As a business, hiring salespeople can be tricky. Not only are they an ambassador for your business to thousands of potential customers, it is also a sector that is notorious for a high talent turn-over. The Great British Entrepreneur Awards explores how to get it right as part of their webinar series Let’s Talk Talent featuring experts Alison Edgar MBE, Gordon McAlpine, and Cary Curtis. 

Hiring can be a difficult thing to get right as a small business. And as companies start to get back to some normality after a year of such hardship, sales teams could make all the difference as they try to bounce back from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This is the first of The Great British Entrepreneur Awards’ Let’s Talk Talent series of webinars, held in partnership with Give A Grad A Go. Sales experts Alison Edgar MBE, bestselling author Gordon McAlpine, along with Give A Grad A Go founder, Cary Curtis, discuss how to get it right when hiring for sales roles.  

Do sales figures matter?

The consensus here was very clear from the off.

“Sales figures do not matter in interviews”

Gordon McAlpine states.

“They might give an overall impression, but more often than not they’re irrelevant, and very hard to verify, so I tend to ignore these,” Gordon adds. 

More important for Gordon are personality traits, particularly drive and passion. “If you can see them inspiring you and selling your product, then that’s huge.”

For Cary, sales candidates need to ooze passion. “Whoever’s coming in to sell for you needs to have an interest in what you’re doing as an organisation, so you know their enthusiasm will come across to the customer as well as you,” Cary adds.

Alison admits she likes to bring in young people because “they have no bad habits” in the salesroom. She adds: “I’m a fan of the clean slate, and my recruits have no sales skills at all, but the right attitude. Then I can mould them for stonking results.” 

Will experience become more important due to hybrid working?

Alison emphasises young salespeople often learn from watching or listening to more senior or experienced colleagues. With hybrid working set to feature heavily post-pandemic, it begs the question of whether or not businesses will continue to hire young or inexperienced people, who may find it harder to learn from colleagues.

Alison emphasised the importance of the quality of experience, explaining: “If you’re working in a close together environment, you can make your own choice – pick up the bits that do work, and leave behind the bits that don’t.

“When at home, you can’t be their cheerleader when they win, and the granny with the hanky when they lose; if you don’t take care of your new recruits, then they can lose motivation quickly and won’t make the effort to maintain good habits.”

And that’s why all of our speakers mention how important a training buddy is, especially in a hybrid environment. Gordon states: “Even if you’re doing two days in the office, and three at home, the first few days should always be in the office to set the tone for how you expect them to work elsewhere.”

The ideal candidate

Is there such a thing as the perfect for any sales role, or does it depend entirely on the business and the entrepreneur?

Mindset is key for Alison: “People that don’t moan, but take lessons from what goes wrong, are the best. You can’t train it, but with a real growth mindset, you can do anything.”

Gordon wants them to be coachable. He explained what he looks for: “Are they really listening, or are their eyes glazing over? They need to be open-minded, and take criticism in the right way.”.

Cary agrees but said his favourite trait in a salesperson is “enthusiasm for what the business does, to make a really passionate pitch and take pride in your work”.

To find out more about the Let’s Talk Talent series, check out The Great British Entrepreneur Awards website.