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13 ridiculous sales hiring mistakes even smart sales leaders make (and how to fix them)

13 ridiculous sales hiring mistakes even smart sales leaders make (and how to fix them)

Here’s a simple truth: The world has too many mediocre salespeople, and not enough great ones. Which makes hiring the great ones really, really difficult.

Add to that the fact that sales hiring mistakes are costly: A much quoted survey of 2,700 employers showed that 41% of employers estimated the cost of a bad hire at $25k, and about 25% of employers believed the cost to be $50k or more

In short: The risk of hiring the wrong person is high, and the cost is even higher.

We’ve asked some of the most respected people in the field what the most common sales hiring mistakes are—and more importantly, how they can prevent committing them.

Want a full guide on sales hiring? Download a free copy of our Sales Hiring Playbook.

Sales hiring mistake #1:
Hiring the right people at the wrong time

A salesperson can be a great, talented, skilled and ambitious professional—but they can still be the wrong choice for your team at this time. They might have generated amazing results for another company, and yet, they might utterly fail you.

This happens especially often for early-stage companies:

A common mistake I see is not matching the salesperson to the state of the sales process. Early-stage companies often need to explore and experiment with their sales process to figure out what will work. The best practice is to find salespeople who enjoy that kind of investigative sales as the first sales hires. Often, startups may hire execution salespeople who expect the playbook [to be] already in place, particularly from other companies within the domain, who may not have the desire to tinker.

— Tomasz Tunguz, Redpoint
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

Being a successful salesperson at an established company where there's already a proven sales process in place, versus being a successful salesperson at a startup operating in an environment of unknowns, requires two very different kind of people.

Past success doesn't guarantee future success. A salesperson successful selling to IT leaders at Oracle isn't likely a good fit for an early-stage startup selling to Marketing.

— Jill Rowley, Social Selling Evangelist
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

Sean Sheppard has even collected data that showed there's an 80% chance of failure if you hire an experienced rep for a "first sales hire" job at a startup:

At GrowthX, we invest and grow startups and the talent that wants to work with them. So in that vein, the biggest mistake I see early stage companies make is hiring too many salespeople too soon and/or hiring salespeople who are not "Stage Relevant".
  1. Too soon — until you have your customer acquisition model figured out, its unwise to hire salespeople and expect them to simply add sales. You cannot predict the future without a past!
  2. Stage Relevant — conventional wisdom dictates the safe bet is to hire a salesperson with pre-existing product and market "experience." You know, someone who has sold a similar product to a similar set of customers. The problem is if they have never been the "first sales hire" then the chances you will be successful together are less than 20% ( yes, I collect the data to support this assertion). A successful first sales hire is more about the right set of attributes and behaviors and less about industry background. They need to embrace ambiguity, communicate well across teams, be a technologist with a love for product and have a passion for learning.The number one cost in any organization is labor, and as a startup with limited resources, you only get so many firsts … so the moral of the story? Never forget your first :)

    — Sean Sheppard, GrowthX
    LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

Ask yourself: What kind of salesperson do you need right now? ExplorationExecution- Wants to experiment and learn
- Likes to figure things out and improvise
- Good at working with budget constraints
- Great at generating customer and market insights
- Communicates well across teams- Wants to execute and earn
- Wants to follow and fine-tune a proven procedure
- Good at efficiently utilizing existing resources
- Great at consistently bringing in new customers
- Focused on talking with prospects

As long as your sales process is still in the exploration mode, make sure to hire the kind of person that will thrive in that environment.

Once you're in execution mode though, look for someone who will just take your version one playbook and run with it. They'll be able to improve upon your process, increase close rates, lead velocity, and eventually help you scale the team.

Sales hiring mistake #2:
Overindexing on industry expertise

Industry experience matters, no doubt. If someone has been selling B2B SaaS solutions for years, they’ll be much more familiar with the way things work and how to talk to buyers because they’ll generally understand their wants and needs much better than someone who’s new to the industry. That being said, industry experience is often overrated at the expense of other equally relevant traits sales leaders should use to evaluate potential hires.

Too much reliance is given to industry experience and the amount of potential business the new hire says they can bring with them. Hiring managers become sold on thinking this new person will be able to get up to speed quickly. When this happens the hiring manager fails to dig deep enough into far more critical issues such as the person’s mindset, their attitude, and how they will contribute to the culture of the company.

