Hiring a Salesperson when the business needs a Sales Leader: Sales is a complex and demanding part of a business but often receives inadequate investment.  Sometimes that investment requires hiring a full-time sales leader who in turn can build sales capability, rather than searching for a single sales superstar who is expected to single-handedly grow revenue.

Searching for “holy grail” talent and overlooking the best candidates: Every company rightly wants to attract the best sales talent, but that can easily turn into a search for the perfect – holy grail – candidate, and in the process pass up on the most suitable and capable people. A sales role – like any role – requires the successful candidates to possess a handful of critical skills. Additional skills and traits, while interesting don’t enhance the odds of that person succeeding. See useful article on avoiding profile creep.

Bargain hunting for Sales Talent: Sales hiring sometimes becomes a game of bargain hunting for top talent at the lowest price. Growth and scaling businesses need to attract Level 2 or Level 3 sales talent which account for less than 20% of the sales population. This level of salesperson is not job seeking: they have options and select the best opportunities in terms of career and income growth. No amount of negotiation will attract capable people.

OTE is as important as base salary: An attractive and realistic OTE (On-Target-Earnings) is needed nowadays to attract top sales talent. While the base salary is still important, professional sales candidates typically expect a role to deliver at least 2x salary. In particular, you need to promote an attractive OTE early in the search process, or a large chunk of senior talent will ignore the opportunity.

One Single Decision-maker: It’s a well-known phenomenon that when 3 candidates have met a panel of three interviewers, there is now at least one good reason to reject every candidate. That’s because during a hiring process subjective opinion tends to over-ride the objective candidate profile criteria originally agreed as profile creep takes over and the goalposts keep shifting.  There needs to be a single manager who can assemble all feedback and decide what is relevant and useful. That person should be the manager with the most to lose in the event of a bad hire, usually the person to whom the new hire will report. They own the final decision about a candidate because they own the outcomes.

Setting red line requirements that are not necessary: Some candidate profile specifications set down red line requirements that make sense on paper but don’t improve the quality assurance process e.g. some companies will insist that a candidate come from their exact sector when it’s not clear that is needed. In practice such a red line is only needed in highly technical industries and even then, it’s exceptional. By laying down such a red line your addressable talent market will be at least halved.

Using cultural fit too loosely: Many (sales) hiring projects turn into the pursuit of the ideal “cultural -fit” candidate. While every company needs to take cultural fit in to account, it cannot be used as an objective hiring criterion unless the company has defined it and there is company-wide alignment. What usually happens is that the poor culture-fit is used as a handy rejection label ruling out highly capable people and ruling in pleasing, but far less capable candidates. Any feedback or opinions relating to cultural fit should be filtered y the main decision maker – the person who owns the final hiring decision.