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Let’s Talk Talent: Building the perfect strategy for hiring sales people

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Hiring can be a difficult thing to get right as a small business. And as companies start to get back to some normality after a year of such hardship, sales teams could make all the difference as they try to bounce back from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In the first of our Let’s Talk Talent series of webinars with our partners Give A Grad A Go, we brought together sales experts Alison Edgar MBE, bestselling author and award-winning entrepreneur, and ‘The Scale-Up Millionaire’, Gordon McAlpine, along with Give A Grad A Go founder, Cary Curtis, to discuss how to get it right when hiring for sales roles.  

Do sales figures matter?

The consensus here was very clear from the off. “Sales figures do not matter in interviews,” Gordon started. “They might give an overall impression, but more often than not they’re irrelevant, and very hard to verify so I tend to ignore these.”

More important for Gordon are personality traits, particularly drive and passion. “If you can see them inspiring you and selling your product, then that’s huge,” he said. 

Cary added: “Whoever’s coming in to sell for you needs to have an interest in what you’re doing as an organisation, so you know their enthusiasm will come across to the customer as well as you.”

Alison admitted she likes to bring in young people because “they have no bad habits” in the sales room. She added: “I’m a fan of the clean slate, and my recruits have no sales skills at all, but the right attitude. Then I can mould them for stonking results.” 

Will experience become more important due to hybrid working?

Young salespeople often learn from watching or listening to more senior or experienced colleagues. With hybrid working set to feature heavily post-pandemic, it begs the question whether or not businesses will continue to hire young or inexperienced people, who may find it harder to learn from colleagues.

Alison emphasised the importance of the quality of experience, explaining: “If you’re working in a close together environment, you can make your own choice – pick up the bits that do work, and leave behind the bits that don’t.

“When at home, you can’t be their cheerleader when they win, and the granny with the hanky when they lose; if you don’t take care of your new recruits, then they can lose motivation quickly and won’t make the effort to maintain good habits.”

And that’s why all of our speakers mentioned how important a training buddy is, especially in a hybrid environment. Gordon stated: “Even if you’re doing two days in the office, and three at home, the first few days should always be in the office to set the tone for how you expect them to work elsewhere.”

The ideal candidate

Is there such a thing as the perfect for any sales role, or does it depend entirely on the business and the entrepreneur?

Mindset is key for Alison: “People that don’t moan, but take lessons from what goes wrong, are the best. You can’t train it, but with a real growth mindset, you can do anything.”

Gordon wants them to be coachable. He explained what he looks for: “Are they really listening, or are their eyes glazing over? They need to be open-minded, and take criticism in the right way.”.

Cary agreed but said his favourite trait in a sales person is “enthusiasm for what the business does, to make a really passionate pitch and take pride in your work”.


Please contact Give A Grad A Go for support with Hiring Salespeople for your business.