Ask an MSP Expert

Q: We’re looking to grow our sales team, but we can’t seem to find a candidate that makes the cut. What are some qualities we should be looking for in successful sales candidate?

Finding the right fit for your team can be challenging—especially if you already have a tight group of individuals. To really grow your MSP business, though, change is inevitable, and adding new faces to your team is a vital part of that.

When you’re hiring a sales person for your team, there are a lot of things to consider: Are they quick learners? Do they take the time to prepare before a call? Will they use different mediums to contact customers? SMB customers interested in buying IT services want to deal with someone who is prepared, someone who can resolve their concerns, and someone who they can trust to take care of their business.

To help you weed out bad candidates and prepare for the preliminary stages of the interviewing process, we spoke to Scott Bennett, the director of North American partner management at Barracuda MSP. With more than six years of managing a technical sales team under his belt, we thought Scott could provide helpful insight on what qualities IT service providers should look for in a potential sales candidate. He shared some tips on not only how to find an experienced sales candidate, but also on what you should look for in entry-level sales candidate.

How to find the right sales candidate

Scott’s first piece of advice for an IT service provider that is looking to hire a new sales team member is not to settle for your first opportunity hire someone. “Have some competition in your bag of candidates,” he says. “You might be wowed by the first person that walks in the door—but they not might be the right cultural fit and there might be a better candidate right behind them. Take the time to go through the interviewing process. You are investing a lot between training and time, so if they are the wrong fit, it will be a big waste of money.”

You should spend the money on the right tools to get good candidates in the door. Scott suggests that this could include engaging an outside firm to find candidates, hiring someone to post your sales opportunity, or simply advertising the opening in all the right places. Some great places to find qualified candidates are through LinkedIn, Jobvite, Monster.com, Indeed, or even just simply adding it to the Careers page of your website. By putting the information out there in the right spots—and with the correct contact information—you will start to receive more resumes.

What to look for in an entry-level sales candidate

Scott says one thing to look for in a junior sales candidate is if they have a history demonstrating a work ethic. Ideally, you want to find someone who can easily adapt to a professional business environment and interact well with current and prospective customers. Check their references to see if they can work well with others and if they can adapt easily.

If they don’t have an extensive work history, inquire what extracurriculars they involved in during college. Do they have any leadership experience? Did they compete on a sports team? Did they volunteer? These activities can give you a window into who they will be on your team. If they were in a leadership role, they might lead and push other sales team members to do better. If they were on a sports team, they know the importance of teamwork and working together to achieve a common goal. If they volunteered, that shows compassion for others, which can translate into understanding a customer’s pain points and how your IT services can help solve them. Extracurriculars also show that the candidate is motivated, that they want to be a part of something larger, and that they care—and those are things that you really want to translate into the business.

Another thing that you want to look for is if they are coachable. Scott says you can flesh this out easily just by looking a few simple signs—they should come in humble and ready to learn. You want to find a candidate who can be coached rather than acting arrogant.

Lastly, look for a candidate who is organized. This is extremely important in a sales role! Scott explains that a good sales person always takes notes on what the prospect is looking for, the pain points they are experiencing, how many people needed to be supported in the company, and more. In the interviewing process, look for someone who comes prepared. Do they have a pad of paper and their resume? Did they come prepared with questions? Are they taking notes? If not, this is a red flag. Your ideal candidate should be asking questions, showing enthusiasm, and seem willing to learn.

What to look for in an experienced sales candidate

For an experienced sales candidate, you should look for many of the same qualities as a junior sales candidate, but you want to find someone with a proven track record of success in sales. Scott explains that this doesn’t necessarily need to be a proven track record selling into your target market—but that can certainly help. If they don’t have success selling into your vertical, look for someone who understands technology and how it makes the business tick.

Be wary of hiring tech-minded individuals. Someone who is overly technical can blow up in your face—especially if your audience isn’t technically inclined, Scott says. Instead look for someone who knows proven methodologies in sales that can help them overcome objections, someone who can incorporate storytelling into their presentations, or someone who is good at solution selling.

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Someone who is going into a more experienced role should understand defined sales processes and tools. For example, they should have some experience with using a CRM tool to interact with potential clients—even if it is different than the one you use in-house.

They should be able to come in and know what your company does and who you sell to. Just like a junior candidate, Scott recommends looking for someone who asks questions, actively listens, and takes notes.

Finding the right fit for your sales team doesn’t need to be tough. You just need to invest the right amount of time and money and use Scott’s tips to find the best candidate for your team. “Look for someone who is driven to work hard—not just there for a nine to five job,” Scott says. “That’s where you’ll see the best results.”

Photo:   nd3000 / Shutterstock.

Lauren Beliveau

Posted by Lauren Beliveau

Lauren is an Editorial Associate at Barracuda MSP. In this position, she creates and develops content that helps managed service providers grow their business. She also regularly writes The MSP’s Bookshelf and our Ask an MSP Expert column.

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