8 Sales Hiring Mistakes Employers Make

Representing only 5-10% of the total sales population, consistently producing top performing sales people are extremely rare. As a result, smart companies aggressively pursue these 'diamonds in the ruff' and are consistently looking for an edge to attract the best sales people. The thing about top performing sales professionals is that they are also different from the average sales pros in the way they look for career opportunities. They understand there is an abundance of demand for their services, and as a result, they are very selective about employers for which they would consider working. It is therefore vital that businesses, regardless of whether they are SaaS, Manufacturing, Pharma, or high-tech in focus, avoid making the following recruiting mistakes when trying to attract top performing sales talent: 

  1. Automated Applications – Many organizations like to use automated pre-screening tools to filter applicants. Top sales people, however, won’t bother to take the time to go through these as they know their performance is what counts. 
  2. Not Offering a Career –  The best reps are interested in a career - not just a paycheck. They are seeking employers that that offer a path to move up the food chain. 
  3. Setting Reps up for Failure - A major percentage of a sales person’s salary comes from commissions and bonuses. They, therefore, select employers based on the degree to which they can crush their quota and bring in $$. Organizations cannot attract top performers unless they demonstrate that upon coming aboard, a new rep will have a high likelihood of success.
  4. Lack a Great Sales Reputation – The best sales pros will ask a potential employer about the performance of their sales team currently, and historically. As a result, small businesses and those where there has not been a history of successful performance face a unique challenge recruiting the top performers.
  5. Uninteresting Job Ads – Most sales rep jobs ads sound exactly the same when they are delivered to a targeted candidate. They sound something like: Candidate X must possess the following skills and experience, blah, blah, blah. Companies must realize that top performing sales professionals have job offers coming their way from all sides. It is therefore up to the hiring organization to ensure that their career offer is unique. For example, focus on the specific goals the rep will be expected to achieve in the first quarter.  
  6. Rigidity – Employers who are not prepared to be flexible in terms of working hours, physical location, and vacation time reduce the talent pool of prospective candidates. 
  7. Not Giving Top Candidates the Attention they Deserve – Since the top performers are the biggest and most sought after 'fish in the pond' they are used to attracting a lot of attention from prospective employers. Those that don't fight 'tooth and nail' for the top performer will soon realize that they are highly unlikely to find the sales gem they need to put them over the top.  
  8. Offering Below Market Compensation– I've already said that the top performers expect that the employers that reach out to them have a great sales reputation. In line with this is offering compensation that is competitive and inline with the rest of the market... if not above it! Any employer that is truly committed to attracting the best sales talent should expect to fail unless they are prepared to pay. Try including draws to replace commissions that are not being earned while a new pipeline is being developed.

One could go on and one about the things employers do to shoot themselves in the foot when trying to hire top sales talent, but I am curious to hear your thoughts. Please comment below and let's continue the conversation.


Image courtesy of jesadaphorn | freedigitalphotos.net

Views: 111

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on April 16, 2014 at 1:40pm

Thanks, Keith S. Also add: "Capping commissions"

-Keith H

Comment by Keith Stone on April 16, 2014 at 1:43pm

Great point Keith - Top Reps don't want there to be an earning ceiling. 


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