5 Keys to Hiring an Elite Sales Team


They say that making a wrong choice in hiring can cost a company anywhere from 25 to 40 times the employee’s base annual salary (AIMM Consulting). In sales, we all know that a bad hire is probably on the higher end of that range. If you bring the wrong person on board today, they have the ability to tank sales relationships that have taken years to cultivate.
A bad hire in this industry really can break a company’s reputation and long-term ability to succeed.

That’s why hiring is such a vital aspect of our current sales climate. It’s also why companies should pay attention to data that reports most managers only view about 25 percent of their staff as being made up of high performers (Smart).

It’s why you should care about improving your hiring techniques to better those odds within your company. But first, you have to avoid the most common mistakes sales managers make in both interviewing and hiring. Then, you need a firm grasp of what to do instead.

1. Putting it All on the Table:

For those of you who have been in sales for a while now, you know that no good ever comes from playing all your cards at once. So why is it that so many hiring managers feel the need to do just that in hiring? They outline every aspect of the job to candidates, often before interviews even begin. Job descriptions are posted with pages of documentation, candidates are asked if they have any questions at the start (instead of end) of the interview, and a model is essentially built right out the gate for your applicants to study from and mold their answers to during the interview phase.

Instead: Create job postings that share only the most pertinent information. Then, craft interview questions that will truly test an applicant’s ability to excel (or fail) within the desired role—without giving them the cheat sheet up front to study from.

2. Ignoring the Need for Qualification:

Let’s be honest, people in sales tend to be a fairly optimistic bunch. They also have a higher than average level of confidence in their ability to read others. As such, they tend to trust their guts when it comes to interviewing—hiring based on who they like, rather than who may be most qualified for the job. The problem? Just as Max Cates (a seasoned sales manager and author of the book Seven Steps to Success for Sales Managers) found, “Their job is to sell you on them.” The problem with that? Selling you on them in a single, hour-long interview is kind of their bread and butter. But those interview skills don’t always translate into actual sales ability when you get out of the interview room. Cates realized years down the line that he had accumulated a lot of mediocre reps.

Instead: Rely on your gut and qualifications. Yes, your people reading skills are valid. But they aren’t everything. Today, Cates recommends asking for sales reports, tax forms, and any documentation that gives a black and white picture of the rep’s results over time. He believes that hiring is a scientific process based on facts, careful observation, and analysis. And you should too.

3. Forgetting About Culture:

We all know that not all sales jobs are created equal. Someone who excelled in office product sales may not be able to transition those skills into the sale of financial services, for instance. And applicants who thrived under one model of leadership may not be as successful under another. Cultural fit within an organization is important, and failing to take that into consideration can lead to hires who may be great on paper, but who will never be great within your organization.

Instead: Have a few interview questions that relate directly to corporate culture and the circumstances under which your applicants work best. Ask about previous leadership styles they thrived under, and those they struggled more with, and inquire about the cultures they encountered in their previous jobs.

4. Failing to Use the Tools at Their Disposal:

Interviewing and hiring can sometimes seem like a really random thing, mostly because applicants always have varied backgrounds and a wide variety of strengths and weaknesses to bring to the table. But hiring managers often make the mistake of simply accepting that, rather than utilizing the tools available to them to ensure the best person for the job is being brought onboard.

Instead: Embrace the SPQ*Gold assessment tool, which measures for the 12 types of Sales Call Reluctance, assesses for sales motivation, and quantifies goal level, focus, and a candidate’s comfort level with specific production targets and performance requirements. With a tool like this at your disposal, why wouldn’t you be gathering as much information as possible about your potential hires in order to bring on the best of the best?

5. Never Measuring For Ability to Close the Deal:

Michael D. Goodman, president of Revenue Kinetics, LLC., likes to talk about the evolution of a sales call. “A sales call has a specific structure and intent,” he explains. “Well designed, it moves whatever level of person you are speaking with through the discovery of what is important to them and what it costs them to not have it. It should leave the sales person far more informed on qualifications to close the sale, and the buyer in far greater recognition of how important the sale is.” The problem? Far too few hiring managers actually test their applicants on this ability, which means hiring sales reps who often have no idea how to effectively facilitate sales. “Not discovering the sales candidates’ capability to move through the sales process can be fatal to both the candidate and the sales manager in their career.” Goodman explains. “Ultimately the sales person will have a bloated pipeline with deals that never close and no understanding as to why.”

Instead: Actually test for this ability. Hold a mock sales call during the interview, giving the candidate a basic script and then expecting them to transition you through the steps. If they can’t do it now, they certainly won’t be able to out in the field. FYI: the SPQ*Gold assessment tool can also help you to accomplish this, and will tell you if they are too nice to close the deal!

As a sales manager, hiring is perhaps the most important aspect of your job—if you don’t build a solid team of capable sales people around you, no amount of incentives or motivation will push that team forward. So take the time to appropriately vet your candidates, and make hiring decisions you can be proud of as the years go by.
Andersen, Erika. “ The Most Important Reason People Fail in a New Job.”(25 Apr. 2012). Forbes. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. Retrieved from
Cates, Max. Seven Steps to Success for Sales Managers: A Strategic Guide to Creating a Winning Sales Team Through Collaboration. Pearson FT, 2015. Print.
Smart, Bradford D. “Avoid Costly Mis-Hires!” (n.d.); Topgrading. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. Retrieved from
“Take Measure—A Financial Case for Employment Testing” (2009). AIMM Consulting. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. Retrieved from

Published by

Connie Kadansky

Connie Kadansky offers speaking, training, coaching and performance improvement services specifically addressing Sales Call Reluctance. She has a proven track record with diverse businesses, from entrepreneurs to Fortune 50 companies, nationally and internationally. She is a licensee of Behavioral Sciences Research Press (BSRP), the world leader in research and training in Sales Call Reluctance. Connie has facilitated more than 260 full-day programs and worked with hundreds of salespeople from diverse industries.