By investing time early on in developing relationships with executive recruiting firms, you can speed up the process for hiring a sales rep into your business. Hiring a sales representative takes more than posting a job opening and interviewing potential candidates. Your front end planning will allow you and recruitment agencies to attract the best sales people.
Based on popular research, only about 20 percent of all sales leads are actually followed up on in a responsible manner. That means that your closing ratios could zoom up if you had the ability and experience in hiring a sales rep more attuned to follow up and client service. But, to get the right sales rep, you will want to look at many facets of their experience and personalities.
Just based on personalities, you need to understand which qualities are going to be most successful in the long term. You can have your current sales force take some of the assessment tests that you use in recruiting to baseline what works in your company, or you could develop goals around the skills and abilities that you need to attract. One often overlooked technique is to solicit input for peers and colleagues. The current sales reps will know best what type of person is more likely to make it.
Since more and more sales positions are so dependent on communication and presentation skills you can look at their writing samples or video recording interviews. There are lots of other ways to see someone in action, just make sure you are consistent so that you see relative performance from different candidates.
Finally, you may want to look at how much training they would require. You want someone that can hit the ground running without a long training cycle. If they can become profitable in a shorter period of time then you both win, and they are more likely to stick around too.