2. hiring & onboarding

sales headhunting explained: easy ways to get great sales people on board

Reading time:  11 min  |  Time to finish this chapter: 40 min

Most companies, when hiring sales representatives, post job ads. There’re many places to do so; you can go internationally and add a job post on LI, Glassdoor, Indeed, Monster, etc. or keep your job on the local job posting sites. However, if you’re the primary point of touch for candidates, you’ll see that the CVs will not fully meet your expectations in most cases. You might have picked the wrong site, wrote a low-quality job ad, or your company doesn’t have good branding. The alternative to this “passive” search is an active outreach, so-called headhunting. 

This article about headhunting will cover the possible channels, tools, tips on how to know who’s your candidate and how to get their attention, and ideally also receive an answer.

Specifically, we’re going to give guidance on what can be done in front of the computer, possibly via a phone or online chat room.

Networking events are great places to meet quality potential candidates. However, in 2020 and 2021, this doesn’t seem to be the option. 

Where, How & Why

What's the difference?

Recruiting vs. headhunting

Recruitment is a candidate pool-oriented job. While recruiting means posting a job advertisement, waiting for candidates to apply, and then matching candidates to the position, headhunting is the opposite. Headhunters focus on the job position first. They should have a profound knowledge of it to pre-select and reach out to potential candidates quickly.

On top of the profound job position knowledge, headhunters, or people finding themselves in their role, need to have great profile analyzing, people, and sales skills.

Therefore, in smaller companies, headhunting is quite often performed by leaders or other senior professionals. They usually cooperate with researchers who do the time-consuming online candidate search.

The option is to hire a headhunting agency. The good ones will try to get to know and understand you as much as possible to communicate effectively with the potential candidates. However, you can get discouraged by their fees.

People, more people!

sales headhunting 101

Leaders and managers are busy, so they’ll need help and automation where possible. Researchers, or other sales team members, can do the preselection for them - performing searches, picking the suitable individual profiles, or sometimes, if they are experienced enough, even reaching out to candidates and transferring them to the headhunter afterward.

A big help to every HR department is an ATS (Applicant Tracking System). In sales language,  ATS is a CRM for candidates. In ATS, you save candidates, work on them and see their progress on their way to becoming “a deal”, aka an employee. Other big helpers are automation tools or search methodologies like boolean. We’ll get to these soon.
First, before you jump-start your search, pay attention to: 

Channels - Where to find your sales representatives

Nowadays, the most powerful channel is LinkedIn. It has handy filters and allows you to search by keywords. Other channels you can search for and reach out to sales talents are services like Welcome to the Jungle - where you create a great company profile and have access to the talent pool, or Teamio, which collects updated CVs and uncovers them for a fee.

LinkedIn can be a completely free tool. However, even though you’ll get the chance to reach out to anyone, you might encounter some limitations because of your network size. Services like Teamio or Welcome to the Jungle gather updated CVs and profiles; thus, conversations usually start smoother than on LinkedIn, but you’ll be limited down to those who actively search for a job. 

If possible, everywhere you want to hunt, set up a company profile. Show you’re THE place to work. People will start digging into who you are and what you do when they receive your message. You need to make sure you’re not making them work too hard.

Tools - Helping to find your sales representatives

ATS - Aplicant Tracking System
This software automates a lot of work, makes hiring quicker, gathers information, saves conversations and CVs, provides reports, and reminds you of the next steps, while most of them are also GDPR compliant.

Being fast and not forgetting makes a great impression, so ditch the excel sheet. If you’re already using CRM in your company, and want to avoid additional costs, just adjust it for inserting candidates instead of companies.

If you think you’ll make good use of an ATS system, and want to implement it, try Datacruit, Recruitee, or Greenhouse. There are plenty to choose from! 

Works great on LinkedIn! You can find yourself looking for salespeople in a location or industry where you don’t have any connections. But you’ll need them to be able to browse a broader network. Doux-Sup visits other people’s profiles and sends connection messages for you.

All YOU need to do is to attach a compelling connection message so they have the reason to accept. As your network grows, it’ll get easier to find the right talents. 

Now you can find your talents, you’ll need their contact information. Most headhunters approach them just via LinkedIn. Test different ways, e.g., call or email. Most probably, this information won’t be immediately visible. Lusha uncovers phone numbers and emails.

You can also try a combo - send a LI invitation, and if you get zero response, use Lusha and send a message to their email, or vice versa. 

