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How to Find, Hire and Train a Sales-Development Rep It's harder than ever to find qualified talent to fill that open position, but this contributor has some strategies to offer.

By Sujan Patel Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc | Getty Images

When you run your own team, you can't just focus on strategy and getting things done. Hiring is a major part of your responsibilities, although it can sometimes feel like an afterthought. I've personally hired hundreds of team members, and found that choosing the right one makes all the difference.

Related: How to Become Better at Hiring Sales Reps

It's tempting to think that anybody can fill an open spot on a sales team, especially an entry-level position like a sales-development rep. But, from the ground up, your team needs to include only those who fit your business and who have what it takes to keep moving it forward.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current unemployment rate is down to 4 percent -- the lowest it's been in years. That means it's harder than ever to find qualified talent to fill your open positions.

You need to be diligent in choosing the right sales-development reps. Luckily, I know exactly what it takes to find, hire and train the right people to be sales-development reps, and I'll share that information right here:

Go beyond the entry level.

Sales development is typically an entry-level position, which means that recent college graduates are the most likely candidates to come across your desk. But that doesn't mean you have to limit yourself to seeking out only college grads.

Consider looking for candidates with experience in other areas, such as customer service, which can be a very useful skill in sales. Also, focus more on a candidate's qualities rather than his or her experience or education. I find that the right personality fit is way more important than a person's background. Sales development reps are starting on the ground level, so prior knowledge of sales isn't necessary. That can be learned, but the right attitude has to be already in place.

Related: The Riskiest Hire? Your First Sales Rep.

Look for the right qualities.

When I'm hiring, personality is everything. If I don't like the person in front of me in the interview, I'm not going to hire him or her. Period. When hiring sales development reps, there are a few key qualities you need to look out for:

  • ambition
  • motivation
  • passion
  • communication skills
  • willingness to learn
  • coachability

Salespeople need to be hungry -- especially when they're just starting out. They have to want to move up the ladder, and they have to want it from the beginning. If they're excited, they'll get others excited, too -- including your customers.

Hire quality over quantity.

Too often, sales managers and business leaders get hung up on merely filling an empty seat on a team. They want to grow the team and make it as big as possible. Bigger is better, right? Not necessarily -- because just putting a warm body in a seat doesn't mean you'll have a successful sales-development rep.

When I'm hiring for my now team, not only do I make sure the candidate I hire checks all the boxes, but I also look for that special "it" factor. I don't want to hire just satisfactory team members. I want amazing ones.

After all, one really awesome sales development rep can do more than 10 average sales-development reps. So, why hire 10 when you could focus on hiring only that one special person?

Focus on coaching.

Once you have that stellar candidate on your team, training him or her well should be your key focus. Your training program needs to consist of more than just lectures and PowerPoint presentations. Make sure you include plenty of hands-on learning, as well.

A lot of people learn by doing, so make sure your sales-development reps are active from the beginning. Put them on mock phone calls or, better yet, have them use dual headsets to listen in on your calls, or those of another team member. Also, consider implementing a peer-mentorship program.

Encourage competition.

Sales-development reps need to be ambitious, and as their leader, you need to appeal to that ambitious side of them and drive motivation. And what better way to do that than with a little healthy competition? I don't know about you, but I'm very driven by competition. My competitors are some of my biggest motivators. And I know that when there's an opportunity to light a fire under my team, a boost in productivity, efficiency and effectiveness will result.

Related: How to Hire, Manage and Pay Your New Sales Reps

Consider using incentives to push your sales-development reps to do more. For example, you could offer a small cash prize to the rep who books the most meetings in a week. The more motivation you can offer, the better your sales development reps will perform, increasing the chances that they'll become that next top rep on your roster.

What do you look for in sales development reps? Let me know in the comments below:

Sujan Patel

Entrepreneur and Marketer, Co-founder of Web Profits

In his 14-plus years as a marketer and entrepreneur, Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of companies boost online traffic and sales and strengthen their online brand reputation. Patel is the co-founder of Web Profits and Mailshake.

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