People ask me all of the time, “Why do you like recruiting sales people”? Recruiting sales people has been documented as one of the toughest professions to recruit. I guess in a simple answer, it takes one to know one. I am a sales person.

There isn’t much I haven’t heard or haven’t seen in my career as a recruiter and sales person. I have heard just about every spin on the word “lay off” as you can imagine. I have heard every excuse for not hitting quota. I have heard candidates change the topic to avoid answering the direct question. Yes, sales people are called silver tong devils for a reason.

Here is the thing. I do not do tech recruiting. I don’t understand it, nor claim to understand it. I get the big picture, but I don’t understand how to code Java or C++. I would rather get in a boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather than recruit software development professionals. I know I am going to get my ass kicked either way.

I’m not alone, but I am a minority of the recruiters out there. In Austin, I would say most of the recruiters I know are tech recruiters. It is the hottest industry and tech talent is highly sought after.

The problem with recruiting sales people is that if you aren’t careful, the sales people can convince recruiters that they may have the skills or background to do something that they aren’t capable of doing. It may feel like going to buy a car at a car lot and getting sold a lemon by a someone who is really good at convincing you to buy a car. Managers get frustrated when the sales people hired don’t deliver what they said they would.

Here is what it takes to successfully muddle through all of the muck to get the right sales people. It seems simple, but these questions don’t get asked often enough. Ask directly, and stay on track.

  1. What was your W2 at your last job? – Lets cut through the BS. I don’t care what your “on target earnings” were last year! I care about what you actually made. I want to know your base salary, your on target earnings and what percentage of your quota you actually hit. Yes, I will ask for your W2 if I feel you aren’t telling the truth
  2. What are you looking for in your next role?- As much as we want to hire the right individual, they want to be hired by the RIGHT COMPANY. Ask open ended questions. A sales person needs to be SOLD! They need to understand the value of the company you are selling and why it is the right role for THEM!!
  3. How do you find your Prospects? This tells a lot about the candidate. Almost all sales people cold call. If someone doesn’t want to cold call and won’t roll up their sleeves to do the hard work that selling entails, then you don’t need to hire that individual. There are Account Managers and “Farmers” who build relationships, but even those require calls. No one is above cold calling in sales.
  4. What would it take for you to make a change?- The great thing about sales people is that they return your calls. Sales individuals need to know what the bottom line number is so the candidate and recruiter aren’t wasting each others’ time. If the candidate’s ideal salary is s far below what the salary pays, then you may find out they are unqualified for the role.
  5. Do you work better alone or with direction? There are a ton of remote based opportunities available today. Some managers are very hands off. Other managers require detailed documentation. You need to make sure you are hiring the right person for the role and setting them up for success with the right manager expectations for them.
  6. Why did you leave this company? Sales people usually have expiration dates. They get tired of the management, the quota, or even selling the product. It is rare that you find someone who has been with the same organization for a decade. The main thing I am looking for here is a pattern. If someone leaves every year, then the issue is not the company!
  7. Do you have any questions for me? This is so important. If the candidate has no questions, then they appear to be “just going through the motions”, are uninterested, or really needing A job, not THE job.
  8. Who is the the best salesperson you know? I always like throwing this curveball at my candidates. I want to find out in their mind what makes a good salesperson. They will have to articulate to you what makes someone better than the average sales rep.

So, in conclusion, hiring sales people is an art, but it is my passion. It’s a dance, but it makes a hell of a lot more sense than tech recruiting in my mind.