5 Steps for Selecting Highly Productive Sales Reps

Education market companies can have the best products imaginable, but unless they have highly productive Sales Reps, the companies make no money. As Henry Ford wisely observed, “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” 

This underlines the super-importance of your education market company selecting job applicants who become “Superstar” Sales Reps, that is, they are both highly productive and low turnover. Unfortunately, a lot of education market companies hire Sales Reps who produce only average or below-average sales results!

Fortunately, I will share with you my “5 Step Method to Hire the Best” that you can put into action immediately to weed out the average or below-average applicants and instead zoom in on determining which applicants will be your Superstar Sales Reps.

wutzkoh – stock.adobe.com


To start 1st Step, look at the background of your company’s best Sales Reps. Make a list of their typical jobs, length of time in each job, time between jobs, education, and training. Then, when you examine an applicant’s resume, see if the applicant had work experiences, tenure in each job, time between jobs, education and training similar to your company’s Superstar Sales Reps. If “No,” then do not waste any more time on that applicant.  If “Yes,” then move the applicant to 2nd Step.


For Sales Rep applicants, use a scientifically researched and validated pre-hire test measuring:

  • Honesty on test
  • Behaviors – e.g., Interpersonal Skills, Personality, and Work Motivations
  • Mental Aptitudes – Brainpower

Important: Before testing applicants, have some of your company’s Superstar Sales Reps take the tests. Statistically, see your Superstars’ typical test scores, which you might call benchmark test scores for your Sales Rep job.

Then, when applicants take the pre-employment tests, you logically continue considering applicants whose pre-hire test scores are same as your company’s Superstar benchmark test scores, or very close. And, stop considering applicants who got test scores that are different than your superstars. Superstars benchmark test scores Exhibit 1 in this article shows you example of a sales applicant’s test scores compared to custom-tailored benchmark test scores for a company’s “Superstar” Sales Reps.

Explanation of Scores-Page: 

  • Green Diamond = Score of Applicant
  • Gray Tube = Benchmark scores of this company’s “Superstar” Sales Reps
  • Recommendation = Prefer applicants whose scores (green diamonds) are inside Benchmarks (gray tubes)
Exhibit 1.  Sales Applicant’s Pre-Employment Test Scores

3rd STEP/IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW – Time Needed: 2-3 Hours

Realize how extremely time-consuming an In-Depth Interview is: 

  • 30 minutes to schedule interview, wait for applicant, and chit-chat with applicant
  • 1–2 Hours conducting the actual in-depth interview
  • 30 minutes after the interview, write notes, think about & discuss applicant

Only spend your expensive, valuable 2-3 hours with applicants who did well in 1st Step and 2nd Step. 

Before conducting In-Depth Interview, write list of 6-9 most important job talents you want in the applicant you hire. Reason: You must focus your 2-3 hours on whether applicant has those 6-9 crucial job talents.

For example, here is list of important Sales Rep job talents focused on by one company: 

  • Friendliness
  • Assertiveness
  • Flexible in Following Rules
  • Self-confident Reaction to Pressure
  • Highly Optimistic
  • Highly Money Motivated
  • Power Motivated – “Take-Charge”

Write questions you will use for each job talent.  Preferably, use open-ended questions – not closed-ended questions – so interviewer forces applicant to reveal their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and experiences. 

For instance, for section of In-Depth Interview on Highly Money Motivated, you might ask questions like these: 

  • Tell me what ingredients of your sales jobs that you enjoy most.
  • What is your ideal compensation plan you would like
  • Describe what inspires you the most to do a good job.
  • If I hire you, what do you most want from getting this sales job?

When you ask these questions, listen carefully for whether the Sales Rep applicant possesses what you are looking for.  If “Yes,” then continue to 4th Step. If “No,” then that is the end of spending your valuable time on this applicant!

Elnur – stock.adobe.com

4th STEP/TIME-CONSUMING METHODS – Time Needed: 1-4 Hours 

For your 4th Step, you do one or more of these applicant evaluation methods: 

Reference Checks

Reference Checks are getting harder to get. Reason: Many companies tell managers to say only applicant’s dates of employment, and not mention problems or work quality. A great way to get around this is to call applicant’s ex-boss at home, promise you will not repeat what they say, and ask for details of applicant’s work qualities and problems. 

Role-Play/ Realistic Job Observation

Role-Plays are fabulous to do with Sales Rep applicants. You play role of prospective customer, and applicant plays role of Sales Rep trying to sell something to you. Carefully observe what applicant does well and poorly. 

Income Verification

Income Verification is vital when you assess Sales applicants. During In-Depth Interview, ask applicant how much they earned, including commissions and incentive pay. Then, in this step, insist applicant provide verification of amount they claimed their earned.

If you rate applicant highly on this 4th Step, then you confidently can proceed to 5th Step. But, if you find anything you do not like in this 4th Step, you can stop considering this applicant.   


This will be easy to do. Reason: The only applicants who get to 5th Step earned very positive ratings on 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Steps. So, your decision in 5th Step boils down to (a) offer job to this applicant you rated highly or (b) see if you can find an even better applicant. 


Think about it: When you select a Sales Rep, you are betting your education market company – because you need highly productive Sales Reps to grow your company. Also, you are betting your own career! Reason: If you hire terrific, “Superstar” Sales Reps, then you have a bright future. But, if you hire average or below-average Sales Reps, you may be asked to pack up your belongings and find a different job! 

Importantly, carefully follow all five Steps. Only move an applicant from one step to the next step if you gave the applicant a high rating. Realize that if an applicant fails to get your high rating on any step, you have reason to celebrate. Why? Because you avoided hiring a Sales Rep who would not help your education market company prosper and grow.

© Copyright 2021, Michael Mercer, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Dr. Michael Mercer

Michael W. Mercer, Ph.D., is a pre-employment testing & Hiring Expert. Dr. Mercer researched + developed Forecaster Tests used by many companies across the U.S. He authored HR books including, "Hire The Best & Avoid the Rest". Dr. Mercer is an Industrial + Business psychologist. He developed 3 pre-employment tests used by companies to help them select top-notch employees. He is the president of Mercer Systems, LLC.