— Mark Hunter, Keynote Speaker & Best Selling Author
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

It makes sense to look for someone with industry experience. But you don't create a winning team by simply putting together a bunch of people with industry experience.

But there's an even worse mistake:

The biggest mistake managers make when hiring new reps is they focus too much on previous industry experience. Even worse is when they focus on the “book of business” the rep can bring with them. Instead they should be focused on work ethic, drive and coachability.

I can teach product knowledge, sales process and skills to anyone. I can’t teach drive and the willingness to get better every day. If you’re a lazy manager looking for a quick hit then go ahead and hire the industry rep with an existing book of business. If you’re a manager that cares, hire a kid with drive and coach them to be great.

— John Barrows, Sales trainer to the world's fastest growing companies
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

Always remember this: You're hiring a person. You're not buying their existing network.

Sales hiring mistake #3:
Not learning enough about the candidate from people other than the candidate

Doing your due diligence when hiring someone for your company is always important. But it’s particularly important if you’re dealing with salespeople: There are plenty of salespeople who are really good at selling themselves.

Not checking references. And by references, I’m not talking about the people the candidate lists on their resume. Go on LinkedIn and find the common connections. Call them up unprompted. These people will be less concerned with the HR compliance B.S. They will shoot you straight. You will learn more from one 15 minute reference call than spending 2 days with the candidate. After all, they are salespeople. They interview well and know how to play a role. The key is knowing how they will act when no one is looking.

— Steve Richard, Chief Revenue Officer
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

One of the main reasons why you want to do background checks is not just to check how skilled they are, but what kind of attitude they bring to the table.

Everybody can start out full of enthusiasm and determination. But how is this person going to perform six months or years into the job? Are they still going to be as motivated and coachable as they've been during the interview process?

The biggest hiring mistake I see committed is to hire people solely based on skills. Granted, sales skills and past track records are important, but if someone has a bad attitude or isn’t coachable, they may end up being more of a challenge than the hiring party expected. This is where the hiring practice of checking references comes into play. If the new potential hire was doing so well at their last company, why did they leave? The answer to this question may tell you whether or not this person is flexible or coachable—willing to fit into your company’s required standards of performance.

— Tom Hopkins, Founder & Chairman
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

Reference checks can give you insight into what it's actually like working with this person (versus the story they tell you). Ask questions like:

  • Was the candidate accountable in performing tasks?
  • What was it like to work with the candidate?
  • Did s/he get along well with management and co-workers?
  • How did he/she handle conflict/pressure/criticism?
  • When they learned they made a mistake, what did they do?
  • What was this person searching for in their previous job?

Ideally get references from both people who managed them, co-workers, and people whom they managed (if that applies).

Check a candidate’s references BEFORE you make the decision to hire.

Hiring managers usually call a candidate's reference AFTER they have already made the decision to hire the person. At which point in time the manager has already fallen in love with the candidate and is not really interested in learning any information that will cause him or her to rethink their decision.  

That is completely backwards. Reference calls are not meant to be a validation of your hiring decision. They are an essential step in the process of qualifying your candidates.

Too often hiring managers defer making reference calls until after they make their hiring decision because they treat them as a pro forma CYA step they need to take. They are too trusting of their gut instinct instead of gathering more data to help make a fully informed decision.

Two quick rules of thumb for reference checks: 1) Invest no more than a phone screen and one interview with a candidate before doing reference checks. 2) Conduct your reference checks before you decide to bring a candidate in to spend the day interviewing with multiple people on your team.

Why risk wasting everyone’s time if the candidate isn’t fully qualified?

— Andy Paul
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

As a sales manager, it’s temping to treat a reference check as a formality in the hiring process. If you’re excited about a candidate, you want to move ahead fast.

Don’t delegate the reference check to someone else. If you’re the person responsible for making this hire, you need to do the reference checks yourself.

When talking with references, don’t just pay attention to what they say about the potential hire—pay just as much attention to what they don’t say. Most people don’t want to say negative things about a former employee or co-worker.

Make sure you speak with someone who knows the potential hire really well.

