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  • Writer's pictureAJ Cheponis

How to Hire Top Salespeople: A Seven-Step Process

Hiring good people is tricky. Hiring good salespeople is even trickier. Sales professionals spend their days being interviewed by prospects and customers, making them adept at presenting themselves. They know what to say and how to say it to capture your attention.

After interviewing over 3,000 sales professionals for various roles in companies ranging from small family businesses to private equity-backed firms and even Fortune 500 companies, I’ve learned that an ideal hiring process exists and should be used to ensure sales hiring success.

Adopting this seven-step hiring process will significantly improve your ability to identify and attract top sales talent. You will have a step-by-step evaluation method that will greatly reduce the chances of a bad hire, enhancing your confidence as a sales leader.

Just as you follow a step-by-step process to close a sale, you need a proven hiring process for building your sales team.


Sales Superstar

Hiring the Right Way

Hiring sales professionals involves seven prescribed steps, requiring input from multiple stakeholders. The only rule is: You can’t skip a step.

The order of the steps is crucial. Each step is designed to prevent bad hires. Follow the process, and you’ll improve your ability to hire top performers.

If you’re worried that a process will slow you down, remember this: Your responsibility to hire the right candidate supersedes any responsibility to hire quickly. To accelerate the process, shorten the time between each step.


How to Hire Top Salespeople: A Seven-Step Process

Here are the seven steps to hire the ideal salesperson:


  1. PI Behavioral Assessment

  2. Résumé Review

  3. Human Resources (HR) Interview

  4. Written Assessment

  5. Video Conference Interview

  6. Cognitive Assessment

  7. Business Plan and Pitch

This rigorous and thorough screening and selection process honors your responsibility to preserve the winning sales culture you’ve worked hard to create. It’s not enough to hire talented sales professionals; you must hire the best talent that fits your culture. Follow this process even for internal or referred candidates.


1. PI Behavioral Assessment

Among all personality assessments, The Predictive Index stands out for sales teams. Its Behavioral Assessment™ allows you to create a Job Target, detailing ideal characteristics and behavioral traits for each sales role. Candidates can then be matched and ranked on a scale of 1-10. Conduct this assessment first to identify potential talent that might not be immediately apparent from a résumé. The PI Assessment takes less than 5 minutes to complete and has been validated hundreds of times, ensuring its accuracy and reliability.


2. Résumé Review

All candidates must submit a résumé and provide references. An HR team member will review all new résumés without excluding candidates based on experience alone. This ensures you don’t overlook potential talent who may have strong behavioral fits for the role, even if they have limited or no sales experience.


HR will look for:


  • Numerical examples (e.g., quota attainment, sales rankings)

  • Exceptional accomplishments (e.g., ranked No.1 rep of the year)

HR will then send candidates with sales distinctions to the sales manager for review. Look beyond roles and responsibilities; focus on what the candidate accomplished.

A good résumé doesn’t read like this: Managed the largest territory for the genetics division. It reads like this: Grew sales by 135% in assigned accounts from 2017–2019, or Voted 2019 Sales Professional of the Year for best sales results on the team.

Provide feedback to HR quickly, ideally within 24 hours, as top sales talent won’t stay on the market long.


3. The 30-Minute HR Interview

HR starts the hiring process with a quick “get-to-know-you” initial phone screen. Conducted by an HR team member with you mainly listening, this step identifies potential winners based on structured questions. Key questions include:


  • What are you currently reading or studying to improve your craft?

  • What time does your day start and end?

  • Why our company?

  • What are you absolutely the best at?

Evaluate the candidate’s responses based on their alignment with the role’s requirements and cultural fit.


4. Written Assessment

The goal of the written assessment is to see how a candidate thinks and expresses their thoughts. Can they think and write clearly? Forward a set of questions to the candidate and ask for responses within 48 hours. Sample questions:


  • Why do you want to work with us?

  • What is the most generous thing your current company or a previous employer has done for you?

  • What is the most outside-the-box idea you have had in your professional career? What were the results?

5. Video Conference Interview

The video conference interview, conducted by the sales leader, is where you’ll learn the most about a candidate. This hour-long interview is broken into four sections:


  • Rapid fire Q&A (10 minutes)

  • Interview questions (30 minutes)

  • Presentation of the role (10 minutes)

  • Candidate questions (10 minutes)

The main objective is to see how the candidate handles discomfort, as selling is an uncomfortable job. The rapid-fire section should provoke discomfort, revealing how they respond under pressure.


Evaluate whether the candidate is presentable, understands technology, engages and asks questions, is conversational, and can softly close by asking to continue the conversation with your company.


6. Cognitive Assessment

This step ensures the candidate won't struggle in the fast-paced role of sales. The cognitive assessment measures the speed of learning and the speed of application. Studies have shown a strong correlation between high cognitive ability and high sales performance. This assessment provides insights into the candidate’s ability to quickly grasp new information and apply it effectively in their role.


7. Business Plan and Pitch

This final stage of the interview process is crucial. For many sales teams, virtual meetings have become the norm. Decide if this interview should be in-person or virtual based on your sales process and the type of seller you need. Evaluate the candidate’s ability to create and present a business plan and pitch, assessing their readiness to thrive in your sales environment.


The High Cost of a Wrong Hire

The High Cost of a Wrong Hire

Getting the sales hire wrong can be debilitating. The costs associated with a mis-hire extend far beyond salary. Consider the impact on team morale, the lost sales opportunities, and the time and resources spent on training and onboarding. A wrong hire can set back your entire team’s performance and damage client relationships. The true cost of a mis-hire can be as much as 2.5 times the individual's salary. In a competitive sales environment, you simply can't afford to make mistakes.


Next Steps: Training Your New Hires

After successfully hiring raw talent, the next crucial phase is training. Whether through internal programs or outsourced sales training, ensuring your new hires receive comprehensive training is essential. Proper training helps integrate new team members, align them with your sales processes, and equip them with the skills they need to succeed.


Call to Action

Don't leave your sales success to chance. Implementing this seven-step hiring process will help you consistently identify and hire top sales talent. Ready to transform your hiring strategy and build a high-performing sales team? Contact us today to learn how our proven methods and tools can give you the competitive edge you need. Let's find the diamonds in the rough and ensure your team is stacked with top performers!

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