What makes for a ‘perfect’ sales person – and does such a candidate really exist? For many sales managers, there is no such thing as a sales person who ticks every single one of their essential and desirable boxes. And with 85% of HR decision-makers saying their business has made a bad hire in the past, it’s no wonder that sales managers are becoming increasingly concerned with ensuring their next sales person is a good fit for the role.

However, with one in four UK jobs going unfilled due to a skills shortage, it begs the question: Are managers waiting too long to find the perfect sales hire, missing out on quality candidates in the meantime? After all, unfilled sales positions can be hugely detrimental to your business, with no one on patch, fewer leads coming in and ultimately a lower sales count. However, this must be balanced with the cost of hiring the wrong candidate.

Even the most experienced sales superstar can struggle to tick every single box of desirable sales skills and experience, but as a sales manager you’ll want to get as close as possible to that perfect candidate. If you feel like you’re constantly on hunt for the perfect sales hire, the following steps will help you to identify the best sales people for your team.

Be realistic about candidates

When recruiting for any sales role, it’s important to take stock of what’s essential and what’s nice to have. Be prepared to compromise and adapt your requirements to the talent available on the market – while it can be tempting to hold out for the ‘perfect’ fit, the reality is that you may need to adjust your expectations in order to make the role fit the sales person, as opposed to the other way around. Not every box has to be ticked, particularly when it comes to skills that can be learnt on the job – if you’re prepared to compromise, you’ll fill your vacancies quicker and have someone on patch and bringing in revenue.

If you work with a recruitment partner, they will be able to give you an idea of what types of candidates you can expect for your role, salary band and location. Reconsider the non-negotiable elements of the role – for example, do they really need five years’ experience, or will three years’ and a fantastic attitude be just as beneficial? Do sales people need to have sold your specific product line before, or are there transferrable skills that might give them a fresh perspective on how to approach your market? If you can relax some of your candidate criteria, you may uncover a goldmine of potential sales people who turn out to be perfect for your organisation.

Take inspiration from existing sales stars

Just as your existing team members can be used as ambassadors to promote your employer brand, they can also be inspiration for your next sales stars. Look at the skills and experience your previous hires have and base your hiring criteria around those. Are past hires still within your team, or have they moved on? What made them a good or bad fit for your team, and what can you learn from them to improve your hiring process?

Identify your top performers and most positive team members and analyse what makes them so special – it may be their relentless drive to hit personal and team sales goals, their ability to balance autonomy with the wider interests of the team, or their innate knowledge of your product and how it addresses the specific needs of your clients. You don’t need to completely replicate these hires; indeed, people with different backgrounds and levels of experience can bring something unique to your team. Research shows that being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working, so diversity in your team can only be a good thing.

Your team can also be instrumental in helping you to identify missing skill sets that would benefit the wider team, as well identifying the experience and knowledge that is absolutely integral to your sales strategy. Their idea of a perfect sales team member may differ from your opinion of a great hire, so take note of their on-the-ground expertise – and remember, you can always teach and train sales people to help them get closer to your idea of a perfect fit.

Hire for cultural fit

Cultural fit is an increasingly important element for both employers and candidates, with nearly two-thirds of employees indicating that they’d take a pay cut in order to work for an organisation that offers a superior cultural fit.

When hiring for your next sales superstar, it may be your instinct to focus solely on skills and experience, however cultural fit can be equally – if not more – important. A sales person may not have all the experience and skills you’re looking for, but if they are the right cultural fit for your team then you can train them to bring them up to technical speed. You can teach someone new techniques to close a sale, but you can’t teach them how to fit in with your team and align with company values.

In fact, 90% of employers say it’s very important for candidates to have a good cultural fit. When assessing candidates, think about how they align with your company values and how they’d fit into the rest of the team. Someone who lacks specific experience with your product or service but who is motivated and driven, embodies your corporate values and gets along with the rest of your team could be invaluable. Look for personality traits that work with your team dynamic, the right attitude and a willingness to learn, and you may find the perfect sales candidate is closer than you think.

Provide training and development

With the right training, a good hire can be transformed into a great one. Workplace training can increase productivity, improve morale and boost business growth, according to AAT, and more than half of all UK employers believe that improving staff qualifications and skills can lead to increased staff commitment and retention. With that in mind, by committing to the ongoing development of your staff, you’ll likely be rewarded with sales people who are not only better at their jobs, but ultimately more loyal to you as a company.

When hiring, look for must-have sales skills that you’ve identified as being crucial for your role, with the knowledge that you can train the rest. Candidates can be trained on industry, product and market knowledge, but they need to have the right sales DNA – and that’s something you can’t teach. If you have a strong candidate on the table who lacks some of the skills or experience you’d like, but has a great attitude and would be a strong cultural fit, don’t rule them out. With on-the-job training and ongoing coaching, they could turn out to be sales superstars – and the longer you wait for that ‘perfect’ candidate who has absolutely everything you’re looking for, the longer you’ll leave sales territory uncovered and the more sales you’ll miss out on.

Ask for help

While the perfect sales candidate may not always exist, the perfect-for-you sales person could be right under your nose. At BMS Performance, we specialise in sales recruitment and training and can help you find the talent you deserve. Contact us here to see how we can help.