8 Common mistakes when hiring salespeople

Many of my customers are adding salespeople as the calendar year kicks off.  Hiring the best sales talent is one of your biggest advantages to achieving sales and revenue goals.  So, when you add sales talent, it is critical that you add the right people, with the capabilities you need to execute the type of sale your company needs.

Here are some common mistakes I see companies still making:

  1. Failing to create the right sales environment and culture

If you hire great sales talent and they join a poor sales culture, you will lose them fairly quickly.  Do you have clearly defined company initiatives and revenue goals?  Do you know how you and your sales reps will be measured?  Have you designed a comp plan that is profitable for your company, is achievable and provides great opportunity for successful salespeople to prosper?  Do you have sales leaders who embody the company values, inspire, motivate, have integrity, drive accountability, demonstrate fairness, coach, mentor and train effectively?  Do you have the systems and processes that will enable sales efforts? Do you have a culture that is attracting or bleeding talent? These are some questions you should address before you add new talent.

  1. Failing to carefully define the skills, talent, traits and experience a new salesperson should have

Not all sales roles are alike.  Have you carefully defined what type of salesperson you need and written a detailed job description?  Does the new salesperson need to prospect?  Are they selling B2B or B2C?  What additional selling skills (consulting, demonstrating, presenting, qualifying, closing, follow-up, servicing, maintaining) do they need to be able to execute?  How much customer focus do they need to be able to demonstrate?  How quickly must they build relationship?  Do they need to be able to challenge your customers?  What specifically will they be doing and what skills will that require?

  1. Failing to use a systematic hiring process

Many of my customers do not have a systematic process for hiring.  Managers are interviewing prospective candidates in very inconsistent ways.  There are no standardized questions they are asking or situational role plays or behavioral based interview questions that all candidates are asked for the same position across the company.  Many sales leaders have never been trained to interview sales candidates.

  1. Assuming salespeople are just as driven and motivated to achieve as the hiring manager was when they were selling

Many sales managers are promoted without being trained to interview and hire sales talent.  They assume the salespeople they interview are as hard working, dedicated, ambitious, driven, and committed as they were to selling and getting results.  That is not the case.  Often the most driven and dedicated sales leaders make the most mistakes in hiring because of this incorrect assumption.

  1. Failure to use objective testing and assuming interviews, reference checks and resumes are enough to hire sales talent

By failing to incorporate objective findings, hiring managers miss things like Sales Reluctance® (the emotional limiters that prevent the execution of the sales process or the lack of drive and commitment to consistently put in the effort to achieve consistent sales results.  They miss the fact that the candidate has poor organizational skills, time management skills, or has the tendency to engage in self-sabotaging behaviors that limit their sales effectiveness.  Objective sales screening assessments can reveal key information that sales candidates never disclose.

  1. Using relationship building skills to judge future sales performance

Many sales candidates win jobs by selling themselves by having great interviewing skills and having great relationship building skills.  However, when it comes to being assertive to get meetings, asking tough questions of customers, negotiating strongly and selling value versus discounting price, they falter.  Being friendly and likeable is not the same as having the ability to execute the selling process, especially when it requires assertiveness.

  1. Hiring the first ‘acceptable’ candidates

Too many of my customers are willing to hire the first ‘acceptable’ candidates they can find.  Many of the candidates lack some of the critical skills or experience required for the job, but my customers claim they can ‘train and coach’ them to help them get up to speed.  The reality is their sales managers are spread so thin they do not have time to coach and train these candidates to the degree they require and it sets up the candidates for failure.

  1. Once hired, failing to provide effective onboarding

Too many companies fail to invest in the design and implementation of an effective onboarding process that includes orientation to the company’s vision, mission, values, systems, processes, company and sales goals, why the goals are important to meet, set clear goals by week, clearly define the expectations of the position, know who they are accountable to, who to contact for support for each type of issue/question, value proposition, pricing strategy, margin strategy & goals, prospecting call, sales call, the sales process, how the company and products are differentiated, the competition, product training, typical problems the company solves, profile of a typical customer, role playing sales calls, typical objections and how to handle them, etc.


By avoiding these common mistakes, you will likely have a higher rate of success with your sales hires and you will find your revenue increasing faster in 2016.  Here’s to your hiring and sales success!


Dr. John Musser is a sales expert who has been providing consulting in leadership development, performance development, sales consulting, training, pre-hire and current employee assessments, sales organizational evaluations, and building great sales cultures for over 26 years.  He can be contacted at 404.863.7992 or at djrohn@salespotential.comwww.salespotential.com