The best candidate for your open sales position may not be a salesperson. These six tips can help you recruit a non-traditional sales hire.

Having a strategy for hiring the most talented salespeople possible should be a cornerstone of any B2B-focused organization that hopes to grow reliably and serve their customers with distinction. Great salespeople can be responsible for driving revenue and shaping core components of the customer experience.
In order to reach a wider pool of available talent, leaders may find it helpful to look beyond those who have previous sales experience. Many talented individuals from other careers are drawn by the opportunities presented in B2B sales, and there are several ways to identify candidates who have manifest potential without the aid of previous experience.

1. Think of the interview process as their first sales opportunity.

The interview process itself shares many similarities with the sales process. It’s an interaction between two interested parties, each with something to offer the other (i.e. a solution to a problem and remuneration for that solution), who are trying to determine if their respective offerings are mutually beneficial.

“Encourage your current employees to refer candidates from outside of the sales profession, and even consider offering incentives for successful hires.”

If you are able to find candidates who navigate the interview process effectively, they may be successful in translating these skills into the sales realm when the time comes. By evaluating factors such as preparedness, engagement, attention to detail and ability to ask relevant questions, you can identify candidates who have never sold professionally before, yet who have just proven that they can sell their potential in an interview setting.

2. Inquire about referrals from your current employees.

Ideally, you currently have a team of salespeople whose judgement you trust and who have built up robust personal and professional networks. Sales professionals, especially, tend to excel at maintaining and growing their networks, and they typically encompass people from a diverse variety of backgrounds. Better yet, your current salespeople know exactly what kinds of skills and attributes are required in order to exceed expectations within your organization. Take the opportunity to encourage your current employees to refer candidates from outside of the sales profession, and even consider offering incentives for successful hires.

3. Place a premium on culture fit.

How a potential salesperson fits into the organizational culture can be a crucial factor in the hiring process, but it can become even more important in the absence of traditional sales experience. Turnover related to poor culture fit may cost a company a lot of money. Skills, habits and technological tools can be taught through rigorous training, but the aspects of a candidate’s personality that cause them to either align with or deviate from your organization’s core culture are much more ingrained.

4. Create engaging job postings.

If you’re going to seek out the best potential employees through traditional cold methods, such as job boards, you have to give the most talented candidates a compelling reason to notice you.
Candidates who are uniquely motivated to give up the comfort of their known position and try something completely different may be likely to respond to engaging job description copy that lets them know that your organization prizes intuition, adaptability, trustworthiness and eagerness, even in the absence of formal sales experience.

5. Prioritize candidates who excel at learning new technology.

Many companies misguidedly include required software programs as part of their sales position advertisements. Of course, you don’t want to have to teach a new hire how to use a basic operating system or open a spreadsheet, but there’s very little that is served by requiring a candidate to have previous experience with your specific CRM or sales-acceleration software. When you’re attracting the kind of high-quality candidates that you should be seeking out, they should have the ability to quickly become comfortable with new technological tools after a modest hands-on training period. Additionally, your technological solutions are going to change eventually, and having sales professionals on board who have demonstrated that they can adapt quickly can benefit you in the long-term.

6. Keep your salaries competitive.

There’s a tendency among many business leaders to view hiring a sales rep from outside of the profession as an opportunity to cut costs on salary, using the candidate’s lack of specific experience as a justification for the reduced compensation. The concept, “compensation commensurate with experience” generally doesn’t benefit the candidates or the organization when you’re searching outside of the traditional sales bubble, as it usually generates a pool of lower-quality applicants. If you want to find talented individuals who have the potential to excel in sales despite a lack of experience in the profession, decide how much you can afford to pay for a new sales rep—and stick with it.

Author: Danny Wong
Marketing @, Tenfold

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