Hiring for Sales - Finding Sales People Team

How to Hire A-Players for Sales – Ignore Your Gut

Posted in: Hiring Salespeople

Gut instinct (or intuition) is the worst basis when hiring salespeople. You’ll hire the right salesperson less than 20% of the time if you base hiring on a gut feeling. Gut-based hiring means you have an 80% chance of choosing poorly. Would you take a bet with those odds?

When managers base their hiring decisions on feelings, they often ignore vital factors. In sales staff selection, companies hire costly underperforming salespeople who flame out in 3-6 months.


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Why is Gut Instinct so Bad to Use When You Want to Hire A-Players?

Ignore your gut in hiring A-player salespeople. Hiring for sales is one of the most important aspects of your business. Most managers are unskilled at judging sales candidates on instinct alone. Why? For three main reasons:

Reason 1: Salespeople are Good at Selling and Excellent at Selling Themselves

Many salespeople applying for a job will:

  • Tell you what they think you want to hear.
  • Reveal only the best parts of their background.
  • Watch your body language and respond to your cues.

Reason 2: When You Rely on Your Gut, You Introduce Unconscious Bias

As a selection method, in-person interviews have a horrible record of bad hires. Amazingly, research reveals hiring managers make a yes/no hiring decision in the first five minutes. That’s not enough time to get through the small talk, let alone assess a sales candidate.

You’ll hire better salespeople when you remove bias while hiring for sales. A Deloitte study shows that when companies remove unconscious bias, they increase hiring top performers by 25-46%.

10 Common Examples of Unconscious Bias in Recruitment

If you do not use a science-based selection process, you will likely let common biases interfere with selecting top salespeople. Avoid these hiring biases when hiring for sales: 


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1. Affinity bias means you unconsciously prefer people like you. Face it; we all want to be around people with similar interests, personalities, schooling, etc. While an applicant is different from you, they could be just as talented and friendly as those who are like you.

2. Beauty bias refers to physical appearance. Many of us place too much value on how a candidate looks. We unconsciously think they look the part. However, the adage about the book and the cover is real. Don’t judge applicants on appearance.

3. Conformity bias occurs when you allow the views of others to influence your own. If you interview a candidate as a group and everyone else likes the person, you are likely to agree, even if you have doubts.

4. Confirmation bias happens when you search for bits of evidence to back up your opinion. Confirmation bias leads to selective observation. For example, they went to a university you rate highly. You may look for examples confirming your high regard for the school they attended.

5. Racial or ethnic bias means preferring one race or ethnic group over the other. Some people have strong beliefs about race and stereotypes. We may unconsciously favor a candidate because of their race and the qualities we associate with it.

6. Gender bias means preferring one gender over the other. Some folks have strong beliefs about gender roles and stereotypes. We may unconsciously favor a candidate because of their gender and the qualities we associate with it. For example, we may think a man is better suited for a grueling travel schedule. Remove all personal biases when you hire A-players for your sales group.

7. Halo/Horn effect happens when we focus on one particular feature of a candidate. If you view everything about the person in a positive ‘halo’ light, you see them as better than they are. For example, they work for a competitor, and you want to hire them. You may overlook that they lack even basic selling skills. The horn effect means you focus on a negative attribute, and that shades all other information.

8. Anchor bias means hiring managers rely too much on the first piece of information they receive. For example, if you discover the applicant has a high IQ, you will interpret everything through that filter.

9. Order bias relates to the order you interview individuals. Research shows that hiring managers are likely to remember candidates they interview first and last. In contrast, managers are more likely to forget candidates interviewed in the middle.

10. Cultural noise bias happens when candidates respond to a question according to what they think the interviewer wants to hear. For example, the candidate may claim to be a team player because the interviewer stressed the importance of teamwork in the job. When in actuality, the candidate is a maverick.

Reason 3: Gut is Not Fact (it’s Fiction) When You Hire A-Players

Selling is a brutally competitive environment. If your company does a better job of selecting sales staff, your team will crush your competition. You must base this decision on science (facts).

The best way to hire A-players? Use a multi-measurement pre-hire assessment designed for sales. See our post on pre-hire sales assessments for more info.



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