Recruiting and Training Sales Staff

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Finding the right people for a position is often a difficult task.  A wrong hire can cost the company significantly and prevent coworkers from their full production.  However, candidate assessment is complex and often hampered by lack of knowledge how the candidate will actually do on the job, not just how he or she looks on paper.  Some of these concerns are allayed by selecting internal candidates, but there are issues with known workers as well.  In either situation, training equips the sales person for the job and socializes them in the department, improving their commitment to the firm and their ability to work collaboratively to achieve organizational objectives.

Recruitment and Hiring

Internal candidates offer several benefits as sales staff.  First, the company has a greater record of their actual accomplishments and abilities.  The candidate has worked for supervisors within the firm who can provide far more relevant and accurate information about the worker’s motivation, work habits, and achievements than would be available from an external candidate.  Amyx, Bhuian & Shows (2016) note that most people applying for a sales position will claim to have a customer-focused work style, but they may not and just be reporting this to secure the job.  Also, the hiring manager often has only the external candidate’s resume and/or application, all information provided by the candidate, and references also provided by the candidate to evaluate him or her.  This provides limited information, and it is almost entirely controlled by the candidate (Amyx et al., 2016).  With an internal candidate, more and better information is available for the hiring decision.  In addition, an internal candidate will already have valuable knowledge about the company, including the unwritten awareness of what people can help with a particular issue in the company.

However, there are drawbacks to internal hires.  Because the internal candidate does have relationships in the company, he or she also may have baggage from those relationships that will impact work and productivity.  Effective communication from management will provide oversight to these issues. Often people within an organization have experience interpersonal conflicts; they may also have strong friendships with coworkers.  Both have the potential to reduce work effectiveness, as employees may either hold on to past issues or become too involved in situations involving other staff members (Hassink & Russo, 2008).  Internal candidates for sales positions may also either have limited sales experience or, if coming from sales in another region, assume they already know how to do the job, making them less teachable (Hassink & Russo, 2008).

Referrals are another common way to recruit for staff openings.  When friends or relatives recommend a candidate, they already know the organization, probably have a good idea of the requirements for the position, and have knowledge of the candidate (Hassink & Russo, 2008).  This can position them to provide good suggestions for additional staff.  Because the person making the referral does not want to look bad to his or her employment, or have the judgment in making the referral questions, he or she will also likely be careful in making the referral and provide feedback to the candidate if hired; this feedback could help in management situations if the employee needs additional motivation to comply with company expectations or to perform at a higher level (Hassink & Russo, 2008).

Where external candidates learned of the position and how they respond can mean several things.  Aland et al (2014) notes that there is often a significant age difference between candidates that respond to written advertisements, such as are found in newspapers or professional journals, and those who respond to online job boards.  One is age.  Very few young people read the newspaper today, and even fewer use the newspaper for job hunting.  In general, newspaper ads are perceived by millennials as for uneducated workers or those targeting candidates without computer literacy skills (Aland et al., 2014).  From an employer perspective, the applicant finding the job in the paper is using a much less effective means of job searching, and this may indicate potential efficiency errors.  Online job applicants are perceived as younger and having better technology skills; they are also viewed as more likely to be efficient workers because they are employing more efficient job search practices (Aland et al., 2014).


Once a person has been selected for the position, they must be trained.  As the sales manager for ABC Company, this means familiarizing the candidate with our products, the region, company practices, and sales targets, as well as assessing skills and identifying areas where the new employee may need additional instruction or support (Drake-Knight, 2012).  The sales training is directly related to the hiring process, as it must begin with the candidate where they are and prepare them for successful work.  This means the training must be geared to the type of new hire coming into the sales staff (Drake-Knight, 2012).  For example, the training needs for a person who will be selling for the first time are very different from those of a veteran seller who is moving into the company from a competitor.  

Training may also be used to determine what type of sales position is best suited to a new hire.  Lamont (2015) describes a simulation-based sales training that takes place in the new hire’s home.  Because the person will be selling from home via phone and computer chat, he or she must demonstrate the skills needed to work in this independent environment without immediate supervisor support to work as a salesperson for the company.  This training model was undertaken after traditional sales training proved ineffective for many workers who could close deals in training classes but not alone in a home-based environment (Lamont, 2015). 

This type of training does reduce the opportunity for sales force socialization.  Sales people tend to be people-focused individuals who enjoy conversation and interaction.  Providing training forums where they can meet and interact with their peers both develops social support but also implicitly communicates cultural and social norms of the sales staff, preparing the new worker for greater success within the firm. 

As Popp, Simmons & McEvoy (2017) explain sales training may be delivered in person, live online, self-paced online, or in the field.  Face-to-face onboarding or training programs are typically held in a classroom environment.  This is the traditional method and may incorporate any number of instructional methods, including those based on technology.  Live online training is another option.  This allows the participant to avoid travel time and expense, and to participate in the training in a comfortable environment, often from home.  However, because the training is live, it allows for the interactional benefits of in-person instruction.  One can ask questions, receive feedback, and benefit from the perspectives and experiences of other participants.  Training can also occur online via a self-paced delivery method.  In this structure, the course is planned and the components prepared in advance.  The user then accesses them at his or her own pace and completes assessments to ensure the material was learned adequately.  While this also reduces travel time and expenses, it further allows the participant to take the training at a convenient time, and even stop, start, and repeat the material as needed.  However, much of the benefit of classroom interaction is lost (Popp et al., 2017).  

A final delivery method for sales training is the apprenticeship model, which takes place in the field.  Lamont (2015) notes that all effective sales training programs have either apprenticeship or simulation components.  In this method, a novice salesperson accompanies a seasoned one, observing as the more experienced employee interacts with accounts and closes deals.  The new employee then will either begin makes sales within the experienced person’s territory as practice, or will be transferred to the area where he or she will actually be working and begin selling there.


Aland, C., Schetzsle, S., Mallin, M. L., & Ellen, B. P. (2014). Intergenerational recruiting: The impact of interviewer and sales job candidate age perceptions on job fit and success. American Journal of Business, 29(2), 146-163. doi:

Amyx, D., Bhuian, S. N., & Shows, G. D. (2016). Hiring customer focused salespeople.  Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 34(5), 586-604. Retrieved from

Drake-Knight, N. (2012). Training and coaching boost performance of sales staff at B&Q. Human Resource Management International Digest, 20(1), 14-17. doi: 

Hassink, W., & Russo, G. (2008). Differences between internal and external candidates. International Journal of Manpower, 29(8), 715-730. doi: 

Lamont, M. (2015).  Everest sales staff learn at home-from-home:  Training academy replicates where most selling takes place. Human Resource Management International Digest, 23(4), 5-7. Retrieved from

Popp, N., Simmons, J., & McEvoy, C. D. (2017). Sport ticket sales training: Perceived effectiveness and impact of training delivery methods on ticket sales results. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 26(2), 99-109. Retrieved from