How to evaluate and assess sales candidates

The most successful salespeople here at Equalture are the least experienced ones. How come? Well, despite their lack of experience, they master the (soft) skills needed to do sales here.

The Sales team is without a doubt the hardest team to hire for. And that’s simply because sales is a skills job. It’s not something you learn during your bachelor’s. It’s something you either love or hate doing. Something in which you’ll either excel or fail.

Most mishires are made within sales. And I can tell you one thing: That’s not the salespeople’s mistake. In this blog, you’ll learn how to evaluate and assess sales candidates.

We spoke to multiple of our customers…

…who indicated they struggled with successfully hiring Sales Professionals. Ironically enough, the vast majority of these companies had the exact same problem: Sales Professionals often turned out to be a mishire as a result of lacking skills for the job – or in other words: they just couldn’t sell the product.

Whether it be the benefits or features of the product, not being aware of these will also limit the sales teams’ ability to clearly see the problems the customers are facing when they are seeking for a specific solution.

Here are the 3 most common mistakes we tend to make when hiring new people for the sales team!

3 mistakes to prevent when hiring salespeople

Most companies tend to make the following 3 mistakes when hiring salespeople. Make sure to at least prevent these mistakes to make your life a bit easier.

Mistake 1. Hiring generalists instead of specialists

Especially in smaller teams, what we often see is that companies start hiring one or two people who are responsible for the entire sales funnel, from booking meetings to closing deals. There is no one size fits all though when it comes to salespeople, so not everyone can be successful throughout each part of the sales process. 

That’s why it’s important to hire specialists instead of generalists, by splitting up the different responsibilities, according to the stages of your sales process. For example:

  • A Business Developer to spot market trends;
  • A Sales Development Representative to book meetings;
  • A Sales Executive to close deals.

Mistake 2. Hiring for experience over (soft) skills

Another painful mistake we all keep making is only hiring salespeople who had a similar job in a similar company. So, when taking Equalture as an example, this would mean that we only look for people with B2B SaaS sales experience, preferably in the HR tech market. 

Again, you unfortunately couldn’t be more wrong. Even if someone previously worked in the exact same industry, the job itself can be a thousand percent different. That’s because your needs for a salesperson and their attached skill set depend on the 3 Ps:

  • Product. Your product can be either more straightforward and feature-focused, or more complex and solution-focused. The more complex and solution-focused your product is, the higher the need for analytical thinking skills.
  • Price. You can either sell a smaller subscription to hundreds of companies or a bigger subscription to ten companies. The more companies you need to sell to, the more the job requires cognitive flexibility and prioritising
  • People. Your salespeople might directly sell to decision-makers, or to stakeholders who need to sell your product to their decision-makers. The larger the gap between your contact person and the decision-maker, the more your sales approach requires collaboration

So, a candidate might have a track record in a similar industry, but if the 3 Ps are much different, this previous experience won’t tell me anything about their fit. 

Mistake 3. Not knowing your team

This might be the most painful one. Not knowing your team. Now, let me explain this one.

Most people will list the exact same things when sharing the requirements for a sales job. Someone needs to be an extrovert, highly flexible, competitive, and assertive. While in fact, this might not even be the case for most of their top performers. 

We all tend to guess what makes someone a successful salesperson in our company, while we actually have our very own team to base these claims on. By writing down the characteristics of each and every salesperson, you can look for similarities and differences among top-performers and the rest of the team, with the aim to be sure about the (soft) skills to be on the lookout for.

(Soft) skills to assess prior to the interview: How psychometric/aptitude tests help

Now, there are two main challenges with regard to assessing your sales candidates. First of all, they are salespeople, so they know how to sell themselves. And secondly, sales success largely depends on cognitive abilites, which are impossible to objectively assess.

What are cognitive abilities?

Cognitive abilities, or cognitive skills, determine the way our brain reasons, remembers, solves problems, thinks, adjusts, and learns. Some examples of cognitive abilities are cognitive flexibility (the ability to adjust to new environments) and problem-solving (the ability to think analytically and solve complex issues). 

The 3 Ps of sales that I described above strongly influence what cognitive abilities are most important for your salespeople. When selling a product such as Calendly, which is a very flat, easily understandable product that people consider when they know exactly what their problem is, the need for problem-solving/analytical thinking is way less than when you need to sell a complex solution to customers with different problems. 

The problem with cognitive abilities is that there are nearly impossible to accurately assess yourself. After all, we can’t look into each other’s brains, and it’s scientifically proven that human beings are very bad judges of themselves and others. And that’s where psychometric tests (or aptitude tests) come in extremely handy. 

Psychometric game-based tests to assess sales candidates

Psychometric tests, or aptitude tests, are tests being conducted with the aim to evaluate a candidate’s suitability for a job and an organisation, by assessing this person’s cognitive abilities, values, or behaviours. These tests have proven to be extremely useful in sales hiring, as sales is such a (soft) skill-driven job. Make sure to have a very clear and confident overview of the required (soft) skills you’re looking for, and let your candidates complete a psychometric test to see for yourself how this person fits your need – especially the ones who might look perfect on their resume because those are the ones you are most blind to!

Gamified tests to evaluate and assess sales candidates and your team

(Soft) skills to assess during the interview

Although you’re working with the greatest and most accurate psychometric tests in the world, I would still strongly advise you to always conduct at least one job interview too. And that’s simply because a test won’t be able to assess everything when it comes to a candidate.

There are two things I always want to reveal during a sales job interview. Someone’s communication skills and someone’s enthusiasm. Communication skills for the obvious reason that you need to communicate with potential customers all day. And enthusiasm because I have found out that there’s much you can teach someone, but being more enthusiastic isn’t one of these things. It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re more introverted or extraverted, but I need to feel inspired by someone’s enthusiasm. And even our games (which we obviously use ourselves to hire our salespeople :)) won’t help me reveal this. 

Presence and abilities

Presence and abilities. That’s what to focus on when evaluating and assessing sales candidates. One that’s easy to reveal, and one that’s significantly more different to correctly assess. And on top of that, what you’re looking for in presence and abilities also depends on the 3 Ps. And this is how you should evaluate and assess sales candidates.

In case you’re curious how Equalture’s games can help you (i) look for the right (soft) skills and (ii) evaluate, assess sales candidates and eventually hire the best salespeople, you know where to find us.

Cheers, Charlotte

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