9 Smart Questions Successful Sales Managers Ask Before Recruiting Salespeople

Successful sales managers know how to hire right and build a sales team. I get calls every day about hiring salespeople. I always respond with: Describe the sales role please. Many times they will struggle with defining the specific details of the sales role for which they are hiring. A salesperson may perform exceedingly well in one type of sales role and fail miserably in another. Defining your sales role first is critical to the hiring process. If it’s not well defined, then you’ve got a really good chance of hiring salespeople that are set up for failure.

Here are nine (9) questions successful sales managers ask and answer before they begin recruiting:

1. Is this a Hunter or Farmer sales job?

One of the biggest differentiators between sales jobs is the responsibility of acquiring new accounts versus managing existing accounts. In general, Hunters acquire new accounts. Farmers maintain existing accounts. There are far more Farmers in the world of professional selling than Hunters. Why? Because acquiring new customers is harder to do and requires additional skills that are not necessary in account management sales roles. Hiring salespeople with the Hunter or Farmer traits that align with the role is a must for success. Never attempt to hire an Account Manager (Farmer styled sales rep) for a Hunter role. The probability for success is slim. You need the right type of sales rep in the right role.

2. Who generates the leads?

If you have a Hunter sales role (new customer acquisition), the next question is “Who is responsible for generating the leads?” There are two basic categories:

  • Self-Generated Leads – These require the sales rep to build a list, make first contact, and nurture a lead along until a first appointment can be made.
  • Company-Generated Leads – These leads are provided by the company through things like advertising, marketing, or a call center. Regardless of the methods, the company provides the leads to the sales rep.

In some cases, the company provides some leads and also required the sales rep to generate some on their own. Be explicitly clear about your expectations when it comes to lead volume – how many should come from the sales rep and how many will the company  provide? Ambiguity leads to unmet expectations.

3. Who services/maintains the new account?

In this sales role, does the sales rep hand-off the new account they just landed to an Account Manager? Or, is the sales rep who landed the account now required to service it?

Either way, you must be absolutely clear about this. Some top performers don’t manage accounts. They spend all their time hunting for new business. In other cases, top performers want to manage existing accounts in order to leverage referrals and gain new accounts from their relationships. Again, define this clearly before you make an offer to your sales candidate.Ideal Profile for Hiring Outside Sales Reps

4. How much travel is required, if any?

Travel can be the deciding factor for many salespeople. Some salespeople love it and others refuse to do it. Some cannot tolerate being in an office and others find the routine and bonding relationships of an office environment motivating. In addition, you need to factor in the type of travel – day trips, overnights by car, long trips by plane, etc. You also need to consider the frequency of travel – twice a year, once a month, every week, etc. Spell out your expectations for your sales candidate so they can make an informed decision about their travel obligations. They don’t want unexpected surprises that will affect their personal life.

5. How much sales admin work does this job require?

Successful sales managers minimize the admin work of their sales reps. Excessive admin work and data entry erode valuable selling time. Many sales leaders (after implementing elaborate CRM systems) drain sales reps of precious selling time by forcing them to become data entry clerks. For an inside call center sales rep, this is not an issue since they typically do their data entry while on the phone. For more complex selling jobs, a sales support admin person is worth their weight in gold. You want your salespeople selling, not being expensive secretaries.

6. At what location will the salesperson work?

The location of a sales rep’s office can greatly impact their performance. Will your sales rep be located in a:

  • Central office –  The entire sales team works in the main company office under the direct supervision of a sales leader.
  • Satellite office – A geographically dispersed office that may or may not have a sales leader present.
  • Home office – The salesperson works alone requiring a higher level of self-starting ability and more entrepreneurial drive.
  • No office – Similar to the entrepreneurial sales rep, they have the added challenge of managing a lot of travel. Their office is their laptop and mobile device… wherever they may be. This requires an extremely high level of self-management to be successful.

7. How is the compensation plan weighted?

Is this sales position’s compensation plan weighted more towards commissions or base salary? The higher the commissions, the more economically motivated a salesperson must be to acquire those commissions. If not, they will rely more on a base salary. If your sales role has a lower base and a higher commission, be wary of salespeople who focus too much on base-salary questions during the interview. Typically, top performing hunters like a compensation plan more heavily weighted on commissions.

8. How will this salesperson be managed?

Successful sales managers know how to manage their reps based on the individual and the role. Will they be under close supervision of a sales manager or do they call their sales manager only when they need them? There is a big difference between having a sales manager who conducts weekly sales meetings with the team versus a hands off approach. Be sure that you take into consideration the demands on a salesperson who is alone in a territory and the high level of self management required to do the job well. Hiring salespeople with a strong motivation for independence and self-starting ability are essential for remote sales reps. An in-depth sales assessment will help you identify if your candidate posses those traits.

9. How will this salesperson sell?

Do they engage in a team sell – or are they on their own? Will they require a sales manager assist for big deals? Is this a technical sale that requires technical experts to participate in the sales process? Be sure to accurately and realistically define for the salesperson what the job requires through each step of the entire sales process. During the hiring phase, you’ve got to explain it to them clearly so that they fully understand your expectations.

Different answers to these questions lead to different types of sales roles – even within the same organization. Your answers to these questions will help to define the type of salesperson to fill this role. Once you’ve defined the nature of the sales role, you’ll have the foundation for what you need to identify the right person to be successful in that role. This is not always easy nor does everyone always agree on the nonnegotiables required for the role. However, getting as many of these questions answered will clear up a lot of confusion later. Remember, salespeople like clearly defined expectations – not fuzzy directives that constantly change.

Do yourself, your organization and your existing reps a favor by going through this list before you start hiring salespeople. You’ll be glad you did.