Hiring sales staff

What should you look for in a top salesperson and how can you create an effective sales team? Read on to find out...

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Hiring sales staff is a key step in building a business, so it requires a foolproof recruitment process to get right.

Entrepreneurs are very good at getting excited about their own products and ideas, and have bags of passion, energy and charm, but they can be less good at listening.

Salespeople will need that passion, but they will have to be extremely good at listening in order to know what the customer wants and sell effectively. They also need to be focused and disciplined to be able to plan and focus on their leads. And they’ll definitely need a thick skin.

That’s not to say that a good entrepreneur can’t also be a natural salesperson, but if your talents are skewed towards entrepreneurialism then you’re going to need someone (or a team) to be in charge of sales – after all, all businesses involve selling.

So, what should you look for in a top salesperson and how can you create an effective sales team?

In this article we will cover:

In this article we cover:

Sales employee job description

Salespeople often need a lot of empathy, and will have to really take the time to develop relationships and see things through to the very end.

You’re not looking for hugely aggressive employees, but those who are great with people, likeable, confident, with tons of initiative. They will be affable and have the ability to cut to the chase.


The 5 top attributes of a good salesperson are:

#1 Confidence

Essential for a salesperson, confidence can be seen in all areas of selling. Whether it’s pitching, closing, objection handling, or even just picking up the phone in the first place, confidence is pretty much everything in sales.

Think back and I’m sure you can remember the voice tone of someone who sounded confident on the phone, and someone who sounded unsure. Which one would you buy from?

#2 Self-Motivation

The key is in the first part of the word – ‘self’. Most average salespeople rely on other things to motivate them – a ‘lucky’ sales call or email, their manager, sale competitions, a sunny day, a stroke of luck with a client. Top salespeople use their initiative and do whatever it takes to stay motivated.

#3 Knowledge

I don’t just mean knowledge of your product or service, but also knowledge of your company, your industry, your business world, your clients, your competitors and your profession – in fact, everything associated with your role. If you want to appear to your clients as a professional, trusted advisor, then start acting and talking like you are one. Most salespeople never bother to learn the strengths and weaknesses of their competition, and then they complain when they aren’t very successful.

#4 Conviction

Top salespeople have conviction – conviction in themselves, their profession, their product or service, their colleagues – pretty much in everything to do with their job. If you’re trying to convince people that what you have to offer is the best thing for them, you’ll have to convince yourself first.

#5 Tenacity

Call it tenacity, persistence, or determination, it’s one of the best attitudes a salesperson can posses. Is everything always going to run smoothly? No. Are you always going to get objections? Yes. Are you going to get those day-to-day challenges that make it difficult to focus on the things you know you should be doing? Yes. Successful salespeople expect these hurdles but keep on going anyway.


Sales director Jon Seymour explains what he looks for in the perfect salesperson:

“I look for determined and creative problem solvers that are individual and engaging characters, who can develop really strong long term relationships with their clients. They need to be likeable, confident and really driven to succeed.

“I want them to add value to their clients’ businesses by becoming a trusted advisor that can help in achieving troublesome objectives and targets. I’m always looking for really driven and autonomous salespeople that will get on with and inspire trust with clients.  

“Once in the team, I look to them to be autonomous and creative in their approach and work together with the other members for the greater good of the business. I also really want them to inspire me and push me on to achieve more.

I try to do all I can to make my sales team successful, which leads to increasing confidence and, generally speaking, happiness in their role and team – in my experience everything follows once you have those catalysts working together.”   

Hiring a successful sales team

When you’re growing a sales team quickly, it’s key to get the right people in. There’s no point bringing in 10 people in if five don’t work out – this wastes time and resources, resets your relationships with potential customers, spreads bad news to potential recruits, and destroys morale within the team.

Instead, take the time to ensure you’re bringing in quality candidates with the tight skill-set to make successful salespeople.

  • Intelligence (including emotional intelligence)
  • Resourcefulness
  • Being goal-oriented
  • A team player
  • Coachable

The interview

The interview questions should assess whether the candidate has what it takes to succeed in sales based on the attributes mentioned above. (link to box-out)

Dependent as it is on the candidates ability to persuade you they are the right person for the role, an interview scenario in itself is a good test of sales ability.

Some common questions for a sales interview:

  • What do you find rewarding about sales?
  • How did you close your most successful sale?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses in sales?
  • What interests you about sales position at this company?
  • What motivates you?


