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Recruiting Salespeople

In this paper we discuss the mistakes that sales directors and companies make when recruiting salespeople. The paper offers guidance and gives examples of different approaches that not only help you engage and secure the best talent, but also outline what is required to have continued success. We share insightful ways of maximising a powerful employment brand, cohesive working methods, how to reduce costs and we prepare you to always be ‘recruitment ready’.

Employer Branding

The hiring process may be the first impression a candidate has of your company, so the message you share from the outset will determine what calibre of candidate you are able to attract, which can be a deciding factor in whether a candidate accepts a job offer with you.

The ‘story’ and the information you share about your employer brand matters even before you know a candidate exists, so it is imperative that you consider every stage in your job search, as you are constantly being assessed.

By considering what you communicate to the market, will influence the calibre of people that you are able to interview and ultimately recruit. Your company risk’s recruiting inferior candidates if you don’t consider your brand identity, your employer value proposition, candidate reviews, recruitment brand design, and social media strategy which might include video production.

Teamwork – Who’s involved?

Working as a team can significantly contribute to the success of a company and working together when it comes to recruiting salespeople can have a similar impact.

Companies who want success when recruiting need to have a joined-up approach that everyone in the company is committed to. Firstly, your recruitment objectives need to consider your company’s growth plans and collectively, the organisation needs to agree on what talent is required to fulfil its objectives.

The company needs to understand its culture and how it treats, and works with, its employees across the organisation. It needs to understand how each department connects, how they work together and how this is managed. By understanding this, it will to some degree, determine how much involvement is required from other departments when recruiting salespeople for your team.

It may be agreed that the sales director is the only person responsible for this, and if the sales team is isolated from the rest of the business, then this may be the best approach. However, if the company’s approach is that a salesperson will work with peers from other functions across the business, then it may be logical for the heads of those departments to work with the sales director to outline what their expectations of this person are in order to help set any expectations they may have. If you don’t have the commitment of each manager, you risk having an inefficient recruitment process and a poor candidate experience, and you will reduce your chances of recruiting the best possible candidates.

Once you have understood what your company wants to achieve from the process, set an agenda and agree a process that each person is happy to work to.

A Worthwhile Exercise…

Benchmarking solutions allow companies to evaluate their culture and help by providing a profile of a vacant position or ‘the type’ of salespeople they wish to recruit. This exercise gives stakeholders an opportunity to share their true thoughts and opinions and helps the company to agree on what the important aspects are.

Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are your chance to engage with candidates so start by researching companies you admire, potentially competitors. Look at their job descriptions; take the best from all of them and together with the unique knowledge you have of your company, contemplate your brand message and how you intend to portray your positions.

With flair and individuality, create a description that promotes your company and the merits of the position. Focus on a compelling introduction and maximise this opportunity to provide insight about your culture, which should excite and intrigue the market. Ensure you give a clear message about your values and specifically, what the important aspects related to the job are. Think about the duties of the position and how success will be measured. What experience is essential and what personality traits should the candidate ideally have.

Consider writing a series of job descriptions for different jobs across the sales function. This will help you to define what each person is expected to do and how they contribute to the overall success of the company. Use this opportunity to involve team members as this can assist in setting targets for future appraisals. Outline the responsibilities of each person and you will have clear guidelines and parameters to work within, thus giving your team added focus and motivation.

This exercise will help you to align your team to the company’s ethos and create shared goals that everyone works towards. From a personal level, this exercise will outline what each member is doing and how they contribute. It will possibly show any short fallings within your sales team and highlight any areas that you might need to recruit for in the future.


  • Convey a clear message to source the right candidates
  • Understand what your company’s unique employment selling points
  • Establish an exercise to set expectations, align targets and motivate staff

Generating candidates – Choosing the right channel

There is often not enough thought given to how companies source candidates, so be sure to evaluate your options. Consider previous searches for similar roles and the urgency required to fill the position, the time it takes to generate suitable candidates, how much of your time you can dedicate to recruiting, and the associated costs.

If time and costs are primary considerations, then referrals are a great way to kick things off. Working with agencies is also a good option, especially if you wish to identify candidates who are well networked in your market. If you have budget constraints, and want candidates quickly, placing an advert can give you lots of great options.

Whilst placing an advert is great value for money, you may receive lots of candidates. Consider whether you have time to assess them. Referrals are perceived to be the best option; firstly, the cost is minimal, and the referral is normally from a trusted source. The situation can be tricky to manage if the referral doesn’t meet your expectations and might lead to an awkward situation. But you don’t have to recruit this person – we’re all grown up and rejection is a normal part of working life.

Should you work with an agency to find someone you trust? Ideally, this would be someone who is in your market, but you might also consider if they work in any adjacent markets as this can give you other options which might prove helpful.

