How to Hire a Sales Person (Part 2)


How to Hire a Sales Person
For an early-stage technology company

By Joe Payne
Part 2

In our previous post on How to Hire a Sales Person (Part 1), we began by understanding your selling environment – this includes your prospects’ buying environment plus your approach. Then, we took a look at your organizational environment. In this post, we will discuss screening and qualification of sales candidates: how to determine the effectiveness of a potential sales candidate, followed by understanding their selling style and organizational preferences.

Step Three: Screening.
Below is what we call the “Magic Grid” – we usually send this to sales candidates to complete and return.

For the past 3 years:

2010 2009 2008
 Sales Volume ($)  $  $  $
 % of Quota  %  %  %
 Deals (#)
 Base salary ($)  $  $  $
W-2 ($K)  $  $  $
 Rank Among Peers

What is “magic” about this grid? We have found that the really good sales people can’t wait to tell you their numbers – and the really bad sales people are never heard from again. This saves a lot of time in qualifying candidates. Like they say about the stock market: While past success is no predictor of future success, it is our most reliable indicator. We usually look for a track record of success, i.e. above quota performance and/or a high ranking among their peers.

Qualification of sales candidates will consist of two parts: understanding their selling style and their organizational preferences.

Step Four: Understand the sales candidate’s selling style.

  • What does he/she sell?
  • Is it a product or a service?
  • Is it something the buyer has purchased previously? Is it new but similar to something purchased previously? Is it completely new, not like anything purchased previously?
  • Is it sold (or positioned) as a solution?
  • Who is their buyer?
  • What is their target market?
  • Who within their prospect organization is the decision maker?
  • Who are the influencers within their prospect organization?
  • Who has veto authority?
  • What is the price of their product or service?
  • Is it expensive or inexpensive for their target market and buyer?
  • What is the length of their usual sales cycle?
  • What is their sales territory?
  • Are leads provided or are they responsible for developing their own leads?
  • Does he/she work independently or as part of a team (e.g. are there separate sales support, subject matter experts, and proposal writers)?

Step Five: Outline the organizational preferences of the sales candidate.

  • In what size organization are they most comfortable?
  • What size selling team do they prefer?
  • Do they prefer an organization that is more structured or one that is more entrepreneurial?
  • How well defined is their sales process (definition of prospect stages, reporting, reviews, etc.)?

You can gather this information through insightful interview questions. Here are a few examples:

  • Tell me about an organization where you were highly successful.
  • What was the size of the sales organization?
  • How was it organized?
  • What did you enjoy most about that situation?
  • What would you like to have changed about that situation?

In our first installment, we went through the steps to help understand your selling and organizational environments. This time, we covered screening and qualification of potential sales candidates. Next time we will put the two together to determine “fit” between the candidate and your organization.

Joe Payne ( is Managing Director of Integra Search, an Atlanta-based retained search and recruiting consulting firm that serves early-stage technology companies. Joe estimates that he has conducted over 12,000 interviews in his 25 year career in search.

Copyright 2011 by Integra Search, Inc.

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