Ideally, speak with three different kinds of people: Those who worked above, with, and beyond them.

Explain to the reference what the job is you’re hiring for, and what will be expected of them—and ask them if the potential hire will be able to fulfill these expectations well. They might have been performing great at their last job, but even if the role you’re hiring for is the same, there will probably be differences in how this role will succeed in your organization versus another organization.

Ask very specific questions:

  • Bad questioning: Talk about expectations for this job, then ask “Do you think Sam will be a good fit for this role?”
  • Good questioning: Talk about expectations for this job, then ask “Where do you think Sam will excel, and where will he struggle?”

Sales hiring mistake #4:
Hiring ducks and expecting them to become eagles

Sometimes you’ll come across a salesperson who you’ll be able to elevate to a completely new level of success in their life. All they’ve needed was a fair opportunity and a bit of coaching—and boom, you’ve got a rockstar.

But most of the time, that’s not how it works. If someone doesn’t have a track record of success, chances are that success will remain elusive for them.

That does not mean they need to have a successful sales career already. It just means you should be able to see indicators of excellence in their past. Have they done—or at least attempted—anything remarkable? Do you see anything in their past that demonstrates they possess the qualities you’re looking to hire for? If not, that’s a signal you should pay attention to and ask yourself (and the candidate) why you should believe they are actually a good fit.

They hire ordinary people and hope to train or motivate them to become extraordinary.

If you want sales success from an adult, you will be able to see patterns of sales skill and drive in the person’s life. Use assessments and interviews that reveal ambition, discipline, eagerness to learn, humility, willingness to change in order to succeed, and a desire to make a difference for others. Find one person like that and they will outproduce five others who are not like that.  

— Jim Cathcart
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

You don’t want to be the kind of person who’s looking to hire someone under the age of 30 with 20 years of industry experience—but do look for proof that this person has been pursuing excellence in the past.

Sales hiring mistake #5:
Hiring based on gut feeling

It’s not just sales leaders that are guilty of this mistake. Hiring based on gut feeling is "the most common way hiring happens in the world and it doesn't work, it leads to about a 50% hiring failure rate—that's based on about half a century worth of data on it.” Here’s some advice on what to do instead:

Sales leaders should NOT hire by "gut" but instead use data based on their top 3 most successful reps versus their bottom 3 least successful reps. Don't fall in love with a candidate because they have industry experience—the will to sell and how coachable they are would be much more important for success.

— Lori Richardson
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

Make a list of interview questions that make it easy to evaluate candidates on different criteria:

A common sales hiring mistake is going with the gut. No matter how good your instincts [are], proven hiring practices work better to identify sales talent and fit. I work with sales organizations to select the sales competencies that produce top results. Once we know those competencies, we can develop behavioral interviewing questions that accurately pinpoint which candidates are the best match. Not using a process like this makes sales hiring an unnecessary gamble.

— Deb Calvert
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

Even if you have a good "people sense" and are typically on point—balance it out with data.

Building systems and processes is not fun—but it decreases failure rates and increases efficiencies in the long run.

Way too many sales managers rely on gut-feel when they're hiring. I respect intuition and don't think we should ignore it. But if that is your primary hiring strategy for sales, you're asking for slower ramp-up times, higher-failure rates, and sales turnover, with all the associated time drains and costs.  

Instead, organizations should take a scientific, systems approach to sales selection. They should:
  • Determine the required sales competencies by role
  • Determine the characteristics and traits necessary for success in each role
  • Create job documentation based on the competencies and traits
  • Select and tailor a validated psychometrics assessment
  • Implement behavioral interviewing
  • Test candidates' judgment in hypothetical situations
  • Orchestrate skill validations and simulations
  • Perform background and reference checksI've seen this systems approach to sales selection produce radically better hiring results, including, in one case, reducing first-year new-hire turnover rates from 75% to 25%.
salesselection.png

— Mike Kunkle, Sales Consultant
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

There’s no simple way to answer this question—you surely should not ignore your gut feeling. Especially when your mind and your gut are at odds with each other. But don’t be like 90 percent of small business owners who hire based on gut feeling.