Regardless of what channel you use to source candidates, it is imperative that you manage the recruitment process and give it the commitment that is required. If you don’t, then you should ensure that you get support either internally or via a third party.

Sourcing the best salespeople can be challenging, so you need to do everything possible to keen momentum going, otherwise you risk other commitments superseding this task, and ultimately you could miss out on the best candidates available.

Agency Terms

At all costs, avoid not agreeing terms with your agency before they start their search as this can lead to multiple issues, which may include several agencies expecting to be paid for a placement or your company ending up paying over the market rate.

Getting the balance of a good deal and an excellent job search is favourable when compared to getting an excellent deal and an inadequate job search. A consequence of structuring a deal heavily in your favour financially might lead you to work with inferior or unsuitable agencies. You also run the risk of working with recruiters whose loyalty is with another client, leading you to engage with only mediocre candidates.

When working with recruitment companies, the two main options are:

  • Contingency Recruitment: You pay the agency upon the candidate being recruited; this is normally aligned to a rebate period, meaning the agency is legally bound to reimburse you should the candidate not work for the agreed amount of time.
  • Retained Search: This service is generally more comprehensive, and this is reflected in the price. Expect the work and charge to split into 3 stages. The first stage and first invoice are for research; the second stage is for providing a qualified list of candidates and the final stage and last payment is at the stage when you recruit someone, which is also tied into a rebate period.

Consider working with your recruitment provider on a risk-reward basis. More information can be found here.

Interviewing – Improve candidate experience

By considering your job search in its entirety, you should evaluate the interview process and how this can improve the candidate experience. By not assessing this aspect, and reflecting only on what is the best approach for your company, you may find that you aren’t able to secure the best salespeople. You must work smarter than rival companies to become an employer of choice.

Decision Makers

Build a great environment for candidates to visit.  Human resource, management and the businesses leaders must all deliver a consistent message, brand and vision that is positive and inspiring. You should consider some form of interview or employer brand training to ensure that your team is pulling in the same direction.

A well-conducted interview that is upbeat, challenging, engaging and supportive is essential to correctly gauge the candidate’s interest. It is not logical to have the recruitment process set in stone, but it is helpful to have some form of structure.

By coaching your peers on how they should approach interviews, you will help to avoid the candidate being asked questions that are going to turn them off. As much as you are testing the candidates, you need to take responsibly for selling the vision, the values and the opportunities throughout the company. From this training, every person who is a contact point for your candidates must understand from you what the company is striving for.


You need everyone on board to work with the stakeholders and map out, in detail, the candidate journey and associated contact points that they will go through. Reflect on the first time they see the job brief to their first day in the chair at their new company – your company!

Focus on the details as this will be the criteria which ultimately convinces them that you are the best employer for them. Does a particular contact point generate an email? Therefore, look at the content, language, look and feel. Do you want it formal, quirky, fun or engaging? What fits best with your brand?

If in the past, you have been unsuccessful in acquiring a top candidate, what can you learn from their experience and how it affected their decision? Are there any changes that you can make to your process to be successful the next time? How can you put this in a positive and supportive light?

Once the recruitment process is mapped out, you can start to wrap the relevant actions and output around each of the contact points. These will typically relate to people, systems, process and content.


Are you sharing content before a person comes for an interview, other than diary and address details? Before a person enters your office for an interview, they should have already formed a perception of your business. If they haven’t, you are missing an opportunity to enhance your brand and increase the chances of recruiting the best talent. The content you publish, or proactively send to people, directly impacts these perceptions and sets the tone.

What could you include to support your candidates and embed your employer brand? Some ideas might be links to your brand aligned career site, helpful resources to support preparation, video content or candidate packs; these things will embed your employer brand, culture and support preparation.

Talent Pools – Its easy, Direct Recruitment just happens

By not having a strong employer brand and clear messages, you are failing. You are failing if you are not constantly engaged with the talent pools of candidates in your market. If you are not proactive, you will be missing out on recruiting the best people when they come into the market.

You can keep your brand relevant by sharing content online, which can include messages about events you are attending, clients you are working with, how you support the community and the industry you work in. Be sure to publish success stories of you workforce.

By doing this you remain in the public domain and if you do this well, you will have salespeople actively seeking out your company, and without much effort, you will create talent pools of people to engage with when you come to recruit. If you do this successfully, the cost to hire and the time it takes to recruit, are significantly reduced.

Providing you are transparent; you can extend this exercise further by always interviewing people to be ‘recruitment ready’ for when you have openings.

Space Recruitment have been placing salespeople for over 15 years in the technology, consulting, outsourcing and marketing industries. If you wish to discuss anything covered in this article, please contact Daniel Aldridge on 0044 (0)1732 466930.


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