Hiring Salespeople – How to, Tips, Q&A with Marten Runow

The role of salesperson is one of the most hired for and evaluated positions in our Performia system. Here we share more data through a Q&A interview with Marten Runow, Performia International Founder.

1. Is there any standard data to help with hiring sales people?

Absolutely. Salespeople are special to deal with in hiring as they are normally more experienced and sometimes more interested in presenting themselves. This makes the job for the Hiring Manager more challenging as you might run into sales people who are extremely good in making a good impression while in fact they’re not that good in selling products or services. 

That is why you need a hiring strategy with sales people that is looking much deeper than just how well the person presents him or herself. When it comes to what test results are most important for sales we need to understand that there are a huge number of different sales jobs. 

A salesperson who functions well in one sales job might be a catastrophe in another sales job. To give an example of this, imagine a salesperson who works in an airport electronic shop. He sells very well and can get customers to quickly make a decision and buy. However, this sales person’s ability to focus and plan over a long time is very limited. However, in the airport shop he does not need a lot of focus or planning as each client will either buy right now or not at all. 

Imagine that you need a salesperson who will sell huge computer systems to big corporations. If that person cannot focus and persist, he or she will never become successful in that job as a normal sales cycle might take 6-12 months if not even longer. 

A successful salesperson in one job can be a failure in another sales job. And there are very many different sales jobs that all can have different challenges and difficulties and thus you need to know what are the critical criteria in THIS particular sales job. When you know that, then you can get a lot more use of testing when you hire sales people.  

2. What are your experiences with testing and finding (hiring) salespeople?

We have hired a lot of salespeople in Sweden and we have a very high success rate due to that we know what personal features and abilities to look for in each special case. 

For example, some sales jobs have a lot of routine like when you work as a sales person in a clothing store or one selling bread to supermarkets, compared to the salesperson who needs to contact and meet totally new and different prospects in their offices to then do product demonstrations and close the deal there. 

In that type of job there is normally much less routine and sales people who “must have routines” will  have a difficult time there as well as sales people who like new challenges and hate routine will normally not be long-lived in a clothing store.     

3. Is there any trait which shouldn’t be missing connected with a salesperson?   

Generally one can say all sales people handle people through communication most of all so if you want ONE trait I would say that sales people need a good communication ability. However, depending what product or service they sell, what competition there is, what the complexity of the product is, how much pressure clients push to get lower prices the salesperson gets and many other factors, you might need many other good traits to be able to really produce at a high level over a longer time.       

4. What shouldn’t be missing from a Sales Director?

When we look at those who should manage sales people the most important trait is the ability to really understand each individual salesperson quickly. Thus we see that great Sales Managers generally have a very good ability in creating agreement and we see this in the trait called “Correct Estimation”.      

5. What is the feeling about salespeople? Sometimes there can be a negative connotation to the role for example with insurance agents.

It is interesting that sales people in many countries often have a bad reputation. That is why we sometimes see that instead of calling oneself “salesperson” they use the things like I am a “Consultant”, “Representative” or “Product Specialist” to denote that one is a serious person. 

However, if we really look at it, sales is necessary to spread new ideas, to get better products being used in the market and developing cultures. The salesperson is an important person and when we look at really successful sales people they normally have a strong intention to help people and that is actually what salespeople do – help people take good and survival decisions they otherwise would not be able or willing to take at all or as fast as they can do with the help from a sales person.       

6. Is it hard to find a really good salesperson? What are the best salespeople looking for?

Yes, it is some of the hardest positions to fill but it depends a lot on how you present the job in the hiring ad. The best salespeople and the ones that make the most income are normally not motivated by just making money. The best salespeople are interested in helping people and thus they look for products and services where they see that they actually can do that. 

Companies who mainly promote that they will potentially pay a lot to their sales people will interestingly enough have a much harder time to locate great salespeople compared to those companies who promote that they are looking for sales people who are interested in helping their clients and prospects achieve more success.       

7. Do companies in Sweden insist on several years of experience?

Yes they often ask for long experience but it is quite often a mistake.    

Experience can be of two kinds: Positive or Negative. Just having “experience” is not enough. And “no experience” is actually much better than negative experience. Some people learn very fast and simply don’t need much experience to do a good job. Some learn very slowly and could have trouble learning a new product or service even with long “experience”. So, I normally consider it to be a mistake to ask for experience in the hiring ad as it can disqualify people  who you actually could hire very successfully.      

8. What role does motivation play in the good results of salespeople?    

It plays a big role. As I mentioned before, the best motivation in sales people is when they “love to help people” and when they really do, selling actually becomes quite easy and effective and gives the salesperson a good income over time. 

When the motivation is only “I want to make money” you can get sales people who don’t care much for their clients and who can say or do anything to get a sale. That is one of the fastest ways to lose clients and sales and eventually you might see that the salesperson loses his interest in selling anything completely.      

9. Do you have any great tips for motivating salespeople which definitely works?

Use targets! Not just on the amount of sales done but on what we call “sub statistics”. It is an interesting fact that increased sales activities give more and higher sales results. Setting targets for your sales people that they should reach like x number of meetings per week, can really not only increase the number of meetings but as well the sales amount. And make it into a game! The size of the “prize” is not the most important. Have you ever been running like mad after a football game just because you played a game? If yes, I think you can see that it was the game and winning that was most important for motivation, not necessarily the size of the medal.    


Learn more tips and how to improve your hiring and business results by booking a completely obligation-free Performia Discovery.

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