Sales hiring mistake #6:
Setting the wrong hiring criteria

If you’re among the minority of sales leaders who set hiring criteria and actually writes them down, congratulations. If not, do this right now: Take three minutes to make a list of your hiring criteria. Don’t worry about getting it wrong—this is a version one you’ll revise later. Here’s some great advice on how to identify the right hiring criteria:

It's not being accurate or realistic with their hiring criteria. Too many companies use bullshit hiring criteria like SaaS experience or number of years of sales experience, size of rolodex, or industry experience etc. These hiring criteria have very little bearing [on] whether or not someone can actually do the job. Companies need to ask the people in the actual position to create the hiring criteria, because they know exactly what skills they leverage to be successful and what it takes. Then look for those skills.

Organizations, hiring managers need to take an audit of the actual skills and capabilities the job requires to be kickass at it and then hire for those traits.

Be very, very specific. Number of years of experience, industry knowledge, a rolodex and more aren't skills. Hire the skills!!!

— //keenan
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

It can seem daunting to clearly define your specific hiring criteria, but the key is to not strive for perfection. The key is to have a workable document now that you can put to use and then improve over time. That’s how you build an effective and reliable hiring process for a growing sales organization.

Not sure how to get started? Do this:

  1. Write down a list of hiring criteria (take 3 minutes to do this)
  2. Ask the people in the actual position to write down hiring criteria
  3. Together with your team, review and prioritize the criteria
  4. Also ask: Are there any disqualifying criteria specifically for this role?
  5. Implement these criteria into your interviewing process
  6. Occasionally, you’ll encounter candidates who do fulfill all your criteria, but whom you don’t want to hire (as well as candidates who do not fulfill all your main criteria but you do want to hire). Immediately note when this is the case and see if you should adjust your criteria.
  7. Revise your criteria periodically—they’re not set in stone, and the more you use these criteria to guide your hiring process, the more they’ll change and evolve.

Sales hiring mistake #7:
Taking the candidates' word for granted

People will use all kinds of attributes to describe themself favorably when they’re interviewing for a job. Especially salespeople, who tend to be more optimistic. They’re all resourceful, creative, relentless, reliable, detail-oriented, big picture thinking, consistent … and they might actually believe that’s all true. But it’s your job to separate fact from fiction.

The way to increase the likelihood of making wise hiring decisions is to first understand what you are looking for when hiring a salesperson. What qualities does a good hire for the open sales position have? Thinking this though and documenting it, prior to interviewing, is essential. Then craft some questions that guide candidates in demonstrating what you are looking for. The key is asking them to demonstrate, not state that they are skilled in the desired behavior or have the character qualities. Rest assured, if someone cannot demonstrate skill in a behavior or times when they have exhibited a character quality, then most likely they don’t have it.  

— David Hoffeld
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

So in addition to setting the right hiring criteria, you also want candidates to demonstrate that they match the criteria.

Sales hiring mistake #8:
Hiring for culture fit

You want a tight-knit sales team that creates wins for the organization, but that doesn’t mean you want all your reps to think alike, act alike, and look alike. It’s natural to want to hire for culture fit, but it can also be a very limiting factor for the growth of an organization. Facebook has famously prohibited the use of “culture fit” when it comes to evaluating candidates.

A common sales hiring mistake is managers having too strict of a candidate profile. It's good to have "a type" or know what works best for your team, but don't let that stop you from building a diverse sales team. Diversity is important for many reasons, but if talking strictly for sales purposes, it will allow your team to understand and appeal to different types of prospects from cultural, industrial, and many other important angles. It will help the overall sales process, messaging, and team grow more than it ever could by just hiring the same exact person over and over.

— Max Altschuler
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

But as much as looking for culture fit is only natural, it’s also natural to be put off by people who don’t seem to be a good culture fit. How do you handle that? Victor Antonio has some great advice for this situation:

Too often we hire people who are like us and whom we see as a great fit for our company. The upside is a stable culture; the downside is a lack of diversity when it comes to thinking. Hiring people based on 'they seem like a fit' is valid, but it may also blind us to new ideas and ways of doing things. Solution? Know that you have a personal bias towards hiring people like you and be 'mindful' of this when interviewing a candidate. If the person comes off a bit abrasive, instead of dismissing them as not a fit, ask more probing questions as to what they would do differently in your company? Where do they think they can contribute? By focusing on contribution of ideas and less on personality, we can avoid any type of confirmation bias when making a hiring decision.

