How to Hire Sales Professionals

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Sales is not an easy job. It's stressful. People are inclined to not want to listen to a salesperson. And usually they work on commission, so the bullpen in an office can be cutthroat either overtly or silently. It's rough. I know because I have many friends who work in sales and also have worked alongside them in my days as editors of various publications.

But, you know, the world can't really live without them. How else will we hear about new ideas and products and get hooked on the most salient details to help turn the signal-to-noise ratio in the consumers' favor?

That's why it helps to know how to hire a fantastic salesperson for your company. So, where do you begin?

"Never hire a salesperson that doesn't have a solid previous track record of sales success," said Austin Jackson, CEO of Zuram Group, a web consultancy. "You don't have time to take chances when you're looking for quick results."

Jackson also added that hiring people with connections is helpful, since they'll be able to start generating leads right away. Also, Jackson says you should ask a potential hire a strange question: "When making a sale, you have to be able to handle any question that comes at you. Asking [if they've] ever climbed a mountain over 3,000 feet… will help you judge how they can respond to requests even if they don't know quite what the answer is."

On the other hand, just because you want quick results doesn't mean you should be hasty in your hiring. By waiting, you have the luxury of finding the right candidate and not just any candidate. Even though there's technically nothing ethically wrong with "poaching" a salesperson from a competing company, something to remember is that many sales professionals have to sign a non-compete agreements with their employers to prevent this very thing. Otherwise, your competition could just as easily snag your prized personnel as well.

Anyone who's seen Mad Men knows that sales people -- or at least the most successful ones -- are confident, not easily thrown and are social creatures. They enjoy being around people and can charm just about anyone they meet, and not in a sleazy or false way. Even if you think you've found someone who fits that description, it can still take a good six months or so before significant results can be seen.

And you can't get those results if you don't support your staff. "They aren't marketers so don't expect them to design quality sales materials," said Tom Armour, the co-founder of High Return Selection. "They will also need administrative sales support to keep track of customer requirements and the order process."

If it's taking you a while, though, don't get discouraged. "Sales professionals are typically the most difficult people to hire as they are often highly skilled in assessing the person sitting across the table and providing positive responses," added Armour.

"Entrepreneurs need to know whether they are looking to hire a sales person to just sell their offerings, or someone who will not only sell their products but also do so from the point of view of helping build a sales organization, contribute to defining a sales process and develop an overall sales strategy," said Cynthia Kocialski, a start-up business consultant and mentor. " Most start-ups really want the later, but focus their hiring on the former."

If all of this is having your head spin, and Kocialski says it might if you don't have a sales background you should attend a sales workshop to get exposed to the sales process and how the system works. "Until they understand sales," Kocialski says, "they will not be able to hire the right sales person."

Besides, how can you really be the manager of someone whose job you don't even understand?  

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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