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I am not throwing the first stone here (or the last). I have personally been guilty of half of these. But, alas, it is how one learns.

Hiring Out of Desperation

One of the fastest ways to build an underperforming sales force and burden yourself with human resources nightmares is to hire out of desperation. If you desperately need someone to fill the position, or if you are filling the position because you need to make headcount, you will make mistakes and you will hire poorly.

Instead, spend time recruiting the right candidates before you have a need. Build a pipeline of candidates while you are fully staffed, and give yourself time to be more deliberate and more thoughtful in your hiring.

Too Little Time Interviewing

Interviewing takes time, time you don’t likely have while you are busy with your real job. It’s easy to take short cuts and to spend too little time interviewing. But it’s not just a mistake to spend too little time interviewing in general, it’s a mistake to believe that you can learn all you need to know in 30 minutes or an hour.

Invest the time to interview a lot of candidates. See more people than you believe necessary. Then, invest lots of time interviewing the candidates that might be a good fit for you and your company. Spend time learning about them, and making sure that they are likely to succeed before you hire them.

Too Much Focus on Experience

For some reason, we act as if the fact that a person has a similar sales experience to the sales position for which we are hiring, that it is more likely that they will succeed. When reviewing resumes, we look for the experience, and not finding it, we move onto other candidates. But our own hiring results continually punish us for making the mistake of placing too much emphasis on experience at the expense of other attributes.

If experience isn’t going to be the primary factor that allows a salesperson to succeed or fail, then don’t make it your primary consideration. If you have the ability to train and develop salespeople, then look for factors that will later prove to be a greater indicator of success (more on that next).

Too Little Focus on Attitude, Beliefs, and Behaviors

Because we place so much value on experience, we tend to ignore the real factors that lead to success. We ignore just how important the hard-to-quantify attributes that don’t show up on resumes, like attitude, beliefs, and behaviors. Later on, when the employee is failing, we notice that the root cause of their failure is their attitude, their belief systems, and the behaviors.

Eliciting a potential salesperson’s attitudes, their overarching belief system, and their behaviors will give you more insight to how that salesperson is going to perform than will their past experience. Asking questions to pull out these factors will do much to eliminate some easily preventable hiring mistakes.

Believing Skills Are Transferable

Back to experience. Because someone has sold, we believe that they can sell. But there are major differences in the skill sets, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes required for different types of selling. A salesperson that did well in a transactional sales role may be ill suited and struggle in a longer sales cycle. The reverse is true, too: someone who managed a complex sales process may struggle in a transactional role.

Make sure that main skills, attributes, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors exist before hiring someone. Hire them into a role in which you are certain that you can help them succeed based on these factors.

Selling Your Opportunity

You have a sales position to fill. The candidate in front of you is seeking a sales position. So you begin to sell them your opportunity, telling them how wonderful the company is and just how great it is to work there. You sell them the position because you need them to take it, not because they are the right hire. While you are doing all the selling, you aren’t learning anything about your candidate.

Save the sales pitch. You need to be sold on the candidate before you do any selling. Your time is best spent asking the questions, listening to the answers, and making an assessment as to whether or not you can help this person succeed should you hire them.

Not Discovering Verifiable Results

If someone has worked in sales, they will have had clients. They will have made lots of sales calls. They will be able to speak about the clients they won, the clients that they lost, and the clients that they should have won, but didn’t. It is a mistake not to identify some of the clients that they won and how they did so.

Ask if you can speak with some of their past clients. Verify that they did in fact win their business, and ask their client what they did that allowed them to win the business. These are results that you can verify, and they are indication of what you might expect from the salesperson sitting in front of you.

Hiring well isn’t easy. It’s easy to hire someone you believe will be a star only to be disappointed. If you have hired for any time at all, you will have had the experience of taking a chance and hiring someone who wasn’t nearly qualified on paper that ended up outperforming the rest of their team. But it isn’t all voodoo and magic. You start hiring well by first avoiding the most common hiring mistakes.


What are the biggest hiring mistakes you have personally witnessed?

What are the biggest hiring mistakes you have personally made?

What are the risks of hiring out of desperation?

Why do we spend so little time interviewing? How much time does it take to really know enough to decide if a person is a good fit?

What are your best tips for hiring effectively?

Sales 2011
Post by Anthony Iannarino on December 5, 2011

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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