top ten sales hiring mistakesWe have been involved in thousands of sales hiring and recruiting projects. We are often called in to investigate and fixed failed hiring initiatives. Here in countdown order are the top 10 sales hiring mistakes we see and what you can do to avoid them.

10. Hiring based on gut.
Problem: while a person may feel right from meetings, your gut is often not skilled enough to make the right choice. Usually the hire that will perform is the one that scores the highest against specific criteria such as competencies, experiences, proven success and fit with your sales environment and culture.
Solution: Map out exactly what you need and objectively evaluate all candidates using the same criteria, same process and same interview questions.

9. Hiring who’s available instead of who you need.
Problem: The pressure to hit targets is immense and often a sales manager jumps to hire the first person that looks good or good enough, but getting sales hiring right takes patience and in the end they may end up wasting money and time investing in someone that is not the right fit.
Solution: Your best bet is to know the sales competencies your reps require and look for them when interviewing – past success is the best proof of ability.

8. Hiring a product sales person to sell solutions.
Problem: The selling activity and skills required to sell solutions is completely different than for products.
Solution: Your best bet is to know the sales competencies your reps require and look for them when interviewing – past success is the best proof of ability.

7. Hiring someone from a big company into a small company.
Problem: In a small company there is typically less infrastructure and support, less stability in direction and less brand recognition. It is tougher.
Solution: If your prospective hire has not successfully sold in a start up before, you need to test their comfort with the environment your company offers. Don’t sugarcoat.

6. Hiring the person with the best resume.
Problem: Often the best reps spend more time selling than polishing their resume. Solution: Focus on results and don’t be fooled by someone whose resume overstates limited accomplishments.

5. Hiring without doing thorough reference checks.
Problem: Sales people are often at their best in interviews and accomplishments may be embellished.
Solution: Validate all their claims and truly understand what it is like to employ them. Place a priority on former employers over colleagues and even customers.

4. Hiring based on industry experience rather than sales competencies.
Problem: Many companies believe that a new hire needs to come from the industry, have the right rolodex and domain knowledge in order to be successful, but the top performers are typically successful because of DNA not sector experience.
Solution: Give the job applicants tests and role plays that demonstrate their ability to learn and sell your offering. Top performers are usually fast learners.

3. Hiring reps from the competition.
Problem: Two head to head competitors can have vastly different offerings, cultures and selling environments, which require different characteristics in successful reps which means they may not be suited to your company and may in fact, bring baggage. Furthermore it reduces the pool of people you can choose from and raises the price you will have to pay.
Solution: Model your selling environment and know which competitors if any actually have the right people on their team.

2. Hiring a farmer when you need a hunter.
Problem: Each role requires completely different sales DNA and hunters can often learn to be farmers but the reverse is seldom true.
Solution: Make sure your hiring process includes tests to make sure you select the right DNA for the role.

1. Falling for a smile and a happy disposition.
Problem: Sales is a confidence sport and being likable is a good attribute to customers, but winning in sales takes hard work, persistence, optimism, ability to handle adversity and luck.
Solution: Look at past successes and references to ensure you are picking a performer with a great disposition.

In the end it doesn’t matter what kind of training, development, incentives and management you have in place if you don’t have the right people on board in the first place. You need to build the right team to be a sales powerhouse.


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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