March 20, 2014

Unproductive office workerDespite the best intentions of hiring managers, bad salespeople still occasionally slip through the cracks and get hired.

Clever actors and “professional interviewees” can talk a very good game.

As we say in our seminars, sometimes the best sale you ever see out of a candidate is in the interviewing process.

Of course, your sales team’s performance can make or break your company. Therefore, it is essential for sales managers to be aware of situations that allow underperformers to join their team.


3 Common Ways Underperformers Can Infiltrate a Sales Team

  1. The hiring manager gets desperate.

frustrated-salesperson-at-computer-400It is tempting to panic and rush to hire the first person that seems right when a position has been open for some time. However, that approach can become costly in the long-run should that salesperson turn out to be a bad hire.

These costs include wasted time on training, money thrown out on salaries, a disrupted sales team, poor customer service and lost sales.

When a hiring manager hires for skill alone to fill an open position, with little regard for personality or attitude, there are likely to be problems in the future.

Many candidates can learn basic sales skills and do a decent job for a few months. But if they are not the right fit for your company’s culture and/or do not have the innate elements of Drive, essential for sales, their performance can falter down the road.


The Solution

Just as there is a system for everything else in your company, make a system out of hiring.

  • Start by assessing all potential candidates using a proven online sales test. This can lead to 50% better candidates at interview time.
  • Evaluate what type of salesperson (e.g. Hunter or Farmer) you need to fill the open position and assess and interview candidates for the traits essential for that role.
  • Be patient with the hiring process. Hire the right people from the start so you can concentrate on building your business.

By properly utilizing an online sales test and effectively interviewing your candidates, you are much more likely to find the right fit for your company.

Your patience and effort will be rewarded when you hire a high-potential candidate and avoid those with greater acting skills than ambition.


  1. The interview questions are too easy or predictable.

sales-rep-is-too-comfortable-because-interview-questisons-are-too-easyRather than asking difficult behavioral questions, interviewers often use unstructured, unorganized, and vague interview questions.

A classic mistake some hiring managers make is to ask candidates what they would do in certain situations (“What would you do if a customer did x?”).


The Solution

Remember, the best predictor of future behavior is previous behavior.

Use behavioral interview questions to get specific examples of the candidate’s behavior in the past to predict how he/she will perform going forward.

  • Consider which kind of role you are looking to fill, a hunter or farmer role, and the qualities needed for that specific position.
  • During the interview, try to understand what led to the candidate’s previous success. For example, did his previous employer provide all of his leads for him, or did he have to hunt for leads on his own?
  • Ask the candidate about how he gained customer loyalty at his previous job. Pose questions about how he has previously handled obstacles he may face in the open position and see how he would react.

Really dig deep during the interview and ask those tough questions. Explain your performance expectations, any training you will offer and any sales tools you will provide.


  1. The candidate takes over the interview.


If the hiring manager is not prepared for the interview, candidates will often take advantage by taking control.

In fact, many books on interviewing advise candidates to take over the interview if possible.

With all of the information available to prep the candidate for the interview, avoid allowing him to take over, leaving you with very little insight on who he is and how he works.


The Solution

We need to have our questions ready from the start, allowing the candidate a bit of time to warm up, of course, then digging in and running a thorough, tight interview.

  • Challenge the candidate to think on his feet and answer tough questions. Do not allow him to gain control of the question-answer cycle.

Do not be afraid to ask follow up questions to dive deeper into the candidate’s responses to better understand how he will perform for you.

While it is normal, and even expected, that a candidate will have questions of his own during the interview, set the tone from the start that you lead the interview. Adding salespeople to your team, whether to build a growing business or fill a vacant spot, requires careful planning by the hiring manager.

Hiring bad salespeople can damage your company’s reputation, hurt sales and profit margins and damage customer relationships.

By being patient and prepared with well-constructed interview questions (and using an online sales test upfront), you can make sure your time is well-spent and underperformers are kept out.