How to Find and Develop Top Sales Talent

Most small business owners know the results their sales team get can make or break their business. But before you hire a salesperson, take the time to learn the types of sales styles and what styles are the best match for your business and customer base, says Lissa Weimelt, Principal of SearchPro Services, a retained Search and Consulting Services firm. Not every style works best for every type of business.

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“Hiring a sales person to open new accounts versus a sales rep who maintains and grows existing business are two very different hires, for very different sales people” says Weimelt. “Clearly define what your business needs before you hire. Business owners need to be able to manage all styles appropriately to get the best results.”

Dave Lindstrom is Practice Director of Sales at Versique, a leading Minnesota-based consulting and search firm. Prior to working as a recruiter, Lindstrom spent a number of years working in industrial sales. When looking to hire the best sales team, managers need to be willing to do a couple things, says Lindstrom:

  1. Hire talent over industry knowledge.
  2. Culture fit needs to be important.
  3. Be willing and able to take the time on the front end to train.

“If you hire a good sales person that already knows your industry, he or she can only be a good sales person,” says Lindstrom. “If you hire a really good sales person that buys into the company culture, believes in the vision and then teach them the product line or service, he or she has a chance to be a great salesperson.”

As President of Blue Octopus, LLC, Drew Schmitz oversees sales training, coaching and outsourced management programs. He’s led sales development programs for numerous organizations, leading to 20% top line growth the following year for many clients who have followed his program. Prior to starting his own company, Schmitz excelled in the staffing industry at Jeane Thorne, where he increased sales in the Minneapolis office from less than $1 million to over $3 million in just two and a half years.

Schmitz is also the author of Sales Neutrinos, an ebook dubbed “a must read for any business owner, manager, or sales professional looking to maximize sales effectiveness.”

When developing and hiring a winning sales team , Schmitz helps organizations learn how to focus on eight key components surrounding the sales funnel – targeting, cold calling, warm calling, qualifying, the pitch, meetings, budgets and closing. When it comes to the ability to close the deal, Schmitz says “Your sales team needs to learn and hone this skill. If they don’t, they are being underutilized.”

Schmitz also focuses on eight other key components that are crucial to developing faster sales growth and success within a sales team:

  1. Data: How do you mine your data? Is your sales CRM being maximized and are the task lists being used?
  2. Metrics: All the historical statistics surround sales activity should be measured and analyzed.
  3. Creativity: Salespeople need to do more than just make phone calls and send emails.
  4. Persistence: Your sales force must have urgency and press to move sales forward.
  5. Teamwork: Are you selling to multiple decision makers within every prospect?
  6. Listening: Ask questions, keep your pitch brief, and listen, listen, listen.
  7. Jedi Mind Tricks: The non-verbals of sales can double your chances of making a sale.
  8. Authenticity: You better be real and they better be having fun! Sales people can win if their heart is in it.

Whether hiring on your own or through the help of a recruiter, an assessment tool provides helpful insight into both personality and behavior of a candidate, says Weimelt.

“Use the results from the sales assessment tool as another data point to evaluate a candidate,” she adds. “Test your current team to get a full picture of your team’s strengths and gaps. Identify the sales style you need. Testing, interviewing and reference data helps business owners hone in on the right hire, versus being swayed by a persuasive personality during the interview.”

The right compensation plan and tenure are two other key elements to developing a winning sales team. Put compensation plans in place that incent the results of both the “hunter” and the “farmer” as they are often motivated differently, says Weimelt.

“Candidates tell me all the time that nothing prompts a faster job move than a company that changes their comp plan mid-stream,” says Weimelt. “My recommendation to any owner is to have a written sales contract that clearly defines target and stretch goals and defines comp and payouts. Then, honor that agreement to retain your high performers.”

Alter the contract at its end date to reflect changes in the market or performance. A fair compensation plan combines the market, industry and previous results of your sales person.

“If you want a winning sales team, owners often pay above-market level for above- market talent,” says Weimelt. “Winning sales teams are a win-win-win. The rep is well compensated and resists job offers from competitors, the owner achieves their sales goals and, the customer engages in repeat business.”

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Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via, connect with him on LinkedIn ( and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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