Why Companies Fail to Hire Top Salespeople: Four Reasons

The Top Four Reasons Companies FAIL in Hiring Top Salespeople

Companies cannot max growth and revenue when they consistently hire mediocre salespeople, sales managers, and sales VPs. Hiring top sales talent should be a company’s highest priority. Yet, across all industries, 50% of salespeople miss quota, resulting in lost opportunities for success.

Firms FAIL at Hiring Salespeople

Why do companies suck so badly when it comes to hiring top-performing salespeople?

In our 29-year journey to answer that question, we’ve discovered these top four reasons.

#1 Hiring Managers Hire Based on Gut Feelings

Many sales leaders incorrectly believe they are great judges of sales talent. They’re right less than 50 percent of the time. If you usually rely on your gut instinct, you are not alone.

If you follow the typical process for hiring sales talent, you:

  • Read candidates’ resumes and interview them if you like what you see.
  • Conduct interviews and if they are friendly, well dressed, articulate, and confident, you rate them highly.
  • Gauge how well they build rapport based on your interaction with them.

When you feel pressure to fill the position quickly, you may start asking easy questions, and by the end of the interview, decide to make an offer.

Research shows most folks responsible for hiring subconsciously make a go/no-go decision in an interview’s first five minutes. That barely gives candidates enough time to make small talk before the interviewer has sealed their fate.

What is it about gut instinct that makes it so ineffective? This practice favors style and likeability over substance, objectivity, and hard data.

If you just trust your gut, you’ll make crappy decisions in selecting salespeople.

#2 Companies Don’t Conduct a Thorough Job Analysis

By conducting the job analysis first, you know what to look for in a sales candidate. If you don’t do this first, you’re unlikely to hire the best-fit candidate.

If you rush to fill an open sales position without a job analysis, you really don’t know the traits or experience a top candidate needs. Every sales job has some hard parts, such as lots of prospecting, travel, evening work, etc.


You need to do this analysis first to select the best candidates. Fail to define the person you need and you’ve increased your failure rate.

# 3 Companies Don’t Use a Multi-measurement Sales-specific Assessment

Research shows companies using these assessments increase their ability to identify high-performing salespeople by 71% or better, but buyers beware.

There are loads of poor tests on the market. The deficient tests don’t use the right test science to predict performance. The worst tests:

  • Test the instrument on the wrong candidate types. We discovered one test company tested its sales assessment on truck drivers!
  • Test the wrong things. Personality and behavioral assessments, such as Myers-Briggs, cannot predict the ability to make quota.
  • Lack predictive validity. Some tests incorrectly package reliability as validity. Reliability means the test measures what it claims (for example, the applicant can drive a truck). Predictive validity means the test scores can predict the sales candidate’s ability to sell.

#4 Companies Don’t Use a Highly Structured Interview

Less than half of all companies train hiring managers on how to interview or use a structured interview.

The most common type of interview is the unstructured interview, where the interviewer shoots from the hip. In unstructured interviews, the interviewer does NOT set the questions in advance.

Unstructured interviews have a predictive validation of 20%. A structured interview is an interview where the interviewer creates a particular set of predetermined questions in advance. It has a predictive validation of 35%.

In a highly structured interview, the interviewer uses predetermined questions and a rating scale to measure and compare candidate answers. For these interviews, interviewers receive training on how to interview and recognize interview bias. It has a predictive validation of 57%.

The ugly truth is flipping a coin is as accurate a predictor of success as most recruiting processes at small and medium-sized companies!

Every company faces a unique set of sales challenges. Companies must carefully select salespeople exceptionally qualified to thrive (not just “get by”) in their corporate environment, competitive landscape, and sales culture.

For a deeper dive into these issues and tips on how to fix these problems, get a free copy of our Guide for Hiring the Best Salespeople.

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