Developing an Effective Sales Hiring Process

Developing an Effective Sales Hiring Process

How to Consistently Hire Top Performers

February 26, 2020

Your sales team is critical to your company’s revenue growth, so recruiting the right reps is essential. Since sales is a high-pressure, high-turnover function, it’s not enough to find the occasional successful hire. Your team needs a reliable, scalable strategy for identifying suitable candidates—and ensuring their skill set aligns with your unique needs.

Here are effective ways to maximize your approach to sales hiring—and consistently land top performers.

How to Consistently Hire Top Performers


Before inviting a candidate to interview, avoid squandering time on poor fits by pre-collecting key data. It’s important to understand the specific circumstances in which they achieved past success, because if these circumstances vary widely from those at your company, they may not enjoy the same success in this role.

For example, maybe they closed large deals in a previous role—but if your company relies on small, high-volume sales, they may struggle. And if a single massive sale made their year great, will their success be sufficiently consistent for your needs?

Consider factors beyond numbers, too. What did the candidate previously sell? Is it similar to what they’d be selling at your firm? Do they know your industry? What did their previous sales support system look like? Do they excel at generating leads as well as closing them? To maximize success, aim to hire salespeople who have a track record of thriving in environments much like your own.

One tactic you can use to ensure you’re comparing apples to apples is to ask the candidate for metrics from their previous sales role, including the average selling price (ASP) of their product and the length of the average sales cycle (ASC) they have experience with. By using metrics to drive your hiring decisions and relying less on factors like interview performance, charisma, and emotional intelligence (EQ), you’ll find reps with a proven track record of closing the kinds of deals you want.

Here is a sample set of data points you can ask candidates to fill out for each of their prior sales positions as a sales matrix tool:

Sample Set of Data Points to Ask Candidates

 Company Name
 Core Product/Service Description
 Role/Responsibility Description
 New Logo Bookings Annual Contract Volume (ACV) Quota
 Cross-sell Bookings ACV Quota
 Avg Sales Cycle (# of Days or Months)
 Bookings Achieved in $
 New Logo Quota Attainment %
 Cross-sell Quota Attainment %
 Average New Logo Deal Size
 Leads from Marketing %
 Win-rate %



Sales candidates tend to be sociable, animated extroverts. But not all vibrant extroverts are right for the job.

To separate personality from potential, develop a structured interview process designed to probe past performance—and determine whether it translates to future success at your company.

Here’s an example of a structured hiring process from one of our portfolio companies:


  1. Complete and post the job description
  2. Hold preliminary interviews
  3. Complete email samples
  4. Hold secondary interviews (1 of 2 in-person interviews)
  5. Hold secondary interviews (2 of 2 in-person interviews)
  6. Complete mock customer presentation webinars to evaluate sales skills
  7. Complete referral calls
  8. Share findings and make final decision
  9. Inform candidate and close


Having consistent objectives, questions, and areas you and the hiring team are scoring on for each stage will help structure your candidate evaluations and create alignment.

Asking candidates to fill out a sales matrix from the questions above, can also help you gauge how forward-thinking and opportunity-driven they are, while giving you more data for a strong, objective, side-by-side comparison.



Is a candidate’s performance trending up—or starting to slip? It’s better to hire a B-player that’s becoming an A-player, rather than the other way around. Do they take ownership of their results? Can they be individual high performers while balancing team needs? Look for candidates who are motivated and coachable, with enough prior experience to allow you to assess their potential accurately.



While there’s no single model for sales success, these traits are common among high performers:


Characteristics: Are they creative? Can they crack open new accounts?

Ask questions like: “Describe how you would go about prospecting a new client.”


Characteristics: Are they able to cope with rejection? How fast do they bounce back?

Ask questions like: “Tell me about an instance when you lost a sale to a competitor, and why.”


Characteristics: Do they set goals for themselves? Can they self-motivate?

Ask questions like: “What techniques have you developed to remain focused while managing long-term sales?”


Characteristics: Do they ask good questions? Do they request product demos?

Ask questions like: “Tell me about a presentation that you were particularly proud of. Why was it effective in winning others over?”

Strong Sense of Urgency

Characteristics: Are they action-oriented? Aggressive about getting things done?

Ask questions like: “Describe a situation in which you had to take immediate action despite not having all the information.”



No matter how strong your interview process is, not every hire will work out. To account for turnover rates typical of this role, assume a 50% fail rate of new hires—and a 30% attrition rate for your existing team. Build your recruiting pipeline accordingly. Having at least one position open at all times ensures you’ll never be surprised by turnover—and will always have a new candidate in your pipeline to advance.

You can also reduce the likelihood of failure by setting realistic expectations. Be transparent and outline key milestones that you expect new hires to hit in the first 3-12 months. There’s nothing better than giving candidates clear goals—and reaping the benefits as they thrive.

Interested in learning more about hiring? Listen to The Get podcast where we discuss “What Private Equity Investors Look for in Marketing Leaders.”

Serent Capital invests in growing businesses that have developed compelling solutions that address their customers' needs. As those businesses grow and evolve, the opportunities and challenges that they face change with them. Principals at Serent Capital have firsthand experience at capturing those opportunities and navigating these difficulties through their experiences as CEOs, strategic advisors, and board members to successful growing businesses. By bringing its expertise and capital to bear, Serent seeks to help growing businesses thrive. Learn more about our portfolio companies.


This publication is for informational purposes only, and nothing contained herein constitutes an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any interest in any investment vehicle managed by Serent Capital or any company in which Serent Capital or its affiliates have invested. An offer or solicitation will be made only through a final private placement memorandum, subscription agreement and other related documents with respect to a particular investment opportunity and will be subject to the terms and conditions contained in such documents, including the qualifications necessary to become an investor. Serent Capital does not utilize its website to provide investment or other advice, and nothing contained herein constitutes a comprehensive or complete statement of the matters discussed or the law relating thereto. Information provided reflects Serent Capital’s views as of a particular time and are subject to change without notice. You should obtain relevant and specific professional advice before making any investment decision.
Executive endorsements of Serent Capital are for illustrative purposes, designed to attract business development contacts, and should not be construed as a client or investor testimonial of Serent Capital's investment advisory services. All such endorsements are from current or former portfolio company leadership about Serent Capital’s ability to provide services to their companies. Certain executives are also investors in Serent Capital’s investment vehicle(s), and as such, there is an inherent conflict in that those executives have an incentive to provide favorable reviews of Serent Capital’s business practices for the benefit of the investment vehicles that they hold a personal ownership interest in. Serent Capital has not, directly or indirectly, paid any compensation to such individuals for their endorsements.
Certain information on this Website may contain forward-looking statements, which are subject to risks and uncertainties and speak only as of the date on which they are made. The words “believe”, “expect”, “anticipate”, “optimistic”, “intend”, “aim”, “will” or similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Serent Capital undertakes no obligation to update publicly or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise. Past performance is not indicative of future results; no representation is being made that any investment or transaction will or is likely to achieve profits or losses similar to those achieved in the past, or that significant losses will be avoided.