set up for success. A talented sales rep with a lot of potential and a great attitude can quickly be held back by three things that "poison" many sales teams.

Poison #1: The Individual Sales Reps Don't Know What They Need To Be Successful

When new team members join your sales organization, you need to have a clear way to communicate exactly what you expect them to accomplish and how you expect them to hit these goals. 

That means having a strong onboarding plan for new reps and a clear sales playbook that is easy to read, digest, and reference in the future. 

Poison #2: The Leadership Team Doesn't Use Data to Effectively Enable Their Reps 

You might hire the perfect sales rep with a ton of potential, but if you don't plug them into a data-driven system, you'll quickly stunt their growth and handicap their performance. 

The best sales managers and leaders will create an environment for reps to thrive with clear feedback loops, specific sales metrics to own, and a strong balance of training and coaching. Your reps deserve nothing less than this to give them a fair shot at performing at a high level.

Poison #3: There's a Culture That Tolerates Poor Performance

Lastly, many sales teams develop a culture that allows - and therefore enables - poor performance. If you hire salespeople into this sort of environment, it's unfair to expect a new rep to suddenly transform your company's culture. 

You need to make sure that you're bringing new sales reps into a situation that's positive, transparent, and has healthy competition. On an individual level, each rep needs to know that they have a clear path to development and growth.

The consequences of hiring the wrong person for a sales role

Hiring the wrong person for a sales role can have severe consequences for your company. It can lead to wasted time and money, as well as a negative impact on your company culture. 

When you plug the wrong person into a complex system like a sales process, it can make you question everything. Is the problem the person you hired? The tools you've given them? Something about your product or service?

If you're not confidently adding the right people to your team, it can make even a great product and a strong process look shaky. 

Keep in mind that sales jobs are notoriously volatile as sales professionals can often change jobs relatively easily. If you have a high-performing sales rep choose to leave your team and join another company, can you replace that person?

Here at Vouris, we often talk about how many founders' hiring processes are just "hire and hope". You hire someone...and HOPE they happen to work out - but that's not the way to approach building a professional sales team that's expected to grow your company, right?!

Ready to Hire Top Performers?

Now that you know our four-step process to identify and hire great sales reps, get out there and get started! You can download the tools mentioned above, along with all of our other free sales resources below:

{{download-all}}

  • Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod