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5 Strategies for Identifying Top Sales Candidates

Hiring sales talent isn’t always intuitive. To effectively identify top sales candidates, here are a few methods recommended by startup talent acquisition experts Angela Mekosh of Taboola, Sally Bolig of Yotpo, and Liz Tran Thrive Capital.

These experts spoke at CloserIQ’s recent HR Quarterly Event, and here are some of the takeaways:

1. Use assessment tools

Tran recommends using assessments for sales candidates, like Berke and Caliper. Tran says, “you should use those to really just test to see whether or not your sort of red flags about a person are accurate.”

These tests are helpful in helping you understand compatibility and fit. However, hiring managers should be very skeptical about making any sort of ultimate decision based off of any individual assessment tests.

2. Include unlock pitches

Mekosh recommends asking candidates to do unlock pitches as part of the process for recruiting account executives and SDRs. Allow candidates to pitch anything they want, including your product. That can help you see how much the candidate really wants the job. Did they do additional research on you and is your product something they’re excited about pitching?

For a role that has a greater technical component but also involves selling (like a CSM), walk the candidate through something that is comparable to what they’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis.

3. Discuss the sales cycle

According to Tran, “the best test is really understanding their sales cycle and process.” You can discover this through good interview questions. Most interviews stop at “what was your quota? What was the average deal size?” But there’s so much more. Ask, How many people hit this number? How many people are on your sales team? Walk me through three times when you were rejected. Walk me through your largest deal and how you closed it.

You can’t assess a salesperson unless you really understand what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis. You need to see how easy it is for them to close deals.

4. Contact references

Checking for references is important, though you should make sure to do it in a way that doesn’t compromise the candidate’s current position. Ask if there’s someone at their current job who can act as a reference discretely.

According to Tran, references can be worthless if not used well. Most people say, “They’re great. Hire them.” Tran recommends this method suggested by G.H. Martin: During an early interview, ask the candidate about perceived strengths and weaknesses. When you’re talking to a reference, bring it up then: “Liz told me she’s working on being on a better manager.” The reference will then be open to talk about weaknesses honestly.

5. Determine culture fit

Jordan Wan, CEO of CloserIQ, says that part of the challenge in sales hires—especially for startups—isn’t about ability, but cultural fit. You have to consider if they’re going to be successful and well supported at your company. There are hires who are top salesperson at another company, who absolutely crush assessment tests, but don’t do well at startups because of culture. Startups also need to pay attention to unique circumstances around territory assignment and other issues. Wan warns, “I would be very skeptical about making any sort of ultimate decisions based off of any individual assessment tests.”

Evaluating sales hires is a complex process, but by using these methods, startups can gain a holistic view of prospective hires and better identify the top sales candidates. Watch the full presentation here.

James Meincke

James is the Head of Marketing @ Demodesk, the intelligent meeting platform for remote sales. Previously he was the Director of Marketing at CloserIQ.