— Victor Antonio
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

You want a diverse sales team in every sense of the word. At Close, we often have our German speaking reps talk with our German prospects—and it makes a difference. In most cases, these prospects are perfectly fluent in English and use it every day at work, but because the sales rep speaks German with them, it’s easier to connect, and close deals.

Sales hiring mistake #9:
Hiring just one rep (because you don't need more or can't afford to hire more)

Too often startups decide to “just hire a salesperson.” They want to save money, they just want to “try having a salesperson”, and they don’t want to overcomplicate things. All of this is understandable—and wrong.

Whenever possible, hire in twos or threes. In fact, strive to do so even when it's not possible.

Especially, if hiring for a new role. It's too, too hard, when you don't have known success metrics in place, to know whether you have a people problem or process problem. When you hire in groups:

A) They typically help each other out
B) It creates some healthy competition
C) It cuts down on training costs and time  

David Greenberger
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

In addition to what David has outlined here, hiring in pairs allows you to create learnings that aren't tied to just one person. Say you hire one salesperson and develop a process and it works: Does it work because of the process, or because of the person? You can't really know.

With two reps, you'll be able to create the organizational learnings that'll help you grow later on. And if one person takes off (remember, sales is a field with high turnover), you don't have to start from zero.

Sales hiring mistake #10:
Hiring great people and letting them down in the onboarding phase

There are two common ways sales leaders screw up the onboarding process: They either bury a new rep in paperwork and excessive training for weeks, without letting them actually do any sales—or they just push them into the deep end of the pool, having them “shadow a few senior reps and then start dialing.”

Hiring is just the beginning. So often, the mistake people make is not considering how they will onboard the salesperson so they can ramp to full productivity quickly. Typical ramp up is 6-9 months. That’s too long. There are many onboarding solutions that make it inexcusable to make this kind of mistake.

— Nancy Nardin
LinkedIn | Twitter | WebsiteTools

To accelerate the onboarding time, check out our 1-day hack and our 4-week onboarding schedule.

Sales hiring mistake #11:
Hiring job hoppers

Sales is a tough field to be in. An endless barrage of rejection comes with the job, and most people aren’t willing or able to expose themselves to the ups and downs that come with the job. So you want people who can dedicate themselves long-term to this.

There's a lot of talk about why hiring job hoppers may be the best option nowadays.

A common mistake I see sales managers make in recent years? They hire job hoppers! Apply common sense and just look around. Study your colleagues and peers who are successful and wealthy. Are they job hoppers? In looking at the clients I work with, the resounding answer is no.  

Look outside your sphere of influence. Would Mark Zuckerberg be the successful entrepreneur he is today if he decided to job hop two years after starting Facebook? How about great athletes? Do they switch from football to basketball to track and field because they feel a calling to a new career? Just don’t settle for a job hopper!

— Colleen Stanley
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

If someone has been constantly switching jobs, why do you think they’ll stick around longer with you? Even if they can perform, is it worthwhile to onboard, train and manage them only to have to look for a replacement six months later?

Now you don't have to take as definite a position on this as Mark Suster, whose advice is to "never hire job hoppers. Never."

If you've got a candidate in front of you who looks like a dream candidate, but they've got a job hopper resume, ask them:

  1. Why did you leave your previous position?
  2. Why did you take the next one?

But you better have a damn good reason if you do hire a job hopper.

Sales hiring mistake #12:
Hiring people who are no better at sales than you are

As a sales leader, your job is not to be the best. Your job is to get the best people on board, give them what they need to succeed, and get out of their way.

Feeling threatened by an interviewee who apparently has more experience/qualifications/successful track record than the manager conducting the interview.

Advice: Always hire the very best candidate(s) you can because their success will reflect back on you.

— Jonathan Farrington
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

Changing from sales rep to sales manager requires a change in mindset. As a sales rep, you want to be the best. As a manager, your job is to find people who are better than you. It's not easy to make that switch. But nobody said being a sales leader is easy. You want to put great people in a position to win, and do everything in your power to help them succeed.

Sales hiring mistake #13:
Hiring too quickly

Oftentimes when hiring sales reps, you hire because you want sales NOW. But rushing into hiring a sales rep will often end up wasting both time and money.