It’s a good idea to break the interview down into a number of stages so you can check a candidate’s suitability for the role in different areas. An example could be:

  • First stage – test the individual’s basic competency and fit
  • Second stage – put each candidate through a one-to-one with the hiring manager, focusing on competency-based questions
  • Third stage – finally, they undergo a role play session based on day-to-day duties with a strong emphasis on research, intelligence, and being able to think on their feet

By investing time in your hiring process, you can be confident that you’ve built a team that understands your product, is enthused about selling it, and knows how to connect with your potential customers.

Building a collaborative team that’s geared towards a common goal is key to sales success.

Managing growth

Scaling sales teams always have bigger targets to hit, new markets to conquer, and more staff to hire.

With that in mind, it’s important not to neglect the companies you’ve already brought on board. You need to maintain a strong connection with your users so they become even better customers.

You also need to carefully manage the team as it grows, by constantly examining how you train existing staff and identifying those within the team capable of taking on increased responsibilities.

By promoting from within, the salesperson knows the product, marketplace, competition, pitch, culture and company, so their time to become productive is greatly reduced.

Ultimately, you need to sell your product and demonstrate to investors that your customers can’t get enough of it. Success or failure will therefore come down to whether you can continue to build a team that can get the job done.

Managing a successful sales team

Once you’ve assembled a solid team of top salespeople you’ll need to oversee their progress and ensure they can work to the best of their ability. Here’s how:

Set achievable targets

You want your salespeople to be results driven and competitive. Setting targets gives them something to aim for and you something to measure their performance by whatever metric you deem valuable to your company; be it leads, bookings, transactions.

Incentivise your team

Rewards for hitting targets or going above and beyond ensure your team feel valued for their hard work. A purely punitive strategy is not effective in driving motivation: all stick and no carrot will create a hostile environment and breed resentment.

Provide ongoing training

Ensure your team are constantly evolving and adapting by providing ongoing training opportunities. You should monitor calls to assess performance and use as examples of good and bad practice.

Distributing sales leads/ accounts

Distributing sales leads is not an exact science, but developing a distribution system that takes into account certain factors can increase the likelihood of successes. These systems could be based on performance criteria such as performance, region, or speciality.

It can be tempting to give all the best accounts to your best performing salesperson. But make sure you don’t overburden them and deprive others the chance at professional development. Below we discuss in more detail how to build a team around your best salesperson.

Click here for everything you need to know on hiring tech teams.

How to build a team around your best salesperson

A truly talented salesperson who’s passionate about their job, drums up leads and smashes targets is hard to find.

What’s more, they can prioritise their own success instead of the success of their team. This can be toxic.

The first hurdle most early-stage or growing businesses have to overcome, is having at least ONE person who can successfully prospect and close deals.

However, once they’ve successfully cracked that problem, the next challenge is ensuring you have the leadership, structure, process and culture to begin duplicating your company’s sales effort and putting in place a high performing team of salesperson.

The challenge with this next step in your business’ growth journey is that very often sales people are naturally competitive, and thrive on the close of the deal – it’s the just reward for all their blood, sweat and tears in nurturing that prospect through a potentially long and painful pipeline.

These ‘Heroic Sales Leaders’ can become growth inhibitors as they destroy the culture of bringing on the next generation of sales staff, instead continuing to focus on their own sales results first and foremost at the expense of others.

The fear is that if you hand over existing client relationships or pipeline prospects to new team members the business will suffer.

However until you can successfully build a team that delivers a scalable sales solution you will not be able to grow your company, or indeed increase its asset value. It doesn’t pay to be precious.

Here are six tips on how you can turn a Heroic Sales Leader into a strong team performance that drives growth and increases sales revenue.

1. Introduce a culture of shadowing

Make it part of the norm that less experienced staff shadow your best salespeople/person. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn from your front line sales staff and vice versa.

2. Encourage participation at bite-size chunks of the sales process

Rather than throw a new sales person in at the deep end, or even if you are growing someone from within, by asking them to lead a new prospect all the way from attraction to closing the deal. Instead encourage them to contribute to one or two significant parts of the process. Perhaps they can open a meeting, compile the proposal, deliver a portion of the pitch presentation or even handle the negotiation.

3. Work in pairs

Working in pairs is a great way to both develop your team and also de-risk your organisation from a single stand out employee performance. Working in pairs means one person can ‘stand them up’ and the other ‘knock them down’ and vice versa.

4. Facilitate introductions

Especially where you have client relationships attached to you or where you have clients attached to a single person in your business, you can’t expect someone new to ring up and just say ‘Hi, you don’t know me but I’m now going to be your primary contact at our organisation’.

An attached client relationship handover needs to be planned and the client included at every stage. Always ensure you maintain the client’s trust by allowing them to still be able to reach you and elevate any concerns to you personally.

