Never underestimate what you can learn from checking the references of someone you are thinking about hiring and never get so enamoured by a prospective hire that you don’t bother to make reference checks part of your hiring process.

Here are some of the most insightful things we have learned from years of checking sales candidate references.

Great person, but not for sales  – One time I received a call about a sales rep who had worked for me, which surprised me since I had terminated this particular rep several years earlier due to poor performance. Not wanting to mislead the caller, I disclosed that the rep was a great person, but not meant for sales based on what I had seen.

No managerial references  – often we will get a list of references that include peers, customers and senior executives in companies that the candidate worked, but no former managers which is a huge red flag. Great sales people have a long list of former bosses with heaps of praise for the candidate.

Wait a second, they said what? – Sometimes during the interview process, a sales person will get a little over confident about their accomplishments and when you check references, you find a different version of what actually happened. Perhaps the deals were slightly smaller, or were closed by someone else altogether.

This is how I got the most from them – A best case scenario on a reference check is finding out that the potential hire is in fact solid and worth hiring, and in addition, you find out how previous managers were able to coach the best results from that particular sales person.

References are always worth pursuing when hiring sales. Make sure they are part of your hiring process.



Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.

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