The biggest sales hiring mistake I see business owners make is to ask their friends if they know someone in sales that they’d recommend, then interviewing only that person. Business owners owe it to themselves, their employees and their company’s welfare to interview at least 5 candidates for a sales position rather than that the first person that excites them.

Kendra Lee
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

This isn't just true for small business owners. Plenty of startups, fueled by fresh rounds of financing, get into a hiring frenzy. Not to name any names, but ... well, let's just call them out: It's 2015 and Zenefits is being celebrated as "the fastest growing company in the world", preaching the gospel of hypergrowth, and sharing how they scaled inside sales:

zenefits-hypergrowth.gif

About six months later, things looked differently:

zenefits-layoffs16.png

Fast-forward another year, and this is where we're at:

zenefits-layoffs17.png

That didn't work out so well.

The biggest mistake managers make in the hiring process is they rely only on the subjective (resume/interview) and not objective (assessments and benchmarks). To recruit better, first benchmark the accountabilities of what is necessary to succeed in the job. Then assess the candidate against the benchmark. Use the gaps identified to craft questions to see if this is really the right person for the job.

Second biggest mistake manager’s make is they hire the first best looking candidate. They are in such a rush to make the hire they are blind to the red flags. You should only hire someone when they are compared to at least 2 or 3 equally qualified candidates to make sure you are making the right decision.

Third and final mistake manager’s make, they have no formal hiring process. Process should include a phone interview. If they can’t pass that, why invite them in? Then a first interview with you and other managers if appropriate. Bring back qualified candidates to a second interview (people sometimes change when they come back, [they're] more relaxed in the second setting). Have the final round candidates take an assessment and compare [them] to your benchmark to prepare for the final interview. You may also want to take the candidates out to a meal to see how they act when their guard is down. After all the final interviews are complete, make your best decision.

Sometimes the best decision is not to hire anyone if there is no qualified candidate and to start all over. A bad hire can cripple your company.  

Remember this mantra—Hire slow and fire fast!

For more information how to lead, coach and hire effectively, check out the online video series Leading with IMPACT.

— Ron Karr
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

It's better to hire slow and fire fast, than the other way around.

Companies get desperate. They hire too quickly and from the wrong talent pool. They throw an ad online, screen resumes, conduct a screening interview, hold one sales interview and then pick the best of the worst.

What should they do? First, hire a professional recruiter. Short of that, read You’re Not the Person I Hired and Hire Right, Higher Profits and follow my steps.

Here are the steps to build a hiring process that attracts great salespeople:
  1. Write a job description and success factors (you’ll know what these are if you read the books I recommend)
  2. Write a dynamite job ad to attract the right candidates (same as above, read)
  3. Recruit! The best candidates are not looking for a job. Your job ad might attract someone great, but likely you will find them by recruiting or a referral. A Players will usually recommend A Players so ask your A Players to help recruit.
  4. Screen carefully before you start the interviews. People lie on resumes. Check social media. Also, remember that most people are not taught how to put together a good resume, so if they come recommended and their resume is not great, put them through the process anyway.
  5. Prepare for the interviews. Always have an observer. They are listening and watching for things the interviewer will miss. Things like attitude, body language, smiling, fidgeting, voice qualities.
  6. Prepare questions for all the interviews. Some like behavioral questions and some like top grading. I like a combination.
  7. Before you start interviews, be sure you have at least 5 candidates so you can compare.
  8. Do a phone interview. Listen for enthusiasm, voice quality, ability to annunciate, ability to engage the listener, etc. as well as if their answers make sense.
  9. Do a video interview. If they can’t figure out the software, that tells you something. Ask some of the same questions and ask them to present something.
  10. Sell the candidate on the job, the company and the culture. Your process will be more vigorous than any they have gone through, so they have to be convinced it is worth their time.
  11. Remind the candidate that they are interviewing your company as well to be sure it is a good fit for them.
  12. Give them an assignment or two. Make sure they can write.
  13. Do in person interviews. Involve different teams. Don’t overwhelm the candidate with too many people in the room. 2 or 3 at a time is good.
  14. Have the candidate do a presentation, live or online. Ask them to sell you their current product if they have been selling previously.
  15. Have the candidate shadow and/or talk to others who do the job to get impressions from both sides.
  16. Test their skills. Make them prove they can use the tools or learn the tools your company uses. You may want to give them other types of assessments if you have benchmarks. Certain profile assessments can help you choose and help you do a better job with each individual when onboarding and coaching. Note: Some profiles are not for use for hiring. Check with an HR professional.
  17. Score all the candidates. Discuss, debate. Keep in mind cultural fit as well as experience, knowledge, skill, network.
  18. Choose the best of the best. But don’t worry if your 1st choice doesn’t accept, you will have several other top choices if you use this method.
  19. Make an offer.
  20. Have a fabulous welcome and onboarding program.
    — Alice Heiman
    LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

