Hiring Tech Sales People

Talk to any sales manager and they will tell you that hiring reliable sales people is one of the most difficult things to do. Even the ones who say they have a good hiring track record will typically admit that too few of their reps are at target.

Why is that? What makes hiring great tech sales representatives so hard?

With thousands of sales recruiting projects under our belt, here are the top 10 challenges small and large companies alike face when trying to hire great technology sales people.

  1. Salespeople, those in the tech space and beyond, are used to putting the best spin on their accomplishments. Fix: Implement in-depth screening and cross-referencing to separate truth from fiction.)
  2. DNA or personality traits are the most critical factor in sales success, especially in the technology industry where consultative selling is the norm. Unfortunately for the untrained interviewer, assessing sales DNA is far more difficult than assessing for experience or even skills. This often leads hiring managers to rely on their gut when selecting a candidate to hire. Fix: Use behavioral assessments and interviews performed by trained interviewers.
  3. The hiring manager may not have benchmarked the profile of the top performers currently on the team, and can’t properly characterize what they are looking for. Fix: Define the experience, skills and personality traits that are critical for the hire to be successful, and then have the discipline to stick with it.
  4. A high percentage of active job seekers have poor sales records which conditions the hiring manager to lower the benchmark for hiring. Fix: The hiring manager needs discipline to not settle.
  5. The best candidates are gainfully employed and are not likely to respond to your job ad. If you are lucky enough to get to them, they may not be inclined to let you make a full objective assessment. Fix: You need to perform the same interview process on every single candidate so you can compare apples to apples when selecting the candidate to be hired.
  6. Many sales managers are extroverts and are naturally attracted to other outgoing people regardless of qualifications. Fix: Focus on how the candidate’s skills, experiences, and DNA align with your ideal candidate profile. Conducting interviews over the phone before in-person, can mitigate the ‘halo-effect‘.
  7. Performing reference checks on someone who is employed is challenging due to confidentiality. Fix: There are always managerial contacts that can be approached. HR is a strategic partner that can be relied upon during this phase to provide guidance.
  8. Verifying income is easy, but verifying performance is tricky. Fix: Rigorous interviewing and background checks are critical.
  9. Sales managers are trained to be sales managers, not interviewers. Fix: Anyone hiring for this critical position needs to get trained or — shameless promo — to engage experts to assist in the identification and selection of the best and right hires.
  10. The pressure of the clock counting down on a quarterly target forces the sales manager to settle on the best candidate available rather than the right candidate. Fix: Wait until you find the right candidate. Hiring the wrong sales person is way more costly than making the investment in time to hire a great sales person.

The bottom line: When making a hire this important, invest in a proven process, and have the discipline to stick to it.


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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