How to Hire the Best B2B Sales Reps in 2018

January 16, 2018

Hiring Manager

A sales manager is only as good as his or her team, and the results they produce. Because of this, hiring the most effective reps possible is a vital part of the job. But with the very nature of the profession evolving before our eyes, identifying the right candidates requires a different set of criteria than it did five – or even two – years ago.

The core skills that define great B2B sellers are changing in the digital age. Proactive sales leaders are focusing on attributes and capabilities that will continue to grow more valuable in the coming year and beyond.

With an eye on helping you acquire the best possible talent for your team, here are a few insights on hiring the best B2B sales reps in 2018.

Shifting Demand for Sales Skills

At LinkedIn, our ability to track aggregated professional data gives us a unique perspective on the overarching trends and patterns of skills and traits for various disciplines. This has provided us with some enlightening revelations on the field of selling and its outlook.

As discussed in the Future of Sales eBook, there’s a fundamental shift taking place right now. The most common and traditional types of sales skills, which fall into the “transactional” category, are fading somewhat in recruiting demand for B2B. They tend to characterize more product-centric sellers – well versed in the art of pitching and negotiating.

Meanwhile, we see a rise in demand for strategic sales skills. These would appear on a candidate’s LinkedIn profile in the form of tags like complex selling, partner management, and business alliances – and they are far more rare than transactional staples like business development and sales leadership. The Future of Sales eBook tells us that strategic skills are found in only 1.5% of LinkedIn profiles. These competencies are more conducive to a consultative approach that B2B buyers crave, and are suggestive of a sales pro built for the future.

This is not to say, by any means, that you should be actively avoiding those transactional sales skills. They’re likely to be present on the résumés of most effective sellers, and in general, the ability to persuasively articulate a solution’s value will always be important. But these strategic sales skills and relationship-building indicators are the ones to keep an eye out for with your next wave of hires.

Tech Proficiency is a Trending Priority

Another frontier that we emphasized in the Future of Sales eBook is sales technology, which is becoming an ingrained aspect of B2B selling. Lack of adoption – whether due to resistance or perplexity – holds back a huge number of organizations. Meanwhile, those who embrace the enhancements these solutions bring to the sales process are clearly seeing the benefits.

In the State of Sales 2017 report, we learned that 90% of sales professionals describe sales tech as either “important” or “very important” to closing deals. Across the B2B landscape we see companies increasing their investments in digital enablement tools, but deriving value from these investments requires team members that are willing and able to utilize them.

As such, it’s advisable to hire reps with some level of demonstrated tech proficiency. This doesn’t mean you need to be seeking out software developers or programmers, but look for signs of relevant experience or personal interest.

Interviewing Sales Candidates in 2018

When conducting interviews with new candidates, you can gauge their adeptness for the era of strategic selling by asking the right questions. A while back, we suggested a couple of different spins on the old “sell me this pen” convention, posing scenarios that test a seller’s ability to think strategically and apply new-age tactics.

Here’s one idea: assign interviewees with “homework” ahead of time, providing them with a hypothetical target account they might pursue on the job. See what kind of insights about that company they bring, and ask how they’d engage a buyer in the organization as a trusted advisor rather than as a salesperson.

Keys to Hiring B2B Sales Reps of the Future

Here’s a quick recap of our top takeaways as you formulate your recruitment plan for 2018:

  • Examine résumés and LinkedIn profiles for signs of a strategic, consultative seller
  • Focus on individuals who are comfortable and proficient with sales technology
  • Orient your interview questions toward determining ability to research, engage, advise

For more insights and guidance on building a future-proof sales team, download The Future of Sales: Rise of the Strategic Seller