Episode TwoHundredFortyTwo

Find A+ Reps During the Hiring Process

Guest: Nigel Hobson, Head of Sales, Americas, at Afex

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About This Episode

You can tell when they walk into the room.

The key to identifying a winning sales rep isn’t about whether they have deep industry knowledge. Instead, it has to do with character.

Recently on Sales Engagement, I interviewed Nigel Hobson, Head of Sales, Americas, at Afex, about something every sales leader wants to know: how to look for A+ reps during the hiring process.

Nigel started his career as an engineer before, like many of us, falling into sales and recognizing his true calling.

He is passionate about 3 specific things in hiring: motivation, discipline, and expertise. Let’s dive in!

Motivation & who’s responsible for it

“Motivation is the foundation of success,” Nigel said.

If you can get someone motivated about their work, they’re going to give it their best. This motivation is one of the sales leader’s tasks.

But there’s an element of intrinsic motivation that should show during the interview.

“When interviewing people and talent for the organization, one of the things I try to establish is how they are motivated,” Nigel said. “Only you know how you truly feel inside your head.”

The key to a successful salesperson in the long term is how they motivate themselves.

A manager has a lot of influence over the environment of motivation, but ultimately, each person is responsible for their own thought processes.

These elements are strongly involved in a character of motivation:

  • Positive self talk or mantra
  • Routines and habits
  • Sense of responsibility for accomplishments

Who’s responsible?

The individual. Of course, it’s every person’s responsibility to bring motivation to the role.

But responsibility doesn’t lie exclusively on their shoulders.

“The company has a real responsibility to try to motivate you, engage you, and equip you,” Nigel said.

Regardless of all the external engagement mechanics, tools, playbook, resources, or anything that the company can do, a person’s motivation is mental.

If you’re a rep, try these two things if you’re feeling like your motivation is at zero:

  1. Go to your manager and share your desire for training and engagement
  2. Be positive anyway because it will influence both you and others in your environment (“fake it ‘til you make it”)

For leaders, you should educate your reps about the motivation cycle.

It’s like driving a car. You’re super excited about your new activity and ability until you learn enough to understand the challenges or dangers. As soon as you think, “I don’t know enough to be successful,” you become demotivated.

Managers should share that with reps and help them figure out what they need. “The leader is responsible for helping to put those nuts and bolts in place, the training, the  technical knowledge, and all the rest of it,” Nigel said.


Motivation isn’t the only thing that makes an A+ rep; they also need discipline.

There are processes to follow. Numbers to hit. Conversations to hold.

Over and over and over.

Say that a rep knows based on their averages that they need to bring in 5 new customers a month. To get 5 customers, you need 10 pieces of paperwork. To get 10 pieces of paperwork, you need to make 50 calls a day.

“When they’ve got 49, they don’t stop. They do the 50,” Nigel said.

That’s the discipline of a winning salesperson blended with expertise in what it takes to be successful. 

Quick side note: You’ve encountered the stigma that sales is not a profession, that anybody can do it, that you don’t need any qualifications to succeed at it.

It’s false, false, false.

“If you actually look at being a professional salesperson, then you’ll be so much better at it,” Nigel said. “We should have qualifications for sales — external qualifications where people can be proud of doing what they do.”

People who view sales as a profession are the ones with the discipline to aim higher than the goal that is set.

“Ultimately, the sales team within an organization is its powerhouse,” Nigel said.

Amen to that.


Qualifications for salespeople vary considerably, from zero experience to industry experience to sales experience.

When you’re hiring, aim for a blend of the above.

“It’s important for an organization to hire less experienced people into the sales team, as well as more experienced sales people,” Nigel said.

No matter how expert they were at their previous jobs, nobody can walk in and intuit exactly how many calls they have to make to land the 5 new customers a month. Everyone has to be trained in the expertise of being a salesperson at your org.

Back to the responsibility of the leadership: Teach both about the product/market/service but also about the specific environment of success.

It’s a matter of professionalism.

“You can tell when they walk in the room, those people who have that self-confidence in their own knowledge and experience,” Nigel said.

They’re motivated, disciplined, and experienced.

Nigel’s 3 takeaways

Best advice for sales leadership:

  1. Know your numbers, your team’s numbers, and the business’s numbers. Educate yourself in your company’s success.
  2. Be that leader before you’re the leader. Contribute to team culture, motivation, and strategy.
  3. Be modest about your accomplishments. Demonstrate your success instead of just telling people about it.

Get in touch with Nigel about sales leadership on LinkedIn.

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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