Recruiting and Ramping Sales Talent
7 Ways to Avoid a Bad Sales Hire
7 Ways to Avoid a Bad Sales Hire

7 Ways to Avoid a Bad Sales Hire

If you are not careful, emotions will get the best of you and surprise you just made a bad sales hire!  You meet someone and you think “wow, they’re great!  They’re smart, attractive, articulate and both they and their resume have said how great they are too.”  STOP, WAKE UP FROM THIS DREAM!!!  You are probably about to make another bad sales hire.  First rule is do not rely on gut feel.  It will get you every time.

Here’s some things to consider to avoid a bad sales hire: 

Sales Role:

There are several roles but the most prominent are the Hunter and the Account Manager.  My experience tells me Hunters do not make good Account Managers and vise versa.  Here’s how to tell the difference.  Ask the Hunter to map out their prospecting strategy they have used in the past.  How do they organize their time, how do they get to the decision maker and what is their contact cadence? Ask them to role play a first call.  Similarly, ask the Account Manager to map out their strategy to expand a key account.  Ask how they network using connections, what research they do and how do they use it? 

Decision Maker Level:

This is a make or break for your most important deals.  Unfortunately, many salespeople do not have the self-concept, a strategy or technique to get to the decision maker.  The higher your average sale size is, the more critical this becomes.  Ask your prospective hire how they negotiate to power, and in their opinion, how important accessing power is to win a deal.  If they don’t see it as critical, they won’t do it, and they will deliver to you a pipeline full of bloat (unqualified deals that will not close).

Money Consciousness:

This gets into psychology because beliefs drive what salespeople are willing to do and not do.  For example, if you are selling a high value item e.g., you charge more than your competitors because of quality, beliefs come into play.  Here’s an example, your salesperson buys everything on price in their personal life, because high value means the lowest price. Now when fielding a price objection, this belief does not support the right outcome.  You will find these folks are the ones with the lowest margins, asking for the most concessions for the customer.  They cannot close deals with good terms at high margins.  Look at the clothes they wear, look at the car they drive, see where they live, where do they stay Hyatt or Motel 6?

Sales Cycle:

Complexity of sales cycle is usually associated with a higher price point.  Not only does it require access to a VP or C level decision maker, it requires herding cats (getting everyone on the same page), executive presence, and the ability to understand and talk to the prospects business strategy.  Ask them how they do this and ask for an example of how they have tied business strategy to a product they have sold in the past.

Goal Orientation:

The most successful people are goal oriented, particularly salespeople.  It’s more than just writing down numbers.  It’s passion about where you are going and why it is important to get there.  The question the interviewer needs to answer is how important is this person’s goals and does this role allow them to achieve them, assuming they are at or above company goal.  Salespeople without a “goal mindset” are not salespeople who achieve!

Listening and Questioning Skills:

How can you listen if you cannot get people to talk?  You can’t!  Questioning skills always come first.  A great salesperson’s first tool in the bag is their questioning skills, then their ability to listen.  Ask them their top 10 qualifying questions.  They should be able to rattle these off without a second thought.  If they can’t, that’s a problem.  Also, observe their listening skills in the interview.  Do they practice active listening (paraphrasing the key things you’ve said)?  Do you feel like you are being heard and understood by them or are they more focused on getting their own questions answered?


This is an important one!  Responsibility in sales is defined as the absence of excuse making.  If you have a sales team now, I’m sure you have heard “I can’t because.” In sales you must find your way around obstacles.  The minute you say you cannot, in your mind you’re right and you stop trying.  Ask about the most difficult circumstances they’ve had to overcome. If they have not had many or ones that are not impressive, chances are they won’t be impressive in the sales field either.


The top 20% of salespeople produce 120% more than average, the top 4% produce 250% more.

Brad Smart – Topgrading

It is so worth it to work on getting this right!  Making a bad sales hire is time consuming, expensive and so frustrating. Feel free to connect if this has been a challenge (it is for most companies) I’d be glad to chat.

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