Perhaps it is time to expand your sales into new territories, verticals, or you’ve just realized you’re leaving sales on the table. You know it is time to look for an independent sales rep, but where do you start and how do you hire one? Let’s take a look.

The good news about today’s economy is that a lot of people, especially sales professionals, are looking for more work. While this may give you a larger pool to select your rep from, it also means you may need to narrow down candidates and be more selective with your hiring.

Where To Start

There are many websites and services where you may publish advertisements for an independent sales rep. Some of the most popular include:

The latter, Linkedin, lets you not only post your opportunity, but also connect with other professionals in your industry, which can be a great way to find referrals. Think of it as the Facebook of the business world.

Referrals are probably the best way to find qualified and high performing candidates for your independent sale rep. Especially if you are just starting out, selecting a sale professional that already has relationships with retailers in your industry is essential.

Another great place start your search for the perfect sales rep is an industry specific tradeshow. Often times independent sales reps will “work the circuit” of tradeshows. Connect with as many reps as possible, then filter down who you want to interview after the show.

Next Step: The Interview Process

Once you’ve found some possible candidates, it’s time to begin the interviews. Look at resumes closely - specifically for industry experience and previous performance with sales. Once you have narrowed down your pool, call to request an interview.

Face-to-face interviews are the best, but if budget or geography prevents an in person meeting you can use an online video conference service to meet your candidate. Skype is a popular free video service that is very easy to use to connect with people worldwide. You can quickly and easily set up a Skype account and ask your candidates for their user name - or if they don’t have an account, ask them to set one up as well.

Be Prepared - Make the Most out of Your Interview

Prepare your interview questions ahead of time and plan to take notes on each candidate. Taking clear and precise notes during the interview will make it easier for you to remember each candidate and help you make your decision. And it’s never bad to brush up on your interview techniques.

Your interview questions should encourage the candidate to expand on some accomplishments that were listed on his resume, and should also be designed to help you determine his drive, enthusiasm, and overall fit for your company. View this Interview Questions template to see a sample of possible interview questions.

Industry specific questions will help you determine if your candidate can “talk the talk.” It is important that your independent sales rep understands the market and knows the common language used. Ask them questions that a potential client may ask them about a general topic in the marketplace - if they can answer that eloquently then you will have peace of mind.

Since the rep will be the face of your brand and products, it is also essential that he fit your overall company image and mission. It is important to select an independent sales rep that is excited about your product and company.

Before your interview begins, be sure you have very specific sales goals, compensation plans, and incentive programs clearly defined so you are prepared if your candidate asks you a question. It would be handy to have a commission sheet available if the interviewee has questions about compensation. You will also want an independent sales rep agreement ready for when you have made your decision. This will outline the responsibilities of both parties

If you are able to find and hire a rep that already has established relationships in the field or market, it will be easier for your brand to get in the door. Many potential clients may have been working with your sales rep for several years previously....they know your rep and trust them. Now the rep has an additional product to offer (yours!), and the client is already more likely to buy.