Today’s topic

How to hire a top-performing Sales Representative

Sales Representatives are your biggest weapons. They’re out there manning the fort, chatting to prospects, landing deals, and increasing your company's revenue. Sales reps are basically your boots on the ground, directly representing what you and your product stands for.

But finding a talented sales rep is hard. Not everybody can conquer rejections, hustle like a pro, and use friendly strength to close a sale. 

Organisations know it too, with many experiencing a 25-30% annual turnover rate for sales positions—and losing up to $300,000 in recruitment costs. What’s more, this figure doesn’t factor in the lost revenue companies face after firing a bad sales rep and starting the recruitment process again. 

This makes the case for hiring a top-performing sales rep for your team all the more critical.

Cue our how to hire a sales rep guide.

Hire for the task

Companies are very good at talking about the makings of a great salesperson, but few understand what it takes to sell successfully. Even doing a quick Google search will reveal job ads crammed with broad lists of competencies for sales roles, like extraversion, empathy, and goal orientation. 

The reality is, these platitudes are so general that they’re a reminder to us that people tend to do business with look-alikes who embrace the company culture. At worst, such long lists of vague competencies can discount perfectly good candidates, while doing little to accurately capture the role requirements and company expectations.

Instead of viewing selling effectiveness as a generic trait, try and understand how hiring a candidate fits with the relevant sales tasks in your market and strategy. Next, connect those tasks with your hiring criteria and recruitment process. 

A good way to do this is to start by mapping out the Sales Rep role requirements long before the job ad is live. Sit down with key stakeholders and make sure there’s alignment on what this person will do and what success looks like in the role and for the organisation. Based on your findings, you should get a clear idea of what your hiring criteria will look like for the job role.

Focus on behaviour and potential

One of the main causes of bad employee performance and turnover is poor role fit. It can be especially frustrating for companies who hire candidates for tasks that they’re unable to perform to adhered standards. This ends up costing companies thousands of dollars, and is ultimately something every business wants to avoid.

The best way to assess role fit is to have a meticulous hiring process in place that assesses a candidate’s key behavioural attributes related to the position. This should include an objective pre-screening step such as using candidate assessments, followed by a set of structured interviews and a case study related to the position itself. 

Contrary to popular belief, a successful sales rep doesn’t need to have years of experience under their belt or past experience selling in your exact domain. What they do need, however, is a great attitude and be of a strong cultural fit. Let’s call these types of candidates underdogs.

Underdogs might not have the full range of skillset to create the results you need from day one. But what they don’t have, they make up for in their thirst for learning and positive attitude. With the right nudge and training, these underdogs can quickly ramp up in the sales rep role, and pick up the necessary skills needed to land  vital deals in no time. 

Pro tip: An accurate way to determine a candidate’s potential and likelihood to perform well on the job is to use psychometric assessments. The effectiveness of these assessments has been proven by the scientific community, with various studies citing high accuracy rates in selecting candidates who possess the right skills for the job. 

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The makings of a great sales representative

Ah, the great sales reps. They are as compassionate as they are competitive, and tough as old boots. Their infectious charisma and empathy reels prospects in, while their hustler mentality enables them to go out there and land prospects with finesse. 

These high-performing superstars are out there, and when you get one joining your team, you’ve won big-time. 

Why? Simply put, Sales reps bring in revenue for businesses. They’re responsible for generating between 34-40% of the sales pipeline in B2B SaaS companies, illustrating just how invaluable they are. 

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So how to identify the top-performers from the crowd? Interestingly, a great sales rep doesn’t actually have to have sales experience. They can be teachers, psychologists, engineers, or plumbers. What matters are their behavioural attributes and potential to excel in the role.

A great sales representative:

  • Has a hustler mentality- willing to do what it takes to close sales
  • Self-driven- Doesn’t wait for others to instruct themthey go ahead and get the job done.
  • Competitive- Loves a healthy competition.
  • Handles rejection like a champ- No is the name of the business. They have no problems receiving rejections and bounce back quickly from setbacks.
  • Coachable- Willing to listen and learn and loves experimenting with new methods.
  • Receptive to advice- Handles critical feedback well and works on self-improvement.

Important note: Try not to confuse Sales Development Representatives with Sales Representatives. While both roles complement each other, SDRS are more focused on qualifying prospects and doing cold outreach.  Their primary focus is on filling the sales pipeline with qualified leads. Meanwhile, sales reps are focused on speaking to potential customers and closing them.

For more information on hiring SDRS, check out our guide.

How to evaluate candidates for the Sales Representative role

Various research points to how having a multi-phase hiring evaluation system increases the likelihood of companies selecting the best candidates for the job. 

In particular, psychometric assessments and structured interviews are considered strong predictors of a candidate’s likelihood to perform well on the job. When combining both, your chances of finding the right sales representative for the job increases.

