Senior salesperson leading meeting with sales staff around table
Increasing sales

How to hire senior B2B sales staff

Experience shows only one in four new hires in senior B2B sales roles succeed. Given the average cost of getting it wrong amounts to $100,00 to $150,000, let alone the organisational stress and lost opportunity, it’s important to take a strategic approach to hiring great salespeople.

Whether we like it or not, if you operate in higher-value B2B markets and need to differentiate through customer value-creation – it still holds true that people buy from people.

The quality of the sales process, and hiring good sales staff, is even more critical as we operate in times of empowered customers who are informed, demanding, and less loyal. 

Sales success can’t be hired

It is a myth that salespeople can easily replicate success across organisations or markets. The hiring and firing cycle proves the point:

We hired people with a track record, relationships and experience. They ‘talked the talk’. We assumed they would know what to do. We believed the pipeline of sales opportunities was looking good, yet got nothing across the line.

Successful organisations treat their sales guide, strategy, structure and process as a core competency of their business. They have clarity about “WHAT” their objectives are, and “HOW” to go about winning business.

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Five questions to ask before hiring a salesperson

  1. What do you want to achieve?
  2. Develop a clear sales plan that aligns with business objectives.

    A sales plan determines where the revenue will come from and what the sales structure is. The plan determines the profile of the salesperson you need, and what operational support will be required. Lead generation and new business sales are vastly different to up and cross-selling into a customer base. In alignment with the business plan, the sales plan serves as a realistic roadmap showing ‘how’ the revenue number will be achieved.

  3. How will you choose the right candidate?
  4. Develop a detailed profile of the ideal sales rep including skills, fit and behaviours.

    It is essential to go beyond the CV and focus on ‘sales behaviour’ to recruit top talent. Think about the customer experience your business wants to create and ‘how’ the sales rep needs to interact. Such behaviour might be the ability to analyse customer needs accurately, design competently in solutions or control a customer sales meeting effectively.

  5. How will you train ‘your way’ of doing business?
  6. Formulate a step-by-step sales process that is specific to your business.

    A sales process encodes how the end-to-end buyer and seller journey works and what needs to be done to get from one stage to the next. The process also needs to determine how to accurately qualify opportunities and translate them into a robust forecast. Don’t confuse a sales methodology such as Challenger Sales with an operational sales process. Without such a guide, new sales hires will not know how to move a sale from contact to contract.

  7. How will you know if it’s working?
  8. Implement operational reporting to monitor quality and quantity of sales activity.

    Sales management is crucial to help salespeople succeed and drive the right business outcomes. On average, it requires three hours per week to review, mentor and coach a salesperson. Robust, regular reporting is essential to see if a pipeline is converting to revenue. Opportunity reviews and account planning increase win chances.

  9. How will you know during the interview process if they can ‘walk the talk’?
  10. Incorporate situational role-plays to assess behaviours.

    Traditional interview questions don’t deliver any real evidence of how the salesperson will behave in front of your customers. The interview itself is not representative as candidates are coached to give the right answers. Only realistic role-plays that simulate your sales environment will deliver evidence if they can ask the right questions, move the sale on, have strong listening skills or can apply subject matter expertise.

Is recruiting sales staff worth the time and effort?

Everything comes back to how much ‘sales-pain’ your organisation experiences, and if you aspire to get to the next level. Clients we work with who are aspiring to grow revenue are typically driven by the need to bring more predictability and certainty into the sales and marketing performance of their business.

Admittedly, aspects of salesmanship are an art form that can’t be taught in MBA classes and remain largely experience-based. However, salesmanship needs to be embedded in the science of process and good business planning. Just setting a revenue number and hiring people doesn’t necessarily translate into growth. A strategic yet granular and practical plan does reduce the business risk and keeps everybody on track.

Ursula Dauenhauer

Ursula Dauenhauer

Founder, Business Backstage

Sydney-based Ursula Dauenhauer works hand-in-hand with leadership teams of medium sized organisations in B2B technology markets who are great at what they do to develop and implement business growth initiatives to scale their sales results.

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