4 major challenges to recruiting sales associates (and how to overcome them)

Recruiting sales associates

5 mins, 11 secs read time

Recruiting a cohesive sales team is no simple task. The goal is to leverage the right personalities, skills, and industry knowledge to hit and surpass sales targets. According to LinkedIn’s US Emerging Jobs Report, sales is currently the 2nd most in-demand skill.

Traditional approaches to recruiting don’t always work when building a sales team these days. This is because sales representatives are masters of showing strengths in their best light. What you see may not necessarily be what you get. Furthermore, when companies need to start sourcing sales candidates, the need is typically high and decisions must be made quickly.

These are just a couple realities of building a sales team. Here are four of the major challenges that commonly show up during this process, and ways to combat them.

1. Misalignment with company culture

The term “cultural fit” was one of the biggest buzzwords in the HR world. Success in any position now depends heavily on the new iteration of this concept; being a good culture add, rather than an exact fit. Even the most gifted employee can be stifled if they don’t understand and align with the company values, dynamic, and overall mindset.

Sales candidates must be fully comfortable in their environment to be a true asset. As most recruiters are on a time crunch to fill sales roles, it can be tempting to make an offer to the candidate who looks best on paper. However, how a particular salesperson will fit with a company’s culture isn’t always easy to suss out from a résumé or cover letter. This is a challenge that requires serious intellect.

Developments in AI recruiting can help address this. Many resources have features designed to gauge factors like communication skills, situational judgment, professional values, and more. The AI algorithms then use predictive analytics to match a candidate with a company’s cultural profile.

2. Lack of data knowledge

It’s no surprise that today's sales cycle, much like many other business functions, runs on big data insights.

A successful salesperson requires more than a nice smile and an extroverted personality. They must understand how relevant data points in the market and customer insights translate to opportunities, and ultimately, revenue.

Now, the widespread sophistication and absolute necessity of data-backed business intelligence is still relatively new. Finding sales talent adept in this realm can be challenging for recruiters.

To combat this, companies can create a training program to familiarize new hires with data management protocol and how it relates to the company’s sales process. Salesforce has (more or less) become the gold standard of business intelligence software. One of the best ways to turn your sales associates into highly versatile assets is to implement a professional Salesforce training program. This will help reps to understand how research, marketing, and customer service datasets fit together to create a path to high-value sales opportunities.

During the recruitment process, a candidate should display a knack for reading between the lines and identifying patterns—as this is a core skill needed to understand big data analytics.

3. Spotting the fakers

In the sales trade (and other fields of work), there are people who know how to sell products/services, and potentially some folks who only know how to sell themselves. Spotting the difference can be a very difficult challenge, especially when you need to hire someone quickly.

Overcoming the challenge of weeding out fakers can be traced back to the interview process and the questions you ask. Try to get a feel for how they contributed to previous organizations. Here are a few interview questions to keep in mind:

  • How long was the typical sales cycle at your old company?
  • How did your old company position itself in the market?
  • How would you describe an ideal sales manager?
  • What part of the sales funnel do you think is most important?
  • What is the next step to developing your sales skills?

Try to get them to provide real examples, as well as the results.

Separating the truly talented salespeople from those who may not be able to do the job you need is rarely easy. However, there are certain parts of a good recruiting process that can’t be faked.

4. Matching talent with budgetary constraints

This is a challenge of sales recruiting that most organizations face. Sales jobs are everywhere, yet there is significantly less adept talent available to fill the void. The good ones know where the money is and set their sights accordingly.

If you need sales reps, but are working on a shoestring budget, recruiting a skilled candidate can be extremely difficult.

The key here is knowing how to spot potential. For instance, if you are looking for entry-level candidates, there are several key bits of information to look for on a résumé that indicate natural sales ability. If they have any sort of entrepreneurial pursuit or extracurricular leadership on their résumé, this is a great sign they have the drive to learn and grow.

Overall, the patterns you should be keeping an eye out for are utilitarianism and individualism. Seeing these traits in the recruitment process is a fantastic sign that candidates are highly motivated to sell and take ownership of their outcomes.

Putting these practices into action

In many ways, the sales process looks much different today than it did in previous decades. The constant objective for today’s sales reps is using vast information and datasets available to be in front of the right people at the right time.

As a recruiter, finding adequate candidates to flourish in these roles is going to be a tough task for a long, long time. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools and tricks out there to help overcome the big challenges.

Hiring new talent can be time-consuming, costly, and stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. A great first step is implementing a structured hiring process. Not sure where to get started? Read through Greenhouse’s “Designing a Structured Interview Process” interactive workbook.