Hiring the right salesperson for your company is rarely easy. A sales recruit may impress you in the interview with the gift of gab but not be able to close once hired. He may have been good at selling something else, but not your product. Yet more than with any other position, the future of your company rests on making the right choice. So how do you tell if you are making the best hire both during and after the interview process?

  1. Know the difference between service and sales. The two concepts are very different. Someone who is good at service focuses on being kind, on being reactive, and on answering the customer's questions. Someone who is good at sales focuses on being curious, on being proactive, and on asking the customer questions. Putting a service person in a selling position will never lead to sales.
  2. Monitor how well the recruit listens. The general population thinks selling is about talking. Truly successful salespeople know that selling is, first and foremost, about listening. Sales happen easily and quickly when the salesperson poses specific questions that help the customer to explain what she is looking for and carefully heeds the response. If you have a talker on your hands, you have the wrong person on your team.
  3. Find out if the recruit is a goal-setter. A great salesperson always has his eye on the prize. If your recruit can't tell you what targets he is aiming for in very specific terms (ie. number of customers contacted, new accounts closed, revenues generated, etc), he is not going to be a success. Any worthwhile recruit should be able to set goals for himself, and not wait for you to give him the goals.
  4. Observe the new hire's organizational skills. Sales are lost before they can be won 9 times out of 10 because they fall through the cracks: a lead is misplaced, a call doesn't happen when it should, etc. If your new hire wants to "make his own system" before he learns what works and doesn't in your already existing system, cut him loose.
  5. Track the new recruit's follow-up initiatives. The person you want in sales is the guy who follows up on anything and everything right away. B players will set a call-back for next month instead of next week, or figure it doesn't matter that he responds on Thursday to something he promised a customer on Tuesday. Sales don't happen on their own. People make them happen.
  6. Evaluate quality as much as quantity. Sales is always about matching the right person with the right product. If your recruit is suggesting things in a one-size-fits-all style, you've got a problem. Take the time read his emails to prospects, to listen in to his outreach calls, and to sit with your recruit in his client meetings. Is he being specific and substantive or schmoozy and vague? This is the only way to confirm the quality of his interactions with your customers.

Don't be dazzled by a lot of big talk and pie-in-the-sky promises prospective hires often use when trying to get hired. Successful sales people are all about quietly delivering, not about dramatic pledges.