The Six Biggest Hiring Mistakes

In consulting with clients over the last 20 years, we have found that some mistakes keep repeating themselves in trying to hire the correct salespeople.  It makes no difference whether a company is hiring a salesperson to sell janitorial supplies or sophisticated ERP software, the mistakes are usually the same. These mistakes are big factors in making poor hiring decisions.

Sales has the highest turnover rate in any industry – over 30% annually. Approximately 20% of a given sales force accounts for a whopping 80% of the total sales (why were the bottom 80% even hired?)

Mistake #1
Too Much Emphasis Is Placed on a Salesperson’s Industry Experience

Just because a salesperson has specific industry sales experience, does not mean it is good industry experience.  Often these people bring bad habits to the table, which are very difficult or impossible to change.

The best indicator of successful sales performances is based upon the individual – their habits, attitudes and skills – not specific areas of product knowledge.  The old cliché holds true, “It’s easier to teach a salesperson what to sell, than how to sell.”

Ego drive and empathy (not industry experience) are the true drivers of sales achievement and success.

Mistake #2
Hiring on a Salesperson’s Charm or Personality

Being a “good actor or actress” does not necessarily translate into being a good salesperson.  Additionally, if you both went to the same college that’s nice, but it really is a non-factor.

It has been proven that the majority of hiring decisions that are based upon the interviewing process (we “like” the candidate) are only 14% accurate and reliable.

Mistake #3
Hiring a “Book of Business”

Sometimes this is a “smoke screen” that salespeople use to receive a job offer, but often the “book of business” never comes.  Employers try to hire the “book of business” salesperson as a quick fix solution to increase sales rapidly.  When this does not happen, the quick fix solution drastically affects long term growth.

Thomas Watson Sr., the founder of IBM, stated that the spirit and drive to achieve is far more important than all other resources.

Mistake #4
Not Focusing on True Habits and Skills to Produce Sales Results

In an extensive study conducted by Harvard that measured the careers of 4,375 people, it was found that one-third failed because of a lack of knowledge or skills. But a staggering two-thirds failed because of attitude problems.

In a Caliper Survey, published in The Wall Street Journal, over 1000 executives replied that they really wanted to know only three things when they made a hiring decision:

  • Can they solve problems? (every sale truly is a solution to a problem)
  • Will they get things done? (motivated to reach their monthly sales goals)
  • Are they versatile? (can they sell and service)

Mistake #5
No Defined Sales Process

Because companies are hiring “proven sales industry” salespeople, they may underestimate the value of providing a proven sales system. This is similar to recruiting athletes without practicing and providing specific game plans to win the games. Practice makes perfect.

Mistake #6
Sales Assessment Tool

Not having a proven assessment tool that measures true sales ability before a salesperson is hired. A study conducted by John Hunter, Ph.D. at Michigan State University found that the personal interviewing process is only 14% accurate in predicting a successful hire.  However, when sales assessment tools are used the accuracy increases to 75% (an increase of over 500%).

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