Hiring Salespeople 101

The job market for digital advertising salespeople has really picked up in Southern California. I can’t speak to sales jobs outside of that niche, but it sure FEELS like business is picking up. I’m hearing about job opportunities, and have been asked about potential candidates, at digital publishers, ad tech, and also at advertising agencies.

With all the job opportunities, it’s important to think about the hiring process for new salespeople. This blog will be focused from the hiring manager’s perspective, but hopefully the opinions will be of value for the job applicant, too.

Here are some of the things that I look for in hiring a salesperson to join the team:

  • Personality counts
  • Look to complement your team’s skillsets
  • Check their references thoroughly

Personality counts

An engaging personality is a mandatory requirement in sales. Obviously, a good personality is helpful in just about any job, but the salesperson is not just selling a product or service, they are selling themselves. When a customer is spending money with you, they are believing in what you are presenting to them and extending that belief into a financial investment. We all have plenty of competitors in sales and it is usually pretty easy for a customer to choose someone else, all things being equal. A great salesperson’s personality will often tip the scales in the customer’s mind into choosing them.

When I interview potential salespeople to join our team, I ask all the appropriate interview questions about “their biggest strengths and weaknesses”, “how they handled a tough situation”, “describe their biggest sale in detail”, and others. But I also use a lot of ‘gut feelings’ in the interview. One of my favorites is to think, “would I like to spend time with this person if we were delayed at an airport for three hours.” That can potentially happen on just about any business trip, but it also puts my mind into the mind of one of our customers. A customer meeting, in a sense, is like an invitation into their work home. We all spend a lot more time with our teammates than with our families and one’s office is, in a sense, their home. My experience has shown me that customers will spend more time with salespeople that have an engaging personality.

Look to complement your team’s skillsets

I confess that it took me some time to recognize the importance of this, but it is a vital point to consider. As a new manager, I consciously and subconsciously tended to interview and hire people who had very similar personalities and skills to my own. I believed, erroneously, that to have a smoothly running team, we all had to have a similar view of things. This was, obviously, the wrong way to hire and build a team.

I have since learned to look at potential new hires as potentially ‘complementing’ the team will different opinions and skills. Yes, the engaging personality remains important, but I’ve realized over time that the way that I look at things is just one opinion…and there Is no monopoly of opinions that can lead to success in sales. If you, as the hiring manager, are strong in presenting skills but can improve in details or organization, then you would look to someone that has strong organizational skills…and is a stickler for details. Conversely, if you, as the hiring manager, are very strong in strategy and operations but can improve in the ‘social’ part of the job, then you would look for someone who is very sociable with a great network.

Remember, view your potential candidates not just as individuals but as contributors to your overall sales team. 

Check their references thoroughly

I’m fortunate that in virtually all of my hires, the comments and feedback that I’ve received from the candidate’s references have been accurate. One hire that I made didn’t work out and that was because I didn’t do a thorough enough job in checking references and soliciting opinions from customers.

I like to talk to our customers about potential new hires and I ask them to tell me who are the best five salespeople that call on them. Even if a particular salesperson is very happy with their current job, I ask to include them on the list. In digital advertising sales, there are numerous companies and plenty of salespeople but, when I ask our customers for their list, it is amazing how many times the same people show up on multiple lists. I think it is extremely relevant to talk with customers about a candidate that could be potentially calling on them. I’ve found that I will get a very honest evaluation if the customer knows that my candidate could be their rep.

Building your team is the most important thing that you can do as a sales manager. It is important to ask a lot of questions about product knowledge and sales techniques, but I would suggest that the personality, skillset, and references are equally, if not more, important in the hiring process. Think about your potential hire not only from your perspective, as a manger, but also from your customer’s perspective and that of your sales team.


Author: Tim Hand

My name is Tim Hand, and I am a digital media, sales & marketing team leader, and I have a real passion for partnering with companies, publishers and agencies to help drive client growth and bottom-line revenues.

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