If Lusha fails to find the contact information, you can always generate it. Hunter.io shows the company email structure and several examples. Knowing your contact is called John Doe, working as a sales representative for ABCCompany, and that the company’s email structure is firstname.lastname@abccompany.com, generate it yourself. Send the job opportunity message to joh.doe@abccompany.com. It can’t hurt - either arrives or not! 


Learn RAYNET CRM'S unique pipelines and start to orchestrate your new biz like no one before


Sherlock Holmes would be pleased

Searching potential candidates on linkedin

LinkedIn is by far the most popular tool for headhunters, so we’ll pay extra attention to it. Linkedin gives you two subscription options. The decision between a free and a paid plan doesn’t only influence whether you’ll find the right people but also how you can approach them.

Going Basic and free
You can search and use filters and keywords. Note that the basic plan allows you to search just a limited number of people monthly. 

If you decide on a free plan on Linkedin, you’ll be outreaching by sending connection invitations. They limit you down to 300 signs a message, which can be quite challenging for a more complex job position explanation.

Also, filtering is not as good as in paid plans. If you’re on a budget, it’ll do. If not, invest in a paid plan instead.

Using a premium paid plan
When hunting, we prefer the premium plans, but we dare to say that you don’t necessarily need the “Recruiter” one to find your new employee. The cheaper plans have similar filtering options, so we usually opt for “Sales Navigator”. The additional filter examples in Recruiter are “graduation year” or “skills”. We believe that you don’t need them for hiring great salespeople.

Whichever paid plan you decide to subscribe to, it will let you:

    • browse profiles unlimitedly

    • create lists

    • useful for categorizing and labeling

    • see the top people in the industry

    • send “InMails” - see right below

By purchasing a paid plan, you’re also getting a certain number of “InMail” messages. If you send an InMail, it pops up at the top of the addressee’s inbox. These messages are limited to 1900 signs, which is maybe even too much. No one wants to read a headhunter’s message that long.

We like the option to insert a subject. If appropriately chosen, the subject increases the open rate. Apart from InMails, you can still send regular connection invitations. But we recommend doing so only after you run out of InMail messages, as InMails generate better results. 

What about teams?


After you choose your plan, prepare the keywords. Together with filters like “geography”, “industry”, “profile language”, “company”, you’ll get a great search machine. Keywords work best if combined.

We strongly recommend learning how to work with Boolean operators “AND”, “OR”, and “NOT” as they will make the search much easier!

Should you be looking for a Head of Sales from Berlin, experienced in Saas, the Boolean search you write in the search field could look like this: 

  • Head of Sales OR Sales Leader OR Sales Director) AND Saas + you add a location filter for Berlin


  • Head of Sales OR Sales Leader OR Sales Director) AND Saas AND Berlin

Note that Boolean search scans profiles for keywords, so it’ll show you everyone who has the word “Berlin” written in it, not necessarily connected to where they live right now. Conversely, the in-built filter “geography” would! 

Before you start sending messages to potential hires...

Now you know how to look up people effectively, here’s a small tip before you start sending them connection requests or messages: Check whether the profile is “alive”. You can tell quite quickly:

  • photo uploaded

  • a high number of connections

  • the profile completed

  • some activity logged

You’ll probably want your sales person to be used to using LinkedIn, anyway. It’s a way to do business nowadays; you’ll need your new sales representative to be acquainted with it and start quickly.

Good salespeople usually also list their achievements to their jobs, e.g.:

  • Q3 2017 - achieved 116% ( dollar ) sales target

  • Q3-2017 - Most Valuable Team Member

  • Q4-2017 - achieved 121% ( dollar ) sales target

You’ll also want someone who’s not “a jumper” - stays three months here, seven months there, and another year somewhere else.

Can someone truly learn and achieve something in such short periods? We doubt it. Contrary, if you see the person climbing up the company ladder, that’s a sign of achievement and capability. 

newsletter icon


Get weekly dose of your sales wisdom. Subscribe and we will send you one article each Friday. Just give us your email.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

How we think about this in Raynet? Read detailed look of our CEO Martin Bazala from our new office. Yes, we rebuild casino!

Martin Bazala / CEO

Superman, Batman, they all had some

Reaching out to sales people on LinkedIn

Whichever subscription you choose, if possible, always:

  • personalize

  • add an open-ended question

  • check your grammar

Work with templates but use them very carefully. Check our outcoming messages examples.

Hello, John, I like the way you think of ABC in your article I found on DEF. We’re expanding to DACH, looking for a new Head of Sales. Your approach and skills would make you a great fit for this role. What are your thoughts on this matter? Sincerely, xxx. [255 signs]

If you don’t have anything that’d help you personalize, focus on benefits or challenges more: 

Hello, John, We’re expanding to DACH and looking to hire a Head of Sales; someone who wants to lead a team, execute the sales strategy, and build the sales department. I think your profile fits greatly. What are your thoughts on this matter? Sincerely, xxx. [256 signs]

Put a lot of effort into the subject. We usually share a salary. When addressing English-speaking people, we state the amount yearly.

