How Sales Teams Can Practice Proactive Rather than Reactive Hiring

Sales leaders evaluating who and what they need in their teams.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Although most people know that hiring strategies have a major impact on their business goals and the success of their team culture, many companies phone in their hiring processes. They wait until they need to fill a crucial position rather than beginning the process early. This is known as reactive hiring.

Often, those who practice reactive hiring simply don’t consider what hiring strategies will be best for their recruitment needs now and in the future. They have their mindsets stuck on solving problems rather than proactively growing teams.

The risks of this approach are magnified right now because of the lingering effects of the pandemic, with fewer people in the market, fewer people going into sales, new working styles, and a lack of sales infrastructure. Leaders have been too busy trying to survive and pivot into the immediate future to spend good time on reengineering operations. But now, the need to evaluate the sales model and renovate how hiring works is urgent. Sales leaders can no longer afford to cut corners when trying to build successful sales teams.

Why doesn’t a reactive hiring strategy work?

The problem with a reactive hiring approach is that it runs the risk of poor time management, lower talent level, and poor company fit.

For example, waiting until a position opens means that you’ve only got a narrow selection of candidates to choose from — candidates who happen to be available and seeking jobs. The odds are you won’t zero in on that special person who will adopt your values and perform well for your company.

In fact, more than just missing out on a great fit, you could speed the hiring process into a bad match, one that risks your existing team dynamic. A narrower hiring window often ends up elongating the hiring process and making it costlier. A slapdash interviewing and onboarding process is also likely to leave candidates with a poor impression of your company ethos and have a negative impact on your reputation as an employer.

Instead, have a dedicated sales infrastructure, include a hiring infrastructure devoted to assessing existing sales capabilities, locate skills and talent gaps, prepare growth opportunities for internal and external talent, and boost employee morale.

Is internal hiring better than external for a proactive hiring strategy?

An internal hiring strategy is a crucial piece of a solid sales infrastructure. Beyond finding the best talent for the role, an internal strategy can also boost your existing team and create an atmosphere of growth and opportunity within your workplace.

Internal hiring has several benefits compared to opening hiring externally. Reduced costs can save funds for onboarding and continued training, which brings new energy and value to your team. The internal hiring process is also shorter, giving you more time to get new hires settled and motivated.

An internal process also creates a more open, less rigid environment within the sales environment. Employees, whether new or senior, will envision their intracompany careers differently if they can see opportunities for promotions and upskilling.

However, there are inevitable disadvantages to internal hiring. For a start, it can’t go on forever — sooner or later, a promoted employee will leave behind an open position, which will then require a whole new hiring process.

There’s also a downside regarding employee morale. If you are proactively recruiting, this should not be a problem. But if internal hiring creates a competitive environment, colleagues can find themselves at odds rather than collaborating peacefully. Sharing with the team why someone got the role and why they were the best candidate is key. And the last thing to watch for is that promoting someone before they are ready could turn into a long-term problem.

But external hiring can also bring in new perspectives, new skills, and a diversity of age ranges and backgrounds while giving the internal team a boost in energy and renewed focus. A mix of internal and external hiring strategies will fuel a company’s sales infrastructure with the kind of talent it needs to grow.

How can hiring fit into a well-functioning sales infrastructure?

To become a useful and sustainable part of your sales infrastructure, hiring should be treated as a core process. Use the metrics and analyses that you would use in other business operations so that hiring is no longer a mysterious art but more of a science, and tactics can repeatably lead to successful hires.

Recruiting in sales should begin with leaders acknowledging who and what they need in their teams. A defined set of skills can then become a job description that tells a story about how the right candidate will fit into the company. The hiring team can then work out an interviewing and onboarding plan, focusing on that specific skill set.

This could mean using behavioral or role-play interviewing techniques. Behavioral interviewing techniques are modes of questioning that investigate a candidate’s experience and ability with certain skills. Instead of getting a surface-level understanding of the candidate’s working life, a behavioral interview will provide details and anecdotal evidence of how the candidate has used particular skills to get results in the past. This gives interviewers a clear picture of how candidates will handle a day on the job and will make it far more likely that the individual hired will go on to be successful.

At Sales Xceleration, we make recruiting a vital, integral piece of the sales puzzle. We keep hiring processes tied to the overall business and sales goals of a company — from job description writing to screening and interviewing sales talent — and this approach ends up finding great talent matches.

What should recruiting in sales actually look like?

Many stages and processes are involved in hiring, so how do you know how each stage should go? How long should it take, and what should it entail?

The short answer is that timelines will vary depending on the role you’re looking to fill. According to research by Glassdoor, hiring processes vary in different states, cities, and industries. If you want the longest hiring process, go to a government department in Washington, D.C. If you want the shortest, try restaurants in Kansas City.

These results should tell you something about the scale of the hiring process you might need. With highly skilled and qualification-heavy roles, like those in the aerospace, energy, and biotech fields, interview processes need to take longer and be more detailed. This is a good rule of thumb to follow if you’re looking for an individual with a particular skill set and you want to really test that they can thrive in your sales environment.

Job title also determines the time and complexity you’ll need in your searching, interviewing, and onboarding processes. The average interview process length for a regional sales manager, for example, is 39.7 days, but a lower-level sales representative will require a shorter turnaround.

Your hiring process will depend on the unique character traits, values, and skills you’re looking for. You need a hiring plan, but you also want to leave the process open to change so you can follow tangents and spend more time exploring the talent that emerges.

What’s more, recruitment doesn’t end after you’ve hired a new salesperson. As you bring that person into the fold of your organization, you must continue to onboard, teach and train, and begin the new process of figuring out how to keep that person happy and successful in their role.

The strongest sales teams never stop searching and always keep a finger on the pulse of the talent pool. At Sales Xceleration, we have a lot of expertise in the complex topic of hiring. For more insights, view our hiring blogs. And for help building hiring into your sales infrastructure, get in touch with our Sales Xceleration Advisors, who will guide you from an initial meeting to a holistic assessment of your current sales team and the gaps you could fill with your next great talent.