8 Steps To Hiring Top Sales Talent

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in business is to be very, very selective on whom you work with.  Bringing on the right talent makes the difference between winning vs. losing in competitive industries.   Once in the door, keeping your talented employees happy is even more important.  Smart companies will do whatever it takes to bring on and retain talented employees.  i.e. Look at Google, who recently paid Neal Mohan $100 million dollars to stay on board vs. take a job with a competitor .  The didn’t pay him this just because Neal is a nice guy 😉  It was a strategic move that gives them an edge on their competition.

CRITICAL: Hire the right people from the very beginning.  It’s a lot more expensive to fire someone that you’ve spent a lot of time grooming than it is to just keep them on.  The more time you invest in your staff the more dependent you are on them.   That’s why it is critical to hire the right people from the very beginning.  Your investment in them will pay dividends over the years.

In the past 10 years I can think of 5 monumental failures in employees I hired:

– LaKeesha and Serse: Do I need to say anymore?  A brother and sister crew whose work product was terrible.  After I fired them they broke into our office and stole a whole bunch of shit.  When Serse’s little faggot  thug wanna be friend tried cashing a check they stole (from the middle stack of our business checks, pretty slick huh?) from us the bank reported him and they got arrested.

– Big J: Big J was a nice guy and smart programmer.  But damn he had some serious psychological issues.  Moreover he was a fat slob.  During the day he’d pound 4 to 5 Monster Energy Drinks and wolfe down a pizza at a time.  Ironically he liked to bad mouth people behind their backs.   Wooh!

– Melissa: Melissa was a pretty, ambitious girl.  The only problem is that her ambitions were not backed by a work ethic.  She spent more time discovering ways to cheat the clock than she did working.

– Frank: Frank made a few million dollars a year at Wachovia prior to the banking collapse.  Frank was so institutionalized in corporate America that he could just never adapt to the fast paced environment of Direct Response Marketing.  Moreover, Frank was convinced that he could enter this industry and automatically receive a 7 figure salary – just because he succeeded as a banker.  Sorry to break up your delusions of grandeur Frank, not only will you never make 7 figures in this industry, you won’t even be able to maintain a job at the lowest level.  Best get back to banking buddy!

5.  Eric:   Eric was a dear friend that wanted to start an online business with me.  Shortly after launching the business I found myself doing all of the work. I’ve chosen the wrong partners in the past.  One of the smartest guys that I know in Direct Response, Rick Del Rio, brought up a really good point the other day.  When Rick looks for joint ventures, he likes to find a match where a 1+1= 10.  Exactly Rick!

(Oh btw – Rick is my new blogging partner here at Direct Response.  We’re going to announce that news next week.  It’s a 1+1= 10 scenario.  If you guys don’t already know Rick, I assure you that you’ll love him.  He’s a genius!)

When you hire the right people from the beginning, you are putting yourself and the talent you bring on in a win/win situation.  You will spend a lot of money and time  grooming your new employees.   This new talent will make you a very wealthy person as you will make them wealthy.

Surround yourself with top talent and your businesses will flouring.  Here’s how I bring them on top talent:

1.  Create An Ad That Attracts Talent

Top talent is attracted to ads that are geared toward them.  My colleague and friend Hersh Sandhoo created a title that brought in a sales rep that made him $400,000 in profits in 1 month.  The ad was titled:

Headline: Sales Superstars Only

Body: Don’t even call unless you are a truly awesome salesperson. You have a burning desire to succeed, are extremely customer oriented, highly motivated, and never say die. You develop deep and meaningful rapport with your clients, and communicate with piercing persuasiveness. You believe you can be the best at almost everything you do, and you can prove it.

Don’t call unless you fit this bill. Excellent commission structure, unlimited income potential and great opportunity for upward mobility. Typical superstar range is $275K to $450K/year. Build an empire within our fine and progressive company.  (COMPANY NAME) is the top online (WHAT YOUR COMPANY DOES) that specializes in XXXXXXXXX. We don’t hire backgrounds, we hire top producers. Email your resume to XXXXXXXXXX.

This ad pulls in people that are ultra confident in themselves.  If they have any hesitation they won’t proceed further.

2.  Place Ads In Top Directories

Spend the extra money and place the ad in the expensive directories.  My favorite are:



There’s also agencies that hire top talent on your behalf.  We also place ads on CraigsList.com.  You’d be surprised at some of the talent we find there.

3.  Screen Resumes Very Carefully – Be Picky, Be Picky, Be Picky

Closely vet resumes.  Look for longevity in past jobs, awesome achievements, and EGOS!  Yes, EGOS!  Find people that take dear pride in their work.  Top talent would rather die than fail.  They will work 7 days a week to be on top.

Hand pick only the best of the best resumes.  Do NOT waste your time on scheduling interviews with anyone that does not completely WOW! you on their resume.

4.  Interview 1 Via Phone – Feel The Talent Out

The idea here is to feel the talent out.  You want people that are 100% confident in themselves.  They cannot fear rejection.  At the end of the interview tell them that they’re rejected.  If they give up there then they’re not cut out for sales.  If they counter back with a strong rebuttal then let them know you’d like to setup a face-to-face interview.  Here’s how we do it:

Be friendly and build rapport. “Hi [Firstname], how are you?”  type questions to put them at ease. Then start the official interview process:

Okay let’s get started. Don’t give me the standard interview answers, you don’t know what I’m looking for, this isn’t your typical interview, so the best thing for you to do is to be honest so we can discover if you will be happy here.

To let me understand what shaped you I’m going to ask you unusual questions. So if you try to guess what you think I want all you are going to do is fail the interview so just tell me what you really feel.

