The 7 Most Common Mistakes in Sales Recruiting

Compensation Administration
by Stephen Bruce, PhD, PHR
"Top-performing sales people don’t think like other people, says consultant Charles Anderson, so you have to use different techniques to recruit them. Here is his list of seven common mistakes in sales recruiting:"
  • Lacking a system to recruit top talent from outside your industry
  • Hiring salespeople who can sell instead of those who will sell
  • Not knowing how to identify superstar sales candidates
  • Not asking the right questions at the interview
  • Hiring to availability instead of for excellence
  • Not having a great employee referral system in place
  • Advertising for positions, instead of for people

Anderson, who is president of the Selling Skills Institute, and developer of the proprietary Shift Thinking Selling Methodology, offered his tips at a recent BLR/HRHero webinar.

What Type of Thinker Is Your Candidate?

More than anything else, says Anderson, it is the quality of your candidate’s thinking that will determine his or her success or failure. So need to look for good thinkers—reflective, open to multiple possibilities, able to control thoughts and feelings.

What’s the Candidate’s Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence, that is, the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions, is a key factor. Successful salespeople have to be able to monitor their own and others’ feelings, to discriminate among them, and use this information to guide their thinking and actions.

To be a good salesperson you need:

  • Self Awareness—a clear perception of your personality, and others perceptions of you
  • Self Management—methods skills and strategies by which you direct your own activity toward achievement of objectives
  • Social Awareness—to be aware of problems that different societies face
  • Relationship Management—ability to manage interactions with customers, clients, sales prospects and coworkers

Bottom line, says Anderson, if sales people do not have the emotional intelligence, it will be difficult for them to be top performers. It will be hard to get them in alignment with the mission and the branding.

Anderson suggests a four-step process for evaluating candidates:


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1. Attract Candidates

Make sure to write performance-based recruiting ads. Carefully consider the following questions:

  • What kind of companies are good prospects for your products and services? Express interest in candidates that have access and contacts.
  • What titles do you want to sell to? Express preference for candidates that have those contacts. For example, if you require calling at the C level, don’t bring on board salespeople unable or unwilling to call because they are intimidated by title.
  • Which prospecting duties do you expect salespeople to perform? Express preference for candidates that can demonstrate a history of success at that type of prospecting.

For example, is cold calling required? (Anderson calls it opportunity calling—a different way to qualify, set, and close). Or, to ask the question a different way, are you looking for hunters, farmers, or a combination? (Very few can do both well, says Anderson.)

Clearly state what you are looking for in recruiting ads. Make sure candidates understand activities and behaviors required.

Also consider what’s special about culture, culture, branding, that might help attract the candidates you want? What is the target income? Are there earning caps? Are benefits available?

2. Scrutinize Résumés for Accomplishments

When looking over candidate resumes, remember that results sell, says Anderson. When salespeople write résumés, do they write about results and accomplishments—or just duties? You can tell a lot from what is emphasized in the résumé.

3. Conduct Telephone Screening Calls

Schedule a 20 to 30 minute screening call for the better candidates. Focus on criteria most important for your situation. Don’t waste energy time and resources on people who don’t qualify.


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4. Assess Qualified Candidates

The next step is to gather objective information about the best candidates’ sales talent with specialized sales assessment tools. I highly recommend that you integrate that as part of your process, says Anderson.

Many of his clients rely on assessment tools. A few that have worked well for clients:

  • DISC
  • Objective Management Group
  • Caliber

In tomorrow’s Advisor, more from Anderson including three categories of questions, plus an introduction to BLR’s popular state-based survey/compensation guidebook.

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  1. Barb        
    November 19, 2012 12:19 pm

    I might change “Hiring salespeople who can sell instead of those who will sell” to “Hiring salespeople who DO sell instead of those who can/will sell.” I want recent, proven ability to sell.