Finding the Right Sales Lid

Recently, I was looking through my pantry for the right lid to a Tupperware container I was holding.   Everyone who does anything in the kitchen struggles with this task.  There are so many different size plastic containers for different uses!  I was frustrated but kept searching to find the right lid to fit my container perfectly.  It took a while, but I finally found one that would fit, thereby preserving my valuable leftovers.

Finding the right sales person for your organization is very similar to trying to identify the right Tupperware lid. Industries and companies are different, deal sizes vary, and job descriptions are seldom well defined and specific enough.  Companies keep trying to hire the “best squirrels” to climb the tree, failing to realize that what they need is the right squirrel for your company and the job you want them to do.

What Does Your End Goal Look Like?

The economy is humming with unemployment hovering around 4%. What that translates to is people hiring frantically, trying to attack the growing market. But simply having the drive to hire top sales talent for your company is not enough.  The opportunities for top talent are great, and your company must do its homework to generate interest – explaining how the role fits into your detailed sales strategy, communicate your unique sales process and organization… all to be able to tell a great story and create a successful outcome.

So, what story are you trying to tell?  My clients have heard me say many times, “fast-forward the movie.”  This means look ahead to your end goal – what results do you want to achieve?  Do you have the right people in place to meet your goals?

Before deciding you have a “sales talent problem,” reevaluate your hiring history.  Maybe the issue is that your recent sales hires really didn’t match the job or company goals.  Was the job well identified with a clear vision and strategy for success?  It’s smart to consider this before initiating the process to source and recruit new sales talent!

Tips to Finding the Perfect Match

Sales roles, and their necessary activities, are all very different; inside vs. outside sales, small or large client hunting, territory size, account managers, and product or industry specialists.  Do you need a door-opener or closer?  A specialist who can speak to other client specialists, or someone with the experience and skills to target and navigate larger deals?  Don’t say “all of the above”!  Your candidates need to match a specific job role.  Don’t fall into the trap of failing this critical decision responsibility and recruiting sales people regardless of whether the lid fits.

Reduce hiring mistakes and find the perfect match to your sales role by doing the following:

  • Build a role strategy for the position, one which matches your sales strategy, ensuring a clear understanding of expectations which you can communicate internally and with job candidates.  Answer these key questions:
    • What level of new hire on-boarding plan are you capable of delivering?
    • What is the responsibility of the sales person towards identifying prospects and lead generation?
    • What level of support will others provide within in the sales cycle and the creation of solutions and pricing?
    • How much support do you require from the sales person for new client on-boarding? Will they pass off the customer to operations right away – or do you need them to support operations for months?
  • Write up a very specific job description well beyond necessary experience, and most importantly include the behaviors and skill sets needed for success.  Don’t get caught up in requiring experience in your specific industry.  Instead, focus on finding good professional sales people and take ownership to give them the needed industry and product training.  Fish with a net, not a spear gun in this high-demand marketplace.
  • Design an effective compensation package that explains and rewards the focus and behaviors you want.  Make sure that the package generates enough incentive and consistently rewards results throughout the year.  Increase the reward payout percentage as the performance increases to celebrate the success.  And don’t be afraid to be creative to reward what you want to achieve.

Because of the wide range of responsibilities and independence required, hiring for the sales position is the hardest job to fill in the company.  Be sure you hunt for a lid matching the role and company needs to greatly increase the likelihood of hiring a perfect-fit sales person!

Feel free to contact Michael Wills, President of Top Line Solutions, at for more sales leadership consulting and sales management.