1) If you were 5 years old and told your mother you want to be an actor what would your mother say to you?

Most actors starve, don’t do it.

Okay, but you better think of something else to fall back on, so take accounting.

If that is what you want to do I’m sure you’ll be successful.

2) What would your father say?

3) What types of things in your childhood shaped who you are?

4) Tell me about some of your biggest challenges in life, not necessarily work related, and how you dealt with them?

5) Tell me about the toughest sale you ever made? Be specific.

How many times did you call, then what did you do, what happened next, what was the crunch, how did you close it.

6) Tell me about 3-4 things of which you are really proud of?

7) What are you most proud of? Why?

8) Tell me about a time in your life when you surmounted difficult odds.

9) Have you practice or overachieved in any other areas of discipline, like sports, music, specialized knowledge, etc. Tell me about, how long.

10) Can you give me any other examples where your personal determination took you through winning?

11) How would your best friend describe you?

12) Of all the people you know who has the most faith in you? Why?

13) What are some of your best memories?

I’m going to ask you to rate yourself on a number of key superstar and sales traits.

(You’re looking for people that give themselves 9+ across the board.

Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 for superstar traits, with 10 being the highest.
Ego drive – ambition 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Ego strength – confidence 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Ability to face rejection 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Empathy – establishing rapport 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Time management 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Strategic thinking 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Market knowledge 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Self-improvement 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Getting around gatekeepers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Rate yourself on a scale of 10. 10 being the best salesperson you’ve ever known.
Qualify – find need 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Build value 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Create desire 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Overcome objections 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Closing skills 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Follow up skills 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Cold calling skills 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Cold calling discipline 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

14) Who is the best salesperson you’ve ever met? Why?

15) If did not answer themselves for question 14 – what is the difference between him and you?

16) What was the last self-help book you ever read? Or tape you listened to? Or which seminar you went to?

17) Of all the people in the world, past or present, who do you admire the most? Why?

18) What are your top 3 personal goals? What are you doing right now to achieve them?

Review Resume

Why did you leave…. (last 3 positions). What was bad about it? Were you unhappy, why?

Tell me about a disappointment or disagreement with a boss and what happened? Then what? Add then?

Name 2 weak points of your previous boss? How did you deal with this?

How do you handle stress? What is your technique, give some examples.

Name two times when a boss criticized you and why? What was the result? How did you deal with it?


Close of Interview: YOU MUST SAY THIS!!


You seem like a nice person_____________. But I only have one opening and I need a real superstar. While I am sure you’d do well in many other endeavors, this is a very competitive business and I doubt your particular skills and personality would hold up in this business.

How they react to this rejection is CRUCIAL. If too angry it is a red flag; if too meek and appeasing then they won’t be a good salesperson no matter how good they looked on paper or on the phone.

If you like you can throw them a bone:

“When you hear me say that how does that make you feel?”

We are looking for someone to be like honestly, I think it is your loss or question why we don’t think he is a good fit, etc. We want someone who responds to rejection as a challenge.

If bad response: “Okay [Firstname], wish you the best. Take care.”

If good response: “[Firstname],that is the type of response we are looking for. You handled yourself well. Let’s schedule a time for you to come in and meet one of the owners.”

5.  Interview 2  In Person – Check Grooming & Aptitude

Have a face to face meeting with the prospect. Traits to look for:

  • Do they give off a good vibe / gut feeling?
  • Were they able to establish rapport with you?
  • Are they well groomed?
  • Where they on time?

Tasks to conduct:

  • Have them fill out application for the position that includes permission to conduct a background check.
  • Get a copy of their driver’s license and social security number

Find Out Just How Smart They Are:

Have them complete the two online assessments.  Set these tests up prior to their visit to the office.

I use HireSelect.com.  They have top notch aptitude / personality tests.   You’d be surprised at just how crazy someone is through their aptitude test.  Find out whether your prospect has a proclivity toward equivocation.  In other words, is she straight up or full of shit?


6.  Strong Background Check


Make sure you verify everything on their resume.  Actually go through the painstaking time to verify all of their references.  What are people saying about them?  i.e.  We had a guy that made it to this point in the process.  When we called his references they all said he did great on the interview but was a horrible employee.  They talked about his addiction to cocaine and how he would be a superstar if he could just kick that habit.  Wow!  We were 2 inches away from hiring him.

Next submit a background check.  We don’t preclude people that have made mistakes in their lives.  i.e. If someone had a DUI in college or was caught smoking pot, they’re not going to have a mark against them.  But if someone had a history of theft or fraud, we’d absolutely mark them off our list.

When finished create a review assessment.  From the batch of candidates that make it past every checkpoint, only choose those that score the highest.


7.  Make An Offer


Make your candidate an offer that will put them in the best position possible.  You want your top talent to grow and flourish within your organization.

Don’t get greedy here.  I’d prefer to see our talent enjoy a higher percentage of profit than we receive from them.  Your business should be the vehicle they use to succeed.   Look at it this way: They’re the head and you’re the supporting body. The more they succeed in your organization the more you succeed.

By genuinely looking out for their best interests they’ll become very loyal to you.  Make sure you are 100% upfront and honest with your talented staff.  If you dangle a carrot in front of them, make sure it is a reachable carrot.

8.  P.S. Identify Top Talent In Your Industry.

Then do whatever it takes to strategically align yourself with that talent.  Always look for what Rick Del Rio calls the 1+1=10 relationships.

Fortune 500 companies pay for moles in competitors companies to lure their employees away.  Google, Microsoft, and Twitter will lie, cheat, and steal to pull in top talent.   You should too!


Never Hire:

– Friends

– Family

– Favors (no matter how much you owe someone)


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