RecruitersHR good practiceAttract, Hire, and Keep Your Next Junior Sales Superstar

Attract, Hire, and Keep Your Next Junior Sales Superstar

  • Monday, April 17, 2023
  • Maxime Liebens

Drawing on over a decade’s experience leading sales teams in the recruitment sector, Maxime shares his actionable tips on making sure your next sales hire is a good long-term fit for your company.

A woman looking into the camera on a green background.

Maxime is VP of Sales at JobTeaser and the ultimate "blitzscale" - in just under four years, he grew the JobTeaser Sales team from two members to 70 Sales and Customer Success reps in over ten countries. Drawing on over a decade’s experience leading sales teams in the recruitment sector, Maxime shares his actionable tips on making sure your next sales hire is a good long-term fit for your company.

All over the world, sales roles are typically subject to high turnover rates, with some experts arguing that it is particularly difficult to hire and retain Millennial sales staff. At the same time, only a minority of junior sales hires actually have experience or a degree in sales. So, how do you make sure you’re hiring the right talent, and how do you ensure that they are in it for the long haul?

It’s a common misconception that a good salesperson is somebody who loves banter. This is only partly true, and it’s definitely not essential. Far more important than the ability to chit-chat are listening skills, curiosity, empathy, the ability to give advice, and to explain things in a simple and transparent manner.

So, what should you really be looking for?

Before you go on the prowl for your next junior sales hire, you need to determine what your department really needs, and set out clear criteria at different levels:

Ask yourself if that PhD is really necessary.

Define the level of education you require from your new hire, and whether you expect a specific degree.

Establish a hierarchy of skills.

Distinguish between the “must-haves”, the “preferables” and the “nice-to-haves” - and be willing to compromise.

Don't neglect attitude.

As much as this is about personality, it’s also about the potential hire’s adherence to the company’s objectives and core mission.

Be realistic about a young graduate’s prior experience

...But do consider whether you would like them to at least have done an internship in a similar role.

Focus on the “people skills”.

Your potential hire will need to be flexible, persuasive and an excellent listener.

Starting with establishing this simple criteria can help you move on to exactly how you want to approach your screening process.

How to know if they’re “The One”

Once you’ve moved past the basics, you can tackle some of the more complex questions that will be addressed in the interview stage:

✌️ Does the candidate represent who you are?

At JobTeaser, cultural fit is our number one concern: does the candidate embody our values, “HEAT” (Humility, Engagement, Agility and enThusiasm)? We’re not looking for the quintessential “shark”, we’re more interested in people who authentically represent what we stand for. The “Why are you here?” question becomes crucial: we need people who believe they’re going to change the world far more than they think working in a start-up could be fun.

🏃‍Are they willing to go the extra mile?

Honesty, rigour and social skills also top our list at JobTeaser, and rigour’s a particularly tough one to assess. In the French context, I appreciate candidates who’ve been through preparatory courses - they tend to work well independently and are able to take on more responsibilities. More generally, people who have worked for large retailers can also be good fits - if you were a floor manager for two years and woke up at 5 a.m. every single day,  I’m interested!

🥀How do they deal with failure?

I always want to hear more from candidates who can say with confidence, “I messed up,” and are able to explain why they left their previous company without being negative about their former employers.

I also value candidates with a positive mindset, because being part of a company that’s growing exponentially can be very mentally taxing. Ultimately, even the best salespeople lose deals. Being rejected is as much a part of the job as signing a new client. So, the best sales executives are those who will pick themselves up, learn from their failures and bounce back quickly.

🕵️‍Set up a functioning screening process

We like to simulate a sales pitch with our candidates and have them meet different kinds of people from across the organization, including managers, C-Suite execs and the co-founders. This helps us get a better understanding of where the candidate is coming from, and helps them visualize what being part of the organization might look like. Even at the junior level, there’s a lot of competition among companies to hire salespeople, so this can help set us apart from other companies that are hiring.

🤔Manage (your own) expectations

When hiring a young professional or recent graduate, I keep my standards high, but my expectations reasonable. In other words, the candidate may be “smart”, but they still need training. A simple way to assess their willingness to learn and adapt is to give them detailed information at the beginning of the interview, and then ask them to summarise it for you at the end of the interview. This can help get a sense of their attention span and their ability to synthesise information under stress.

Training and onboarding your high-potential recruit

Once it’s been established that a candidate has the potential, they will need a set of tools to help them shine, starting with quality onboarding and training. Here are some of the aspects you might want to include:

A solid understanding of the full sales cycle

The sales cycle tends to be unique to every company, so the sooner your new recruit is familiarised with yours, the better for everyone.

Smart and targeted prospecting tips

…. Because the fun can’t begin before they find the right contact!

Training in time management and business methods

This could mean literally helping your new hire manage their schedule during the first few months.

The art of closing a sale

For the initial few months, a new hire should be backed by a manager when it comes to closing.This will help them sharpen their follow-up techniques and get that much closer to a “Yes!” every single time.

Prospecting never stops

At JobTeaser, even the more senior account managers sustain a solid pace of prospecting: it keeps them on their toes and helps them understand where potential clients are coming from.

The worst thing you could possibly do to your new hire is to put them on the back burner. Our junior executives have a solid client portfolio, shoulder a good deal of responsibility and are constantly supported by their “buddies” and their managers. Giving your new hires responsibility is one of the key ways you can avoid them being discouraged. It’s also important to see them as a driving force within your team: compared to more senior execs who may be more set in their ways, your younger recruits will constantly be trying to improve their technique if they don’t see the results they were expecting.

They’re here now…. but how long will they stay?

Once you’ve onboarded and trained your new sales hire, there are a few ways to ensure that you’re able to retain them:  

💰 Yes, money does matter…

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that remuneration is a big factor. Even if you’re working with people who want to change the world, it’s important that they be high-performing and have a healthy sense of competition. You will need to encourage them with a simple and attractive remuneration package. A sales rep who signs a deal should be able to tell immediately how much commission he or she will be making.

✋ ... But so does team spirit

Salary is one thing, but it’s not everything. The old-school, individualistic sales culture is a thing of the past - and a team is made up of individual personalities. There will certainly be individual objectives to set, but communicating to the group as a whole helps build connections between people that go beyond management. At JobTeaser, for instance, we have an active buddy programme in which new hires are mentored through their initial months at the company.

I always keep in mind that salespeople are my eyes and ears on the ground, so it’s vital that I collect and act on their feedback. A good manager should also be able to anticipate the obstacles that their young recruits might face. This winning combination helps the team move forward, together.

📈 Show them what growth might look like

Helping your new team members grow within the organisation contributes to increasing their loyalty. This doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a Sales School -  it just means giving your new hires a sense of what a career at your company really means. Once we’ve trained new hires at JobTeaser, we give them more transversal responsibilities: new types of products to sell, or an opportunity to get involved in marketing activities, for example.

📠 Give them what they need to succeed

Too many start-ups think that a good product is enough to see them through. But hypergrowth is one of the key reasons why companies fail. Growth needs to go hand-in-hand with a well-organised workspace and relevant tools to fall back on. We consistently provide our Sales team with the tools they need to succeed - whether that’s a solid CRM, a company phone, or a workspace that encourages productivity.

Ultimately, hiring high-potential young talent and training them to become a force to reckon with is a good investment for the long run. It’s common knowledge that the best - and most satisfied! - salespeople refer the most solid new candidates going forward. I say invest in them now, and you’ll never look back.

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