sales candidates We see it all the time. A great sales candidate meets with a prospective employer who rejects the candidate and elects to hire someone else. Oftentimes the reasons are legitimate – such as poor cultural fit – but many times, there are no logical reasons for the decision not to consider the candidate who would in all likelihood otherwise be a strong producer.

When reliable sales talent is in such high demand because it is so important to the success of any business, excluding great sales candidates from the hiring process for the wrong reasons is a real issue. There are several reasons why this happens:

Top Performing Sales People Are Different – If you spend any time with sales people who consistently perform at or above targets, you will quickly see they are different than the average sales person. The over-achievers possess higher drive and ambition, are more competitive, and exude confidence. While these are the traits that lead to sales success, they can be misinterpreted as liabilities, as Joseph Skursky noted in his post, Sales Thoroughbreds: The Key to Winning New Business, “the very nature and intensity of a hunter’s personality frequently turns off some recruiters and people in HR.”

Top Sales Talent Is Rare – As Colleen Francis points out in her book, Nonstop Sales Boom, only 20% of reps consistently hit well above their targets. Since the vast majority of applicants and the majority of sales people employed are average or below average sales people (see John Kearny’s post, Is Your Talent Hurting Your Sales Initiatives?), hiring managers are often not conditioned to spot them and instead are looking for more of what they are used to – average sales people.

High Producing Sales People Are Employed – Great sales candidates are not sitting at home waiting for a call from a new employer. Sales people who are consistently at or above target are busy producing sales for another employer. And being paid well to do so. Any employer trying to recruit one of these may find that they may not be as enthusiastic as another unemployed candidate who desperate for a job; any job. Often enthusiasm is mistaken for ability and a hiring manager focuses on the sales person they can easily hire rather than the sales person that will produce the desired sales results.

Broken Hiring Processes – In many companies, the hiring process is disjointed. Multiple people are involved in the hiring decision without clear and shared hiring criteria. This leads to confusion about the traits the employer is seeking and some great candidates can get nixed because someone misunderstands the hiring needs. Furthermore, it is often the case that people involved in the interview and hiring process have no formal training on how to interview or select candidates (in case you need it, here are some tips on how to interview sales candidates). As sales expert Dave Stein points out, “a key to successful hiring is objectivity.  Hiring salespeople on gut feel, the old-fashioned way, doesn’t work.”

It takes a lot of hard work and effort to attract and hire great sales people. High producing sales organizations know that the odds of attracting sales talent is greatly increased when top performing sales people are immediately recognized and given the attention they deserve.

To your success!


Sales Thoroughbreds: The Key to Winning New Business – Joseph Skursky

Is Your Talent Hurting Your Sales Initiatives? – John Kearny

Nonstop Sales Boom – Colleen Francis


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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