Want to Stop Hiring Mediocre Salespeople? Look for These Red Flags

I’ve had a lot of experience in this area and made some great hires and a few mistakes. Based on my experience, what I look for in a salesperson is: 1) A track record of success, 2) Enthusiasm and passion for the product, 3) Customer-focused mentality, 4) That they are organized and prepared for the interview, and 5) Strong business acumen.

On the other hand, a big red flag for me is someone who has moved sales positions every two years. I want to see someone who has perseverance and drive to overcome challenges and be successful. I really like it when you see on their resume that they were at a company for four to six years and they’ve had multiple promotions. It shows that they can grow and take on additional responsibility. This is definitely something I would look for when hiring a sales manager too.

When looking for sales managers, I also ask myself the following questions: 1) Are they competent, savvy, and successful in their current role selling the product or service? 2) Do they genuinely want to help people? 3) Do they care more about other people than themselves? (This can be hard to tell so you have to ask a lot of probing questions and look at past behaviors.) 4) Do I think this is a person would could hire and retain top talent? (Would I want to work for them if I were a sales person?) 5) Will they represent our company values? and 6) Are they a good mentor and coach? A top salesperson should always make more money than their manager. If the person is in it for the money only, they will likely make a great sales rep, but not a great manager. Managers have to be empathetic and care about their team’s and company’s success more than their own.

When I interview, the first thing I do is look at their LinkedIn profile, hoping to find successes, tenure, and common connections. For a senior role, if it’s not a confidential hire, I will actually reach out to a couple trusted common connections before the interview to see what they think of the candidate. Then during the interview, I give an overview of the company and the role, and then I want to hear their story and what they’ve learned that will serve them well in this role. I spend a lot of time on behavioral questions and real-life experiences and scenarios. The best candidates have done their research and have thoughtful questions for someone at my level. When I ask if someone has any questions and they don’t, it’s unlikely they’ll get the job.

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