A tremendous opportunity exists to radically improve the success of sales hiring decisions for both employers and candidates. There are more productive ways to find the right fit between sales talent and the roles on offer. And with that good fit, both parties win in what is a long term investment.

A Proven Checklist & Template For Building The Ideal Sales Candidate Profile

1 Audiences Sold To: What is the background and competencies in a person that your audience (prospects, customers, partners) will respect? And to what extent must the new sales hire have sold to your exact audience? (Audiences Sold To is sometimes a more powerful predictor of success than industry background.)

2 Business Growth Achievements: You need to specify the type and extent of business growth achievements. For example, must the person have a strong track record in new customer acquisition as opposed to account growth? Have they helped create a market from scratch versus they have been successful in growing business a well-established market by taking market share?

3 Types of Selling Skills: If the role requires a solution-consultative approach, this criterion is non-negotiable. Selling skills and sales know-how are taken for granted in a “salesperson”, but at most, only 15% of people are professionally equipped to master tough sales pipeline building, opportunity creation and consultative selling challenges. Included in this criterion are prospecting and especially outbound prospecting skills. Maybe your critical sales role is more about prospecting than selling?

So far, these are your top 3 profile criteria. If a candidate is strong in these areas it means that at a minimum they can do the job. You could say that each criterion has a weighting of 100%.

4 Capability Beyond the Role: Some roles require the salesperson to have the competency – and mindset – to handle non-selling issues such as project management, marketing, technical demonstration and working with senior delivery teams. Maybe your critical sales role requires someone who is closer to player-manager than just a player or individual contributor?

5 Technical / Subject Matter Capability: It makes sense to decide if you are going to enforce “red line” technical capability thresholds. Most sales roles don’t need such a red line and where it does exist it is often the case that a second (much more technically qualified) person is who is actually needed.

6 Professional Development: We are used to hearing about personal development, but a more accurate criterion is professional development. Do you need your new (critical) salesperson to have been investing in their skills, competencies and critical-thinking capability? A small amount of this type of investment is often superior to infamous “many” years experience.

Subjective Profile Criteria: In reality we also select  salespeople using softer, less tangible criteria such as attitude, personality, cultural-fit. Subjective profile criteria can be applied after the above “hard” criteria have been verified, but they should not become the focus of a “holy grail” search for the perfect candidate who meets everyone’s approval. Otherwise, better qualified candidates will get dismissed in favour of a candidate with subjective traits that mean little in the real world.