Can You Afford Another Bad Sales Hire?

Denver-Based Sales Leadership Development Available Nationwide

Posted: July 23, 2012

You’ve seen this movie before. In fact, you might have landed the starring role in this film.

Sales manager hires new salesperson, with high hopes that this individual is a keeper. The résumé looks good, the interview went well and the job is offered.

After the new hire unpacks his bags, the sales manager has her first doubts about the new superstar. There aren’t enough new opportunities coming through the door, but there ARE plenty of excuses.

• "If only I had more and/or better leads."

• "If only our pricing was more competitive."

• "If only our marketing material looked better."

• "If only …" (feel free to add to the list).

The sales manager wants to be an effective leader, and spends time and money on search engine optimization, revamping pricing strategies and updating marketing collateral. More nonrevenue-producing months roll by and the sales manager reluctantly admits: I hired a dud. This movie doesn’t have a happy ending.

How can you make sure you don’t get stuck with a sales dud?

Review your hiring process. Are you properly analyzing whether your potential new hire’s experience will translate to success at your organization?

For example, the recent dud salesman actually did well at his old company — he wasn’t fudging sales results or numbers on his résumé. However, the reason for his success is because his former company had a robust marketing program. Leads were provided to him. He is a great producer — once the lead is generated.

Your company, on the other hand, requires the salesperson to source and find most of his own leads. You have a gap in your hiring process because you hired a salesman with no experience in sourcing his own opportunities. His previous experience isn’t a match for what’s needed at your organization.

So how do you identify hiring gaps or mismatches early?

Design and ask good interview questions such as, "Tell me about the last five sales you made at your former company. How was the opportunity created?" Listen closely to see if the salesman or the company generated the lead.

>How about the new hire who’s complaining she’s losing business because the company’s prices are too high? This salesperson also did well at her last company. Why isn’t she producing for your organization?

You didn’t ask how she won business. Her résumé shows a history of sales success because her former company sold on price, not value. But your company sells on value, not price, so her experience isn’t going to work for you.

To identify this potential gap, ask interview questions such as, "Where were your products and services positioned in the market? Were you the high price, medium or low price provider?" Listen carefully to determine how the sale really was made. Was it superior selling skills or low price that closed the business?

Let’s address another problem: Why do sales managers hang on to poor salespeople for too long?

Usually, it’s because there are no specific metrics set for success, so it’s difficult to figure out whether or not the new hire is on track.

For example, most sales organizations bring on a new hire and have a vague conversation around prospecting expectations. "We want you to attend some networking events, do some email prospecting, some cold calling and meet with some potential referral partners."

"Some" isn’t a number and can’t be measured. (Can you imagine running your accounting department this way? "We have some money in the bank. We have some profit dropping to the bottom line.")

You get what you expect, so get specific about your expectations for success.

"We expect you to attend four networking events a month, send 10 targeted emails each week to new prospects, make 10 cold calls each day, meet with two potential strategic partners each week, make five client retention calls a week and host a quarterly lunch and learn for prospects and clients. That activity should lead to "X" amount of first appointments and "X" amount of closed business each month."

Set and track expectations for success.

You’ve got systems and processes for everything else at your company; now, install a system for hiring and selection. Stop making excuses that there aren’t good salespeople in the market. There are good salespeople — you just don’t have a system for identifying and recruiting "A" players.

About the Author

Colleen Stanley is president of SalesLeadership Inc., a business development consulting firm specializing in sales and sales management training. The company provides programs in prospecting, referral strategies, consultative sales training, sales management training, emotional intelligence and hiring/selection. She is the author of  ‘Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success’ and ‘Growing Great Sales Teams.’  Reach Colleen at 303-708-1128 or visit

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