5. Drop the ego

If your top salesperson has a need to hold onto and be the key person in any deal, this could inhibit your business’s growth potential. Drop the ego or keep your business small – it’s that simple!

6. Do whatever you can to make your team successful

At the end of the day, you serve them – not the other way round! The more your team succeed the more successful your business becomes. Seed them referrals, or deals that you know will close easily, set them up for success and congratulate them their success – don’t stamp on their parade and attempt to claim the glory. Make it all about them and they’ll return the favour with even better results, loyalty and lots of hard work.

Ultimately you want your leadership and culture to cascade down through all the levels of your organisation.

Sales team software

You might have assembled a crack sales team, but in order to perform to the best of their abilities you’ll need to provide them with the necessary software.

CRM for sales teams

Customer relationship management software (CRM) software is an essential bit of kit for your sales team.

It collects and analyses vital customer data from multiple sources to help produce personalised and targeted marketing. It also automates a range of tasks that would previously have been done manually.

Below, we compare some of the top CRM software available.



    • Freshsales, part of the Freshworks family uses AI-based lead scoring and built-in phone, email and activity capture to help teams close deals.


    • Lead scoring identifies high potential leads


    • Actionable customer insights to improve conversations


    Visual sales pipeline to track progress of deals

Blossom: £12

Garden: £25

Estate: £49

Forest: £79

Sales outsourcingSales outsourcing is where a company chooses to replace or supplement their internal sales team with a third party.This could be because they don’t have the time or resources to hire their own sales staff, or to increase the volume of sales they can make within a given time.Other reasons to outsource sales are:

  • Improved scalability
  • Improved speed to market
  • To test new markets without committing resources
  • To test the waters for a new product launch
  • A more focused and effective sales team
  • To access expertise and speciality sales not available internally

When looking to bolster the sales arm of your business, consider whether you need to hire sales staff in house or whether your business would be better suited to outsourcing.Choosing a sales outsourcing partnerThere are a number of considerations you should bear in mind when choosing a sales outsourcing partner.

  • Do they have relevant knowledge and experience? Find a partner that has skills and experience relevant to the sector your business operates in and one that can customise their approach to your commercial needs.
  • Are they a good fit? A good sales partner will put in the time and effort to fully understand the needs of your business and its objectives. You should also assess a potential partner on its fit from a strategic, commercial and ROI perspective
  • Do they meet you halfway? You want a partner that offers more than just a traditional client-supplier relationship. One that offers guidance and insights

The relationship with your partner should constantly be reassessed. Don’t just wind them up and set them off. If your objectives change, consult them. If you need more from them, change their targets. But make sure both parties are happy to ensure a long-lasting and productive relationship.Remuneration modelYou will also need to agree on a method of remuneration for them. This could be in the form of a fixed service fee, a performance fee or both. Most agencies have a standard model that they stick with.

  • Fixed service fee – this involves paying a single flat rate to your sales outsourcing partner for its services
  • Performance-based – you pay on a variable commission-based structure dependent on performance; be that generating leads or closing sales

A combination of both is quite typical. An agency would typically charge a higher fee for a variable model to deal with the unpredictability of income.Read more: Pay per lead telemarketing and small business telemarketing servicesNext stepsHaving a talented and enthusiastic sales team in place is crucial for the long-term success of your start-up. It’s great to have wild and creative ideas, but ultimately you need to someone to sell them to the end user – whether in-house or outsourced through a partner organisation.Ultimately, if you want your sales team to perform you need to provide them with the right tools. CRM software will help your employees manage relationships with existing and potential clients, and make the most of every opportunity. Fill in the form at the top of this page to compare quotes for CRM software now.

    • This US provider of CRM solutions is one of the best known in the world. Designed with small and medium-sized businesses in mind, it provides all the tools you need to sell faster and smarter.
    • Integrates with Office 365, Google Apps and Quip
    • Provides 360° view of the customer, sharing information, leads and data
Salesforce Essentials: £20

Lightning Professional: £60

Lightning Enterprise: £120

Lightning Unlimited: £240

Zoho CRM
    • Zoho CRM helps businesses of any size reach out to prospects, engage them across multiple channels and close deals.
    • Connect across email, social, phone, live chat
    • Zia, an AI tool, that can predict trends, anomalies, conversions and sales
    • Reporting and analytics
    Pipeline management
Standard: $12

Professional: $20

Enterprise: $35

Business: $100

    • A sales CRM built for “minimum input and maximum output”, Pipedrive is a simple but effective option.
    • Automatically tracks emails, calls, and progress
    • Integrates with more than 100 apps
    Automatic lead scoring
Silver: £12.50

Gold: £24.20

Platinum: £49.17

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