Candidate assessments

One of the most efficient ways to shortlist candidates is to use a candidate assessment tool. This allows you to quickly spot the best candidates to engage with, and select applicants with the highest potential to progress to interviews.

Why use assessments to find your next Sales Rep?

  • Assess whether job candidates have the necessary skills to manage relationships with  prospects and close sales
  • Assess whether a candidate has the right traits like cooperation, persistence, and integrity to succeed in the position.  
  • Decrease the time it takes to hire a candidate (hiring assessments are proven to reduce time to hire from 42 to five days)
  • Significantly reduce the chance of making a bad hire by getting an accurate picture of a candidate’s role fit early in the recruitment process.
  • Optimise time spent interviewing candidates, rather than manually scanning through hundreds of CV’s.

Alva’s candidate assessments

Alva’s logic reasoning and personality assessments test a range of factors like logical ability, conscientiousness, extraversion, and emotional ability needed for a candidate to succeed and thrive in a job role. The recruiter gets to select which relevant skills to test for in a particular candidate, and the questions are adapted accordingly. 

The assessments take under 30 minutes to complete; the candidate owns the results, and the recruiter can see which candidates best match the requirements and decide with confidence who to interview, all with the click of a button.

Sales Representative applicants who perform favourably with Alva’s assessments will have a combination of soft skills and hard skills needed to close prospects and nurture client relationships. In turn, the assessments help hiring managers determine whether a candidate has what it takes to succeed in the role. 

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Structured interviews

Rather than freestyling an interview and leading with your gut, a structured interview lets you effectively assess how well a candidate is likely to perform in the role. In other words, structured interviews are one of the best predictors of job performance.

With structured interviews, you ask candidates the same set of questions, and measure their responses using a baseline, which is checked against pre-decided criteria. Like this, you minimise bias when picking a candidate, and also increase the likelihood of making an accurate hire based on these data-fuelled insights.

 Did you know? Recruiters can use structured interview criteria to assess candidate skills and behaviours with Alva's Scorecards Feature.


Case study

In theory, a candidate can say all the right things and pull off an interview marvellously. But then when they start the sales role, they realise they’re way in over their heads.

A great way to vet a candidate’s technical competencies and communicative skills is to put them through a practical case study. Some easy ways to do this is to ask the candidate to sell you something which fits with your sales process. That could look like a mock call or demo, where you get to see how they handle the heat and mock objections. 

Ultimately, sales case studies can be an incredibly effective way to see what candidates are made of right on the sales floor, and whether they thrive under the challenge. 

Tips to watch out for include:

  • What’s their energy like?
  • What body language are they showing?
  • How do they present themselves and structure the talk?
  • What kind of questions do they ask?
  • How well do they know your company offering?

Hiring process checklist

A smooth hiring process can help you attract and retain your best talent, and provides for an excellent candidate experience. On the other hand, a fractured recruitment process can result in high candidate drop-off rates, and create a burning gap in your overall hiring strategy.  

When building your hiring process, take the following points into consideration.

General hiring criteria:

  • Raise the bar.  Rather than narrowing your talent pool, what you want is to open the door to people of all walks of life to apply for the Sales Rep role. A good way to do this is to make your job ad as inclusive as possible, which is likely to increase your chances of attracting candidates from all backgrounds.
  • Select candidates who have the most potential.  Rather than look at years of experience or hard skills alone, choose Sales Rep candidates who have transferable skills to  bring to the position. Especially look out for qualities like rapport-building, communication, active listening, and critical thinking when considering candidates.
  • Use datanot intuition to inform your hiring decisions.  Increase your quality of hire by using candidate assessments to get an accurate picture of candidate role fit first. Usually, it’s recommended to use these assessments as the first step in your hiring process. With these assessments, quickly rule out candidates who aren’t considered suitable for the role, and effectively spend more time with shortlisted applicants in interviews. 
  • Hold structured interviews. Reduce confirmation bias by having an organised, structured interview process where each candidate gets asked the same questions and is scored on a set rubric.  
  • Conduct a case study. Case studies are an effective way to test a candidate’s competency. This includes testing for technical skills, social and behavioural skills. For Sales Rep roles, look at how well they can pitch your company’s product and service, how sound their communication skills are, and whether they’re able to listen and ask the right questions.
  • Onboard properly. It’s overwhelming enough to be the new kid on the block, but having to sell a company’s product or service from the get-go is a huge ask! Ensure you spend enough time explaining the role, target structure and expectations in your onboarding kick-off meeting. Next, set up some time each week for the new Sales Rep to meet with the sales manager and other members of the team and get to know the position inside out. 