Not rushing into hiring decisions also means that you need to look ahead far enough, and not wait for an urgent need to develop that puts you in a desparate position:

Hiring the right talent has a large impact on your ability to make your number. The key is to look forward to the strategy of tomorrow. As your strategy continues to evolve, your hiring practices need to keep pace. You’ll have to predict who you’ll need for the future.

What is the best way to do this? You can start by avoiding these 3 common mistakes.

#1 – Only hiring from your industry

Often, many companies tend to hire from their industry only. The problem with this? As emerging best practices continue to advance, yesterday’s successful talent could now be obsolete. What do top companies do instead? They draft the “best athletes”, not just those who know the offense and playbook. Those things can be taught. It may take longer to ramp up their industry knowledge. But the upside potential is much greater, making the tradeoff worth it. Ultimately you should hire for competency over experience.

#2 – Only considering the role you’re hiring for

Yes, you need to understand the role you’re filling. That is definitely important. But it’s not the only piece to the puzzle. You have to make sure the person you hire can work across all functions. Think about the other departments they will be working with. For example, will they work well with the marketing team? Because if not, it can cause a lot of pain. It can cause distrust between departments. And it can cause wasted time and energy on “fixing” the issues. When hiring, be sure they will be able to work well across the organization.

#3 – Being reactive when hiring talent

Being reactive when it comes to talent causes a lot of issues. It leads to hasty searches, and oftentimes hiring the wrong person. The impact of these mistakes can be felt for years. The average cost of a mis-hire is 5-7 times the first year cost. And that’s just the hard cost. The ongoing impact can linger for years. Instead you should be proactively sourcing capable talent. Find folks that can fill current and future corporate, product, marketing and sales positions. You need a constant supply of top new talent for your team.

Organizations can only succeed in the marketplace if they place the right talent in the right performance conditions. What steps should you take to do this successfully?

The first step involves understanding the other functional strategies. Are they clear? After reviewing, do you understand exactly what talent you need? Once armed with that knowledge, the next step is profiles. This means understanding what good looks like. Following profiles, you must next focus on assessments. This involves determining whether you have the right people. Are you letting the right folks into the organization? The next piece is sourcing. As we mentioned earlier, you need to understand where to find the best talent for your organization. And then comes the hiring process. This doesn’t just mean screening interviews and going with your gut. Instead consider a job tryout before hiring.

If you’ve followed the steps above you, you should now have the right talent in place. But it doesn’t end there. Once you’ve selected a new hire, you have to consider onboarding. And this is more than just some introductory videos and classes. It’s about shortening the road to productivity. You must teach the skills and behaviors needed to perform the job. Then, to guarantee continued success, you must have both talent development and succession plans in place. This allows you to continue to grow and develop your team successfully.

— Daniel Perry, Principal at SBI, Sales Benchmark Index
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Resist the temptation to grow at any price. Building a sustainable business takes more than throwing salespeople at the problem.

Wrapping it up

The best way to build a high-performing sales team is to hire the right people in the first place. All the managing, training, coaching and optimization you can add to that is great.

But invest the best training and resources in the wrong people, and it's all a waste.

Hiring great talent is a tough job in any field—it's particularly hard when you're in charge of a team that's needs to hit a certain revenue number fast. And while it's easy to just hire fast, there are few areas of your business the cost of making bad decisions are as high as in hiring.

So avoid these mistakes and use our (free) Sales Hiring Playbook, which has practical step-by-step guides and checklists to help you get the right people on board to take your sales organization to the next level.