Red Flags When Hiring Salespeople

How to Spot Problems Before You Hire the Wrong Person

Red Flags When Hiring SalespeopleAs business owners and executives we’ve all made decisions we wish we could take back from time to time. But when it comes to hiring the wrong salesperson, that feeling can be especially sharp. Not only have you spent a lot of time and money on training and salary for someone who didn’t work out, but there’s always the potential for lost or damaged client relationships.
And worst of all, you find yourself back at the beginning with a lean pipeline and looking for yet another salesperson…
Here are my top four red flags to spot problems before you hire the wrong seller.

  1. They can’t prove their past sales performance. Lots of candidates talk a good game – they are professional persuaders, after all – but make sure that what they say matches up to the reality of their past performance. If they claim to have been a six-figure “hunter” in their last position, ask for solid proof of their results to back it up. And while you’re at it, check their references by contacting past managers, customers, and peers. Use an online service like In my experience, each will offer a different perspective.
  2. Their sales skills assessment reveals gaps between what they can do and what you really need. Assessments can help you measure sales ability, determine candidates’ performance motivators, uncover sales skill gaps, and find the right match for your company’s culture. Use them to screen candidates out of your process early on, then to identify topic areas where you need to interview deeper to truly assess their sales ability and fit for your company. For example, if you see that calling on top-level executives is a low-rated skill, ask pointed interview questions that will uncover what’s holding the sales rep back.
  3. They’re coming from a well-known Fortune 1000 company. Fortune 1000 sales experience looks great on a sales rep’s resume, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be a good fit for your organization. In fact, it might mean just the opposite. Working at a large company is a lot different than a small or mid-sized business environment. Prospects will sometimes meet with a sales rep just to see what’s being offered, or even because they’re simply flattered by the attention. A large marketing department supplies a steady stream of leads and materials. Dozens of support personnel are available to assist with sales calls. Add this all together and you have a different selling environment than the one a lot of smaller companies are working in. Many sellers discover they aren’t able to do the hard work of prospecting without the company name recognition to open the door for them. Throw additional responsibilities, like creating marketing materials, and it can add up to a very poor fit… even for a sales rep with a previous track record of high-level success.
  4. You haven’t considered enough candidates. I understand that we’re all too busy as it is, and it can be tempting to try to shortcut the sales rep hiring process. Resist the urge. Many business owners try to streamline hiring by focusing on one or two candidates. A better tactic is to start with 5 or even 10 candidates, knowing that you’ll lose a couple at each step of the hiring process. That way, you can compare candidates against each other, rather than just an ideal you have in your mind. A candidate pool will help you keep the right perspective throughout the interview process. Hiring a great sales person who will bring lots of new business and revenue to your company doesn’t have to be an ordeal.

There really are thousands of qualified, ambitious candidates just waiting to be found. But, to add one to your team, you’re probably going to have to sift through your fair share of pretenders. Be on the lookout for these red flags and you’ll avoid the most common sales hiring blunders.

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