Recruiting salesmen

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Before employing a salesman, the company must be very clear why they need a specific profile and the criteria for the choice.

There are many companies that do not know the criteria they should employ to recruit salesmen that fulfil the needs of the company, the sales team and the product. Sometimes, even when they have retained the services of specialised recruitment company, they don’t come up with the right candidate. This happens when the recruiting company does not have clear criteria as to the profile of the salesman they require and which we will discuss below.

What do I need a salesman for?

The first question you have to ask yourself is what you need him for. This is essential to make sure the candidate conforms to the post and not the other way round. Many a time, companies will renounce some of their requirements to adapt to the candidates available.

Do I need another salesman to sell more? If so, I would advice that a first step would be to evaluate the performance of the existing team. They may not be performing at full capacity. Any expert in Sales Management will advise you on this matter. I would also like to remind you that, as I said in my article “Salesman, what am I paying you for?”, selling is not the only mission of a salesman.


What area will he work in?

Delimiting the area he will work and his client list is essential as these definitions will determine the time to be invested to achieve projected sales and the potential of the area.


What do I need him to do? Basic skills.

Let’s move on to the skills, that is the candidate’s technical knowledge that will enable him to carry out his mission satisfactorily. Does he need to work with computer programmes – CRM software, does he require specific technical knowledge or have leadership skills to manage teams? You need to make sure that the candidates have the basic skills; the best way to do this is by asking the right questions during the interview. Following are some examples of questions that may be useful during the interview depending on the experience we need or the skills we require:


  • Why did you choose this line of studies?
  • If you had been able to continue studying, what would you have chosen?
  • What changes have taken place since finishing your studies?


  • Tell me about your professional experience (in chronological order).
  • Why did you change jobs? (Look for clarifications if you meet doubtful or incomplete answers or reluctance to answer.
  • Role and responsibilities?
  • What did you bring to the company or team that made a difference?

Motivation for Application for this Post

  • What attracted you to our offer?
  • Why would you like to join our company?
  • Assuming you receive several offers, what criteria would you use to choose?
  • What does your family think of the matter?


  • References
  • Notice
  • Current package and expectations

Profession in General

  • Why do you want t work as a salesman?
  • What should a salesman do when a client starts speaking about competing products?
  • What steps have you taken to hone your sales skills?
  • What type of clients don’t you like selling to? Why?


  • What have you sold?
  • Do you feel you can sell anything? Why?
  • What advantages did you have over the competition?
  • What inconveniences did you come across?

Sales Techniques

  • How do you prepare visits?
  • What do you think about training?
  • What is you opinion of sales targets?
  • How often have you met or outperformed your targets?
  • Did you have to contact new clients? How?
  • What is the most difficult sale you have ever made? Why?
  • What do you think of customer surveys?
  • Did you use pre-prepared sales pitches? If so, did the company provide them?
  • How do you react when a customer says you’re too expensive?


  • How do you organise your own work?
  • Do you organise your own routes? Using what criteria?
  • To what extent do you think that a salesman’s task should be improvised?
  • Do you provide the company with regular feedback? How often? How?
  • What do you think of sales reports?

Fitting in

  • Who was your immediate superior?
  • How did you both get on?
  • How can a sales manager help the salesmen?
  • What do you think of joint visits with your boss or sales director?
  • How often should they be made?
  • Are the relations between the salesmen of the company useful? What do they achieve?

By this time, we should have a fairly clear idea of how our candidate deals with the performance of his tasks, his opinion of critical sales management criteria and to what extent he is a team player. We will also have information on his current salary package and his expectations. At a second interview, it is becoming more common to ask the candidates to provide a salary slip in which gross and net wages are specified.

The Salesman’s Personality

I would strongly recommend investigating a salesman’s personality. The goal is to discover to what extent his personality is suited to a sales role, whether or not he is extroverted, his degree of non-conformity, his ambitions, whether or not he expresses himself clearly logically and the possible conflicts that may arise with his colleagues or superiors.

Personally, I prefer a graphological study of his writing and, above all, of his signature. These studies are relatively inexpensive and can save us a lot of problems later.

Trial Period

This is another hurdle that has to be faced. How long will I need to see if a salesman is worth his salt? Under normal circumstances, results don’t start coming in nor can we see if his behaviour is suitable until it is too late. In my opinion, the trial period for a salesman should be one week from the moment he starts his sales tasks after training.

In this week, from Monday to Friday, I suggest noting how often a salesman contacts his superior to clear up doubts. Any salesman, even one with a lot of experience in any sector, when visiting new clients or handling new products will always come across situations which will create doubts and bring up situations that need clarifying. I would advise letting go any salesman that, at the end of the week, has not taken the initiative to get in touch at least once a day.

This is a clear indication of one or both unacceptable attitudes: not working or not communicating with his superior. This way we can attempt to “rescue” our second choice candidate before he is tempted by another offer.

See you soon and good sales!

Salvador Devant
Sales strategy consultant