The company I work for is a B2B lead generation firm, and a big part of our job is making phone calls. The majority of our hires are tele-sales reps – these people are our outbound lead generation team that make sales calls to businesses to identify new prospective sales leads for our clients and to set sales appointments. Tele-sales reps are not just “telemarketers;” they are front-line for our clients who often make the first contact with our clients’ prospective customers. Their job is important, and it’s critical to our success to find the right people to fill this role. Our clients are rightfully demanding, and we require our reps be intelligent, conversational, and sounds great on the phone.
There are challenges in finding the right people for tele-sales work. It can be hard to find people who have the right skill set and personal characteristics, and who enjoy making cold calls for eight hours a day. Not everyone wants this job; it’s not easy and it is sales work at its purest form – there is a lot of rejection and the people on the phones don’t often want to talk to you. But for people who have the right sales talent and instincts, who are willing to learn, who have internal motivation, and who love to sell, it can be a great opportunity to start building a sales career.
Here are three recruiting lessons learned from hiring tele-sales reps:
1. Look outside the box
There’s no one “right” type of person who can be successful at tele-sales. We get people from all walks of life, and sometimes it’s the people who aren’t “the usual suspects” who end up having the best success at the job. Especially if your industry is experiencing a tight labor market or a talent shortage, if you’re finding it hard to find qualified job candidates, it’s important for your organization to get more creative in expanding your talent pool. Don’t limit yourself to just the candidates who are a perfect fit with exactly the right experience. Instead, ask: “do these people have skills that are transferable? Are these people self-starters? Will they show up for work on time and be reliable?”
In my industry, we often find that individuals who previously did jobs like customer service, tech support, or even door to door sales are great fits for tele-sales. With the right amount of training, they can learn the job. We do look for transferable but highly relevant experience. The candidates that we hire must have good phone experience, or prospecting work experience, such as door to door sales, or making sales as a 3rd party vendor at home improvement stores or big box retailers.
Industry-specific experience is often less important when we’re looking at job candidates, as long as people have some of the core sales skills and relevant experience in place. If people know how to talk to customers, know how to build relationships, and know how to work with prospects through the buyer’s journey, then we can get them up to speed on our clients’ specific verticals.
Bottom line: know what are your absolute “must-haves” for what you want to see on your ideal candidates’ resumes – but beyond that, be flexible. Over time, you can achieve the right balance in expanding your talent pool. Some of your best candidates might come from some unexpected career backgrounds, as long as they have the right transferable skills.
2. Stay away from overqualified
We get many resumes from sales professionals who are between jobs, who might have held high-level managerial type roles. Even if these people have great sales experience, they are often not going to be the right fit for what we need in our call center. If the candidate seems too good to be true, they usually are. Each time we made a hire like this, we regretted it. They weren’t very good or motivated; they tended to get frustrated and not last long in the job. Don’t hire managerial talent for entry-level jobs – if the fit is not right, none of you are going to be happy.
Especially if you are really desperate for talent and you’ve had jobs open for a long time, it can be tempting to hire as soon as someone walks through the door who looks like they might be a good fit. But listen to that intuitive voice in the back of your head – if a candidate looks good on paper but seems like they might not be a fit, has excessive expectations, or makes it sound like the job is beneath them, they’re probably not going to last. It’s better to wait a bit longer to find the right candidate than it is to hire too quickly and get the wrong person.
3. The job needs to be a step up for who you are hiring
Look to hire folks who see this position as a step up in their career, someone who, for them, this job is a better opportunity than where they currently are. Tele-sales might not sound like a great job to someone who already has a decent career underway in sales, but it might sound like a wonderful opportunity to someone who is currently on the phones working in customer service or tech support. Some of our best hires are people who were previously working at lower-level jobs with an hourly wage (like customer service or phone-based tech support), but they have initiative and motivation and they like to get paid extra for performance; they saw our company as an opportunity to advance in their careers and develop more valuable skills.
Ideally, your job should be an opportunity for talented people to spread their wings and do more of what they do best. You wouldn’t want to hire someone who sees your job as a step down in status or a step back in their career, right? You don’t want to hire people who are desperate for a paycheck or looking to coast on their past accomplishments; you want to hire people with options who are eager to grow.