How to Identify Your Next Top Seller

Salespeople have a difficult job. Succeeding each day takes discipline, focus, training and constant self-critiquing to achieve the greatest success possible.

But before you can start to achieve that success in your organization, I can tell you from personal experience that what can be even harder is recruiting good sales people.

I tell our recruiters and clients alike that identifying top sales talent is a mix of process, experience and a certain amount of intuition in the interview. The tough part about interviewing a sales person is this: even a mediocre sales person has one product that they know inside and out. They’ve been selling it a long time and they can lull us to sleep as they pitch it. That product is themselves!

Weeding through the good and the mediocre takes a combination of trust and vigilance in using different tools. Here are a few things we keep in mind our 22-step assessment process to make sure we make the best hire possible.


1. Referrals are worthless.

Where do they come from? The candidate. As a candidate, would you ever give me the contact information of a referral you don’t already know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, will give you good marks? The obvious answer is no. We use referrals simply to verify work experience and not talent.

2. Use situational questions and selling scenarios.

The use of a more structured interview process can increase the likelihood of creating valid comparisons between candidates and level which ones will work and those that may not in a certain sales scenario.

3. Ask questions around goals and objectives.

Often the weaker sales candidate will talk of success in generalities, not in specific ability to move the needle in sales penetration, territory value or hitting sales objectives. Drill deeper into times they had a particular “success” and get the details.

4. Integrate assessments.

We use personality and cognitive skills assessments as part of our selection process. It is not the end-all, be-all decision maker in hiring but it is a great guide for the interview and a way to validate or invalidate some of the results of your interview.

In the end, when a candidate asks me what I look for in top sales talent I have a fairly straightforward answer that has helped identify the best sales talent in the market. Of course I look for all the typical skills of written and oral communication, drive, etc.

The two things I think can make a sales person truly great are intelligence and organization. Sales is tough, like I said, and you need to have strong critical thinking skills to react in the moment and adjust your pitch and approach. This takes intelligence.

Organization allows all the hard work you do to pay off. Far too often sales reps will lose track of an opportunity, not call a prospect back or miss out on a close because they are not ready. Don’t let the work and effort you put into the sales funnel go to waste because of disorganization.