Alva_jobtemplate_infographics_template_4_Process overviewSales Representative job description template

This sales representative description template is ready to be used! It’s optimised for posting to online job boards or career pages and is completely customisable for your company. Simply copy your template, adapt it to your hiring needs, and get to hiring your next superstar!

Sales Rep job description

Are you our next Sales Representative? We are looking for a stellar sales rep to help us with lead generation and sales goals. Your job will be to run sales presentations and product demos, as well as negotiate contracts with potential customers.

Key responsibilities:

  • Generate leads and meet or exceed sales targets
  • Run sales presentations and demos to prospective customers
  • Prepare weekly and monthly sales reports
  • Manage your own book of accounts
  • Manage CRM data
  • Collaborate with the team to share and learn from best practises

Role requirements

Great at communicating: You love connecting with people and building rapport, and thrive on having conversations.

Be resilient. You have to be comfortable with the uncomfortable-aka-getting lots of no’s and outright rejections, as well as continuously hunt for new prospects. 

Goal-oriented: You have to be ok with hitting quotas, and therefore, need to have experience setting goals and following them through.

Interest in sales: You don’t need to be a sales pro with years of experience in sales to succeed in this role. But what you do need is to have an interest in learning and be open to growing into the role. 

Why you should join our team

For example (edit to fit with your own company mission and benefits): Be part of a diverse team of souls on a mission to revolutionise how the world recycles. We offer a fantastic bonus structure, along with heaps of employee benefits like full health coverage, a wellbeing package, and generous parental leave.

Interview questions for Sales Reps

Try to be super specific with your questions, and really draw out complete responses from candidates. 

Extra tip: Watch out for the applicants who are able to go into the specifics and provide concrete examples- these are the kind of answers you want in an interview.

  • Pretend I’m a prospect. Describe our product or service to me.
  • Have you ever been in a customer service role? What were your favourite and least favourite parts?
  • Tell me about a time you had to get really good at a skill. What did you do to achieve that goal?
  • Tell me about your experience with working with targets? What were they, did you meet them? How did you perform compared to your team members?
  • Tell me about a time you faced a challenge. How did you deal with it, and what motivated you to keep going?
  • What's the last thing you learned that you thought was really interesting?

 To get the ball rolling, access this master internal recruitment guide

Where to find Sales Rep candidates

Below is a list of relevant job boards you can use to look for candidates and post your job ad.

Job boards

Not sure where to put your job ad? Below is a list of job boards you can use to publish your job ad.

The Alva platform in action

With Alva’s candidate assessment software, you can start your hiring process in minutes. Simply set up a job position, choose a test profile, and then start sending out the assessments for completion. 

See how it works

Test profile feature

When assessing candidates for a certain role through Alva, the very first step is deciding what to look for. This is what you do when you set up a test profile. For sales positions, qualities like high logical ability and sales performance go together with being conscientious, extraverted, and emotionally stable. Setting up a profile like this can help you hone in on the criteria you want to assess candidates on. 

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Sales rep

Score cards feature

Within the Alva platform, you can select shortlisted candidates and invite them to the interview stage. The scorecards feature keeps track of how you evaluate candidates in the interviews, using a criteria scale of 1-5. 

 P.S. Before you move on, download our free interview questions template. You'll use it later.

Why choose Alva?

  • Spend time where it matters- Quickly spot the candidates who best match the role requirements and move them along for interviews.
  • Hire for impact-Reduce unconscious bias when screening candidates and discover hidden gems in your talent pool.
  • Empower your candidates-Reduce candidate drop-offs with Alva's evidence-based assessments. Candidates only need to take the assessments once and can easily share their results.

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Frequently asked questions on how to hire a Sales Representative

1. How to hire a sales representative? To hire a sales rep, map out the role in detail and match the hiring criteria with the role requirements. Next, figure out how you will evaluate sales rep candidates. One of the key things to consider are their behavioural attributes as opposed to how many years of experience they have. It’s recommended to use candidate assessments as a first step in your hiring process, enabling you to quickly identify the candidates with the most potential. Next, run structured interviews and a practical case study to assess a candidate’s role suitability. 

2. What is a Sales Representative? A sales representative sells products or service solutions on behalf of a company. They manage relationships with prospects, and are the primary point of contact with prospective customers, from initial lead outreach to when a purchase is made.

3. What does a Sales Representative do? A sales representative is responsible for finding prospects and converting them into leads. As such, they spend their time in contact with prospective customers. 

4. What careers can Sales Representatives advance to: Sales reps are usually considered entry-level to mid-career roles, so there are plenty of opportunities to grow. Most Sales Reps get promoted and claim positions like Sales Team Lead, Account Executive, Sales Manager, Customer Success Manager, and more.

Being a sales representative may be one of the hottest sales roles on the market, but finding a difference maker who will double your revenue consistently is hard. How do you identify and hire top-performing sales reps`?