Don't Trust Gut Hiring SalespeopleMany sales managers and recruiters are proud to say that they trust their gut instincts when making hires, but with the number of sales people hitting quota hovering around 58% (CSO Insights), it is worth questioning whether the “gut” helps that much in selecting great sales hires.

Ultimately the hiring manager has to live with a hiring decision – make a mistake and the lack of output from a poor performing sales rep has to be made up somewhere else – so sure, it is natural for instincts to be a component to any hiring process, but based on our experience in screening hundreds of thousands of sales candidates for our clients, mistakes happen when gut alone is used as the basis for hiring decisions.

Why? Because hiring salespeople is complicated, and most people don’t have the tools to properly assess and evaluate candidates, they just default to their gut and hope that it works out.  When it comes to revenue, the lifeblood of any company, hope is a risky strategy.

Learn to expect proof that the people who are going to generate your company’s revenue can achieve their number.  Here are 3 basic reasons, why you should never hire on gut when it comes to sales roles:

  1. Objectivity – The “gut” is an emotional yes/no/maybe response based on how one feels at any particular time rather than a thorough and structured investigation of facts.  The problem with this is that an interviewer’s mood can swing from day to day and is influenced by many factors that have nothing to do with the evaluating  – eat a spicy meal before an interview and your “gut” may tell you to take a pass on a great sales candidate (see More structure in hiring = more successful reps).
  2. Accuracy – There are an overwhelming number of verbal and non-verbal signals sent out by a candidate during an interview and an interviewer, particularly an untrained one, is prone to misread these signals. What often happens is that a likeable or relaxed candidate is often confused with a capable sales person (see The Most Common Sales Interviewing Mistakes).
  3. Cost – The costs of a poor sales hire can be enormous when you consider time and effort to recruit, the time invested in managing and training, and the squandered leads and poor impressions made on prospects (see Doing the Math on Bad Sales Hires).

There is no doubt that gut is an unavoidable factor however, next time you see yourself falling prey to making a decision based on gut, ask yourself if you have the proof required to hire this individual.  Do your homework on references.  Feel free to ask for a business case or have them do a presentation to you.  Ask the same questions multiple times in multiple ways and look for inconsistencies.  At the end of this process, you may still want to hire the person but now you will have proof.  If this extra work saves just one bad hire, you will have saved yourself a huge amount of time, effort, grief, and money.

To your success!


Image courtesy of iosphere |



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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