How to Hire Top Sales Talent: Start By Mastering the Hiring Funnel

Carter Hopkins

Carter Hopkins


Early Stage


Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’ve hired someone for an open sales position that looks great on paper, maybe even interviews well, but shortly into their tenure, you realize there’s no way it’s going to work out.

Pretty frustrating, right? And to make matters worse, that tenure doesn’t have to be very long to disrupt your team and workflow with a new hire that just doesn’t fit.

Put it another way: without a defined strategy to guide your sales recruiting and hiring, you could very well end up in a worse place than you started. But, as I’m about to explain, that’s why the hiring funnel is such a critical piece to your talent acquisition puzzle.

What Is the Hiring Funnel?

As a sales organization, you’re already well-acquainted with the concept of the sales funnel. After casting a wide net with your initial messaging, you gradually move your audience down the funnel with a more targeted approach, culminating in an emphatic call-to-action that drives conversions.

Well, in the great news to everyone department, you can adopt a similar strategy to attract and hire top talent for your company. That’s the hiring funnel, and, as you’ll see, it provides a crucial framework for a process that too many companies invent as they go.

1. Sourcing Candidates

As the old saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. When it comes to recruiting the right people, that single step is filling the top of the hiring funnel with enough qualified candidates. Simply put, if you don’t start the process with quality candidates, you’re definitely not going to end it with one.

Fortunately, this is an area where Pursuit truly shines. From our experience working with hundreds of companies over the years, we’ve created an engine of best practices that ensures every sales recruiting process begins with top-performing talent, starting with passive candidates that aren’t actively looking for a new job.

When you work with Pursuit, you’re not relegating your candidate search to the job boards every company on earth has access to. Instead, we fill the top of your hiring funnel with the best of the best, even those that are not sitting in the candidate market. To paraphrase another old saying, 'there’s talent gold in them thar hills.'

2. Screening Candidates

This second stage in the hiring funnel can be drawn-out and tedious for a company without sufficient experience and expertise in the sales recruitment cycle. However, screening candidates through a high-level assessment process is essential in whittling down your initial group into those that are wired correctly for your business.

Granted, “wired correctly” is a pretty vague term that could mean different things to different hiring managers. That said, at Pursuit, we use technology partners to streamline this stage for our clients, lending a unique combination of efficiency and effectiveness that only comes from experience coupled with the right tools.

3. Finding the Right Who

The third stage of the hiring funnel typically coincides with the first interview of the sales hiring process. Ideally, you’re able to use your organization’s core values to inform your interview questions, ultimately looking for the right who – talent that fits well with your culture and vision.

Of course, this depends on how well – or if – you’ve defined your core values to begin with. While I’m not going to tell you that a well-defined set of such values will absolutely make or break your ability to hire top talent, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that lacking them makes your talent acquisition infinitely more challenging.

For example, just look at top athletes in every team sport that have been a cancer to an organization. It wasn’t their talent that was lacking, but a misalignment or absence of shared values. Without an underlying set of core values, you could very well find yourself in a similar situation.

4. Finding the Right Seat

By the time you reach this fourth stage, you’ve narrowed the field to those that are qualified – at least at a high-level – for the open sales position and also fit within your culture and values. Now, you’re most likely using a second round of interviews to determine if that open seat is right for the candidate.

Finding the right seat entails another assessment, this time focusing on the hard skills a candidate needs to be successful in the position. Past performance, KPIs, knowledge, and experience are all critical components of this assessment, helping you determine if the open seat is a good fit for a candidate.

5. Adding Value for a Candidate

The final stage of the hiring funnel isn’t an obvious one to many companies but, as most hiring managers will attest, is essential to hiring and retaining top talent. If you, as an organization, can’t drive value for a candidate in some way, then the relationship probably won’t go as you would want.

For some, this could simply mean adequate compensation or benefits. But “value” isn’t always as easy to define as salary, and often depends on what is important to an individual. That’s why it’s so essential to get to know a candidate as a person and not as a resume or CV throughout the process. Because if you’re not able to add value for a new hire, there’s a very good chance their days are numbered with your organization.

I’ll admit that a concept like the hiring funnel, while pretty straightforward, isn’t necessarily easy to master. But with time, patience, and effort, you’re drastically improving your chances of identifying, hiring, and retaining the sales talent you need to reach your company’s goals.

Just as importantly, by using the funnel concept, you’re developing a strategy that’s consistent, repeatable, and scalable along the way. With it, your salesrecruiting process can always conform to your needs, no matter how quickly your organization grows.

I’ll be taking a closer look at some of these funnel stages in future blog posts but, for now, I want to leave you with a single thought – you’re not as far away as it might seem from sales talent that’s a true competitive advantage for your business. So take these insights to heart and remember that Pursuit has spent the last six years perfecting this funnel, all to help you place the right sales talent in the right seat.

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