9 mistakes you’re making when hiring a salesperson

Let’s face it, hiring a salesperson is not an easy task. After all, they do make their living persuading people to buy things from them. Selling themselves should come naturally. If you’re not careful, you could just let the human resources department hire the wrong person. If you want to truly put together a team of sales people that fit the profile of your ideal candidate and that share the same values as your company, then try not to make the following hiring mistakes.


Everything in life involves a sale of some sort. Whether it’s a product, a concept or an idea, each and every one of us engages in the act of persuasion.

Mistakes to avoid when hiring a sales person

Human resources people should be used to dealing with persuasive candidates when they interview, but sales people are in a whole different league. If they don’t pay attention to the following mistakes then you could be persuaded into hiring someone who doesn’t complete your company team.

1. Putting too much emphasis on experience

Haven’t we all heard one too many times, in our youth, that we’re not getting hired for a certain job just because we don’t have relevant experience in the field.

Our motto is “hire for attitude, train for skill”. It’s been the best approach we’ve ever had.

Hiring for experience might just lead you into thinking that if a certain person has all the know how in some field then they’ll make the perfect employee. You’ll probably miss some true weaknesses and lack of abilities.

2. Underestimating the importance of onboarding and not creating a strategy for this phase

When your first sales hire joins the company, it’s best to have a well prepared sales strategy. Should they call prospects? Where should the leads come from? Small or big companies? How should the sales script look like? Will they make a direct sell or through a partner channel? Will they be doing in-person visits as well? Will they work with inbound inquiries or outbound cold calls?

It turns out that the most critical phases where you win or lose a candidate are the four weeks before and the four weeks after the hire.

If you don’t give them some guide lines about your operational strategies, then they’re bound to fail at their tasks. These strategies are going to come in handy also when evaluating your employees. You need to have a general work flow that everybody must respect and a system that organizes the whole activity.

That’s why adaptability and willingness to learn are two of the most important traits a salesperson should have.

An onboarding plan doesn’t necessarily eliminate the unfit reps but at least it helps keep the good ones aboard.

3. Not aligning sales to marketing strategy

By now it should be pretty obvious to everyone that sales and marketing efforts should be aligned. It’s not uncommon though to see some friction between the two departments. Marketing perceives sales as a bunch of over-paid spoiled brats, while sales feels that all marketing does is sit around acting artsy all day long. In an age with the majority of buying journey's starting online, this dysfunctional relationship is the kiss of death for a company.

A properly aligned sales and marketing team is the prerequisite for a healthy business. Quantify the things that every department should deliver to one another and create an adequate atmosphere to sustain that.

So find a sales rep who’s a true team player, not a self centered earner.

4. Hiring a sales rep and not a consultant

It may seem like the same thing to many, but if one of your values is to help people, then hiring a person just because they have charisma and persuasion skills is not going to do the trick.

You must think of your sales employees as consultants for your potential clients. Their goal should be to cater to their client’s needs and not necessarily to reach their target.

Unfortunately, too many salespeople will approach sales calls and meetings as an opportunity to dump as much information about the product and its wonderful features on the lead and, chances are, your features and message are not quite right. The salesperson will fail to engage the prospect and probably make him not even consider your product/service.

Search for a human being, not a selling machine.

5. Talking too much during the interview

If you’re not in the human resources department, then you probably don’t have all the knowledge to conduct a job interview and you’ll probably be tempted to talk way too much about the company and focus all the attention on you’re end, not on the candidate.

While it is good to make sure the candidate is well-informed and understands what it’s like to work at your company, you should never talk more than he does. Make sure the candidate has plenty of time to answer your questions and elaborate on his answers as much as he needs to.

Also, avoid useless digressions that could bore or even disturb your potential employee.

6. Not asking the right interview questions for a sales rep interview

One other reason why you might fail at finding someone that fits your company needs is not preparing the right questions ahead of time. This is actually a no brainer.

Questions won’t give you all the answers. However, when you ask questions, you’re collecting data. And what you want to do is collect enough data so that you can decide if this person is worth investing in?

Giving people practical tests and throwing them into the fire and seeing how they react will normally give you more answers than your standard interview questions. Unfortunately, there not always available and “questioning” is your main tool.

Of course there’s no ideal ideal hiring question, especially because people tend to ask favorably to any question, but you need to dig deep to find your candidate’s attitudes and behaviors.

Let’s see a few questions that you can ask to uncover a candidate’s potential. Choose a couple from the list, don’t stuff them all in one interview.

  • Why did you choose a sales career?

  • How would you sell our products?

  • How would you characterize our buyer?

  • When was the last time you were stressed out and how did you get over it?

  • Tell me about your last sales success and miss.

  • What was the most difficult sale you nailed?

  • What was the most surprising objection you ever received, and how did you handle it?

  • Tell me about a time when you called a complete stranger on the phone. How did you start the conversation?

  • What is your personal most successful sales strategy secret?

  • What motivates you to succeed?

  • What is your process for handling customer objections?

7. Not making sure that they fit the organizational culture

This is another thing that we see pretty often. Hiring managers fall into the trap of hiring a candidate who meets every requirement other than culture fit. That is a mistake and it often results in the candidate leaving the company, because of major differences.

Be upfront about your company culture with every candidate, no matter what department you’re hiring for. It’s going to benefit you on the long run, even if you may lose some potential candidates this way. Those candidates probably would have left the company on their own soon after being hired anyway.

8. Hiring people you like and rejecting the ones you don’t

We all get influenced by our emotions in most situations, but we definitely shouldn’t let them get in the way and before the candidate even said a word, I’d already crossed him off my list (or given him the job).

Listening to your gut could be critical when it comes to successful salespeople, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious and back your feelings up.

If you’re dealing with a skilled candidate then they might own the mirroring technique really well, in order to make a positive impression. Also, if they studied your Facebook or LinkedIn profile then they might figure out a way to speak that resonates with you the most.

On the other end of the spectrum are candidates who make a poor first impression, the ones that don’t ask any good questions, that don’t manage the interview so well and seem not to have any decisiveness. This type of people might only be nervous or exceedingly respectful.

So while it’s important to trust your first impression, make sure you dig deeper and find out who really are and what they’re capable of.

9. Focusing too much on experience

This is probably one of the most frequent complaints we hear from young professionals, that they’ve been turn down due to lack of experience.

It’s true that a proven track record with many wins, some good referrals and a rich experience do say a lot, looking only at those aspects could lead to hiring a sales rep who has trouble adjusting to customer demands or to your sale strategy.

When examining a candidate, you could look for some other traits like: flexibility, passion, willingness to learn and evolve, decisiveness, willingness to collaborate, positive attitude and such.

So these were a few of our ideas on how you can improve your sales recruitment process. If you have some other great techniques that you’re using, please share them in the comments section.