The three deadly sins in hiring salespeople

“Why don’t I have any success hiring salespeople?”

This is one of the most popular questions I get asked. In my experience, there are very few rules that work for hiring salespeople that works with other departments. Why? Because we make these mistakes:

• Hiring from a résumé. They have experience. They have had sales jobs, maybe even in your industry. Eureka! A perfect hire … not. 

• Big personality? Big mistake! We believe we have met “a natural salesperson,” and we expect they will be successful.

• Hiring when you need to fill a business development position.

These three deadly sins of hiring salespeople are common. Consider these steps to help you make the right decision.

1. Benchmarking. This is a comparison of performance against external criteria. Often, organizations try to benchmark against their best salespeople. Big mistake. The correct way is to use valid, research-based metrics and modeling of success. Then, from this information, create custom benchmarking for your own organization. This is your sales-hiring DNA. Once this is completed by a leader in your sales organization, the benchmarking is ready for matching with a candidate.

2. “Benchmatching.” Send candidates an assessment to complete—and use it to see if there is a match of your corporate DNA to theirs.

3. Short telephone interview. Still taking only a few minutes, there are specific questions whose answers will give you the information necessary to move this person up—or out quickly.

4. Sales assessment. See what their sales beliefs are. That’s right: beliefs. You don’t care if they can sell, you care if they will, right? This difference is paramount.

5. Role play. Giving the candidate a short role play outline, customized with your company’s situations, will be the quickest way to see if they are a fit with your company’s selling style.

6. In-person interview. Pay attention to such things as eye contact, confidence level and overall appearance. Have two people interview the candidate, saying at the end: “We’ll let you know.” The final test is if they ask for the job, or at least a next step. ♦

Greta Schulz is president of Schulz Business, a sales consulting and training firm. She is the best-selling author of “To Sell is NOT to Sell” and works with Fortune 1000 companies and entrepreneurs. For more information or free sales tips, go to and sign up for “GretaNomics,” a weekly video tip series, or email sales questions to [email protected].

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