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The 4-Step Process to Recruiting Passive Sales Candidates


Building your sales team looks easy on paper, but how do you cut through the noise of LinkedIn, job boards, and sites like AngelList to find the best candidates? If you’re having trouble, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your sourcing strategy. Here’s how to make your recruiting process as effective as your prospecting one.

Step 1: Pick a channel

Posting a job on your company website or a startup-specific jobs site generates inbound applicants. You’ll be able to attract solid candidates searching for sales roles in your area, industry, and/or niche. However, you’ll also draw in people who are looking because they’ve missed quota several quarters in a row or don’t work well with their team. Top performers are usually satisfied with their jobs and aren’t considering a move.

Which begs the question: How do you find the people who were at 150% of quota last quarter -- not 80%?

Step 2: Use LinkedIn (the right way)

LinkedIn is a great complement to your existing recruiting strategies because it lets you identify passive candidates.

Most team leads use LinkedIn to find connections in their network that would be a good fit for their sales roles. This is a good tactic for finding your first sales rep, but probably not your tenth. You’ll need to branch out quickly to scale the team. The solution? LinkedIn filters.

Filtering by title can help you find candidates who are high performers in another, related role. For example, if you are looking for an Account Executive, search for titles that generally lead to AE (Market Development Rep, Business Development Rep, Sales Development Rep, and so on). Next, you’ll want to add a filter for job tenure (or how long they’ve been in that role). According to The Bridge Group, BDRs are typically in their roles for 10 to 19 months -- depending on the product they’re selling -- before becoming an AE. Filtering your candidate search to BDRs with seven months of experience, then narrow down the list to candidates who have the skills you’re searching for (prospecting, qualifying, presenting, etc.) This should give you first crack at the best reps in the market.

Pro tip: LinkedIn also lets you filter by location. Some senior sales reps are interested in moving back home to settle down or be closer to their family. With this in mind, add a filter for users with sales titles who went universities near your office and currently work in a major market like San Francisco or New York City. Reach out and ask if they’d consider a move. This approach makes it possible to hire top tier sales professionals who would otherwise be out of your range.

Step 3: Reach out

Now that you have a long list of potential candidates, it’s time to filter them down. A 15-minute screening call can tell you so much about a candidate -- but how can you get time with candidates not looking for a new gig? The sales manager (whether that’s you or someone else) should reach out directly on LinkedIn. Say that you always like meeting folks with excellent skilling skills. Candidates often get unpersonalized, generic messages from recruiters, so taking the time to customize yours will pay off. Your note should include a few specific reasons this person jumped out at you. Finally, make sure you’re selling the call -- not the role.

Here’s an example:

“Hey, I'm Sean, sales leader at Company X. We're a tech company of 40 that closed a venture financing round last year ($20M) and are actively growing the team on the sales/marketing front.

You jumped out at me as someone with solid business development skills who knows the software space well. I'd love to hear more about your role on the business development and account management side and where you see yourself long-term, as well as share what we're doing here.

Think we could get 15 min to connect this Thursday?”

Step 4: Do a phone screen

This is it: You are on the phone. Spend the first part of this call learning more about the candidate. What do they want their title and role to be in two years? What do they like about their current position? Do they fit with the needs of your team? Here are some simple questions you can use to gauge their selling skills:

1. “What was the last new skill or thing you learned?”

Their answer tells you what they’re interested and how quickly they pick up new knowledge and abilities. You’ll need them to learn your market and product quickly, so look for people who can easily think of the last skill they picked up as well as how they applied it.

2. "Your prospect picks up the phone but says they aren’t interested. What do you say?"

This question is designed to test resiliency. A good salesperson will tell you they’d probe further, e.g. “Why not? Why do you have in place today? Are there other competitive priorities that you’re working on?”

3. “Would you rather be on a team that hits their goals but you miss your quota, or make 120% while the team misses?”

The “right” answer to this depends on your culture and hiring needs. Maybe you’re looking for a die-hard team player -- or maybe you’re looking for a hungry rep who will always be striving to beat their personal record.

4. “Describe the last time you got competitive.”

Sales is a competitive career. You want people who are willing to put in the work and eager to win. Most high-performing sales professionals will have no trouble giving you a recent example.

These questions will help you stack rank your candidates based on competitiveness, resiliency, ability to learn quickly, and team skills.

During the second part of the call, sell the candidate on the role. Describe what makes this an exciting opportunity for them.

What is life like at your company? On your team?

Every sales team has a unique dynamic. Do you give your reps autonomy to run their own plays? Are you targeting a new market or creating a brand-new one? Does the product sell itself? Tailor the overview to the candidate. If they want to be an enterprise AE, don’t spend all your time talking about the mid-market opportunity.

This sourcing process is highly effective. It takes some time, however, so begin as soon as you decide you need salespeople -- ideally, before that point.

Remember, the best folks aren’t looking for work -- they’re usually too busy beating quota at good companies. It’s your job to show them they could be beating quota at a great company.

HubSpot CRM