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The step-by-step guide to hiring B2B sales people

Jets are flying against a clear blue sky, indicating how high you can fly with outsourced sales
Hiring in general is hard, but hiring good sales people is even harder. People in sales have been trained to tell you what you want to hear, and it’s easy to make mistakes and hire poor performers unless you have a rigorous hiring process.
Bad sales hires also have a material impact on the revenue of your business, so it’s essential to make great hires from the start. This is a quick guide based on experience and many hard lessons that will help you make excellent sales hires.

Minimum requirements for great sales hires

Don’t hire someone into a sales role unless they meet all of the below criteria:
  1. They have a proven track record of meeting targets in previous sales roles
  2. They have a proven track record of meeting targets in previous sales roles (in case you missed it the first time)
  3. They are intelligent (and can ask smart questions)
  4. They are curious
  5. They have a great work ethic
  6. They are coachable
  7. They can be honest with you in the interview. (If your candidate is constantly selling to you and cannot give you straight and detailed answers, they will be un-coachable and impossible to manage)
  8. They are money motivated and like to spend it
  9. They have a solid career track record and have held down sales roles at previous companies for 3+ years
  10. They possesses sales knowledge and experience that you don’t have. (This is important if they’re your first major sales hire)

Common sales hiring mistakes

  • Hiring someone because they are a “peoples person” or are “good at relationships”
  • Hiring someone to “try them out” because you can always fire them if they don’t hit their numbers
  • Hiring someone because they have “potential” but no sales experience
  • Hiring someone who hasn’t hit targets in previous roles (ignore the excuses)
  • Hiring someone who isn’t money motivated
  • Not cross referencing their social media with their CV for consistency (you’ll be amazed at what you find)

How to interview B2B sales people and make great hires

The outline below provides a high-level overview of what your interview process should look like. It consists of 3 stages, with the interviews getting progressively harder at each stage.
Most candidates won’t make it through the process. However, those that do will be the top performers who can significantly accelerate the revenue growth of your company.

Stage 1: Screening call questions (covering the basics)

This is a quick 15 minute call where your internal recruiter does a screening to establish the basics about the candidate.

  • Current role and responsibilities
  • Desired role and responsibilities
  • Current package (base salary and total OTE)
  • Desired package (base salary and total OTE)
  • Current sales targets/quota/budget
  • Current performance vs targets/quota/budget
  • Sales lifecycle length/complexity
  • Domain expertise, products and services currently selling
  • Communication skills
Most candidates with solid CVs should make it through the screening call and on to the first interview

Stage 2: First round face-to-face interview questions (easy interview)

This interview is relatively straightforward. You get to understand who the candidate is, assess basic sales competency and determine cultural fit.

  • Extramural interests
  • Overview of career history
  • Overview of current role and responsibilities. (This must include sales targets and info on domain they work in)
  • Overview of current sales process and sales lifecycle
  • Have they developed deep understanding of their current domain. (This is to establish intelligence and curiosity. Test this with technical questions that they should know the answers to)
  • Reason for looking to move on
  • What they know about your company (test their curiosity and ability to do research)
  • Why they’ve chosen a career in sales
  • What motivates them (should be achievement, goals, money)
  • What do they like to spend money on. Do they ever make ridiculous/frivolous/extravagant purchases? (This must be a yes. If they’re financially conservative they’re unlikely to be truly money hungry.)
  • Current package (base salary and total OTE)
  • Desired package (base salary and total OTE)
  • Questions from the candidate. (This is a test of their curiosity and ability to ask intelligent questions. During the interview, do not provide any information about the role or company except in response to questions from the candidate. They must demonstrate their ability to gather information.)
After the first interview, you’ll most likely reject around 50% of candidates based on cultural fit, basic sales skills, knowledge and ability.

Stage 3: Second round face-to-face interview questions (hard interview)

Many candidates who make it to this second round interview will arrive over-confident and expecting it to be a formality. In reality, this is where the interview really starts and you’re able to identify the winners.
  • Detailed review of career history. (Talk through every role, question every career decision, question any inconsistencies, dig deeper into any career mistakes and see if candidate becomes flustered.)
  • Detailed review of track record. (This is where you establish their ability to truly meet target. The candidate should provide a spreadsheet with detail. Check that targets and commissions add upthey often don’t.)
  • Talk through a major deal they won
  • Talk through of a major deal they didn’t win. (This tests coachability. They should be able to accurately assess their failures and identify how they could improve.)
  • How do they identify a prospect?
  • How do they make a cold call? (Talk through an example)
  • How do they qualify a lead?
  • Can they explain any qualification frameworks?
  • Can they explain any sales methodologies they’ve used?
  • What’s the most recent thing they did to improve their sales skills?
After the second interview, you’ll probably reject 90-95% of candidates. In this round, they come under intense scrutiny and you’ll end up rejecting them based on career track record, inconsistencies, ability to meet targets, and technical sales expertise.
However, those that come through will do so with flying colours, and are the candidates you want to hire. There won’t be many of them, but if you bring them on board they will have a massive impact on your business.

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Alex Gasson

Alex Gasson is the CEO and founder of Delta-v. We provide outsourced sales development teams to Enterprise Software and FinTech companies. Prior to founding Delta-v Alex founded and successfully exited a tech recruitment business, following which he had two successful stints as a revenue leader in high growth B2B tech startups. His approach is grounded in deep theoretical understanding of Go-to-Market best practices, combined with over 15 years of hands on experience setting up and running high performance B2B sales organisations. Alex’s writing focuses on expert sales advice focussed on B2B sales development and Go-to-Market activities.