Check this example of the whole message:

Subject: “Head of Sales | 75.000EUR | B2B SaaS”
Body: “Hello, John, I read your article about ABC, the way you dealt with the XYZ challenge was brilliant! What was the long-term impact of the steps you took? We’re expanding to DACH, which calls for a new Head of Sales. I am sure your approach would make you a great asset to our company.

If you want to know whether this would be enough challenge for you, please, keep reading. 

What the Head of Sales will work on:
Strategic planning and sales

    • covering business vial all channels

    • create lists

    • useful for categorizing and labeling

    • see the top people in the industry

    • send “InMails” - see right below

    • covering business vial all channels

    • create lists

    • useful for categorizing and labeling

    • see the top people in the industry

    • send “InMails” - see right below


  • build the team underneath

  • people management

  • training

  • supervision

  • development

The compensation mentioned above is divided between fix and variable (50/50). What are your thoughts on this matter?

Please, let me know whether this is a topic for you to discuss. Have a great day, xxx”

Positive feedback is a gift, meh?

What happens after you send your first message

Now you either wait or call those who didn’t answer if you have the guts. The tools mentioned above can help you dig up the phone number. Be careful; not many people like to be surprised by this type of call, especially when working

If you stick to messaging, the workflow is following:

  • They didn’t accept and didn’t reply; we try email - if they still don’t answer, we close the case

  • They did accept but didn’t reply; we send them a “2nd touch” message

  • When someone we like a lot still doesn’t answer, we send a “3rd touch” message

After you send your first message, the critical thing to do is to put this information in an ATS/CRM - as you’re probably not going to remember all the names and all the steps you took. 

2nd Touch Message
If your connection request is accepted, you’re free to send another message. Before you do, give the recipient about 1-2 days to think about the initial offer.

If you don’t receive any reaction, the potential candidate probably hasn't had the time to answer yet, forgot, is not interested, or quite often overlooked that you attached a text to the invite.

But you want to know the reason, so send a follow-up message explaining the position a little bit more.

You can also introduce your company, attach the salary information, customer portfolio, or share anything that could help you sell the position.

3rd Touch Message
still no answer? Give them the last option to react. Attaching a simple poll works quite nicely:

“Hello, John, I’ve been trying to get in touch with you, but I haven’t heard from you so far.

I assume you’re busy, and I understand that:

    • you’re OK with your current job position

    • you’d like to talk about it, but there hasn’t been the time to do it yet

    • this is not the right timing, and I should try to email you again in a couple of months

    Please, let me know which of the options fits the situation so I can plan the next steps.

    Thank you, and I wish you a great day, xxx”

    If this message (3rd Touch Message) doesn’t work, then probably nothing will. Remember that not everyone visits LinkedIn every day. Be patient. Wait even several days for a response before you close the case. Don’t forget to update your ATS/CRM so that you have hiring statistics and can improve.

    Those, who agreed to have a call with you, are to be paid a lot of attention. If you’re the one “chasing” the other side, the follow-up approach is slightly different from when you’re the one being chased. You’ll need to invest a lot of energy into persuasion and selling the position and the company. 

    What happens after you schedule the first screening call, to the day the candidate starts working, is in the follow-up article. 

    Activity report in RAYNET

    When you use a calendar in RAYNET CRM it is automatically monitoring sales rep activities. So the activity report is just click away…


    Wrap up

    We know you love your company and don’t see any reason anyone wouldn’t want to work with you.

    But the potential candidates just don’t know what’s on the table yet. Therefore, hunt, sell yourself, inform but don’t enhance the reality, and deliver what you promise - both any missing information and deadlines. You can template a lot of the steps mentioned above. Templates and automation tools will save you a lot of time.

    However, always strive for personalization. 

    If more team members hunt, creating a “Hiring Manual” for each position is also a huge help. It should contain all necessary information about the position, any updates, workflow process, etc. 


    How to lead an interview with a salesperson? Questions and methods that work

    Interviewing a candidate for a salesperson is more or less a business meeting of its kind. Learn how to approach an interview, what questions to avoid and what tasks to prepare for your candidates.


    "SALESDOCk is one of Startup Wise Guys' trusted partners in working with early-stage technology businesses. Their involvement has succeeded in helping teams to excel.

    About SALESDOCk