Hiring New Sales Staff: 5 Common Mistakes (and Simple Solutions)

If you’re finding it difficult and expensive to hire great salespeople for your organization, you’re not alone. A tight labor market, featuring a low unemployment rate of 4.1% as of January 2018, means it’s more challenging than ever to find great talent. It’s more expensive, too. According to a report from the Aberdeen Group, it takes an average of 