A Business Owners Guide On How to Hire an Outside Sales Rep


Edward Styles

Mar 2, 2021


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Let's say you run a marketing or advertising business, and you want to know how to hire an outside sales rep and when it's the optimal time to do so. By definition, the representative is ultimately responsible for physically going out into the field, creating new accounts, and building new relationships while seeking to resurrect older connections.

The how will be based on the nature of the role and the rep themselves’ relative traits. This is the dynamic, more subjective side of sales management. The when is more objective - meaning as the business grows and the internal team begins handling more leads, the more of a need there will be for outside sales reps, naturally. So, what does the ideal candidate look like? That seems like a great place to begin our inquiry.

Here's What You Should Look for in an Outside Sales Rep

Salesman talking to an elderly couple

Selling is social; that seems like a pretty spot-on statement. Low social proof is a bane to a sales professional tasked with closing the deal on a face-to-face basis. Those exceptionally skilled understand that it isn't just about selling or having a set of tools or techniques ready and available. They have to love talking to people and helping people solve their problems, full stop.

The ideal candidate must have the ability to empathize with others but to a degree. It's cliche to say "be empathetic," and it rings true in all levels of business. That empathy has to balance with assertiveness, though. Talented reps can find the win-win without getting too wrapped up in particular cases.

If the position emphasizes commission, make sure that the commission structure fits the candidate. Attracting quality reps becomes more manageable when there are a base salary and commission. Try advertising your tiered, high-percentage payment program to potential candidates, and you'll realize results like never before.

Here's how to hire an outside sales rep - create ideal conditions internally and hire a representative with the following characteristics:

  1. Above-average social proof
  2. Balanced sales strategy (empathy and assertiveness)
  3. Flexible, high-paying commission structure

The pressure of the Quota

Man checking his watch for the time

It can be tempting for human resource managers responsible for hiring outside sales reps to quickly fill positions to take advantage of an untapped area or region. The feeling of being left behind while the competition scoops up most of the market share can drive managers to make irrational hiring decisions. This is seldom a good idea. Desperation is the cause of many failed relationships in the workplace and should never form the hiring process’s foundation.

Neither is it recommended that you hire solely based on the rep's pedigree, including education, type of work experience, or previous accolades. That attitude tends to lead to apathy and indifference. You'll peer over their resume thinking that this is the 'perfect' candidate, one that won't need training or mentorship.

Asking Yourself the Right Questions

Woman asking questions to a candidate

When in evaluation, the question shouldn't be 'can this person fill the quota?', but rather 'will leads in the territory buy from this person?'. Remember that the other team members will have to work with this individual. Are they a team player? Do they want to help and see others succeed?

Asking the Candidate the Right Questions‍

You can never know how someone will perform in the field or door to door, for instance, until you see them in action. Nonetheless, there are several pertinent interview questions savvy managers use to qualify each candidate:

1. Why are you interested in sales? (establishes motivation)

2. What interests you about the product, and why do you want to sell the product? (do they think about the product and themselves)

3. Are you familiar with our customer base? (do they care about who they're selling to, and can they communicate with them)

Assuming they've relayed their passions, product, and customer knowledge in ways that convey an interpersonal acumen, it's time to raise the stakes with more profound, more probing questions such as:

4. Have you performed a competitive analysis? (are they familiar with the competition)

5. How did you deal with a negative situation and overcome it? (all about resiliency)

From Inside Sales to Outside Sales: A Transition‍

Woman dressed in a business attire smiling

Maybe your sales team has been predominantly inside, and now it's time to increase foot traffic, going shoe leather to shoe leather as opposed to conducting webinars or other sales presentations. Try using Linkedin social selling best practices as a springboard for making the transition amongst the sales team. For many firms, there is a reservoir of untapped human capital. Start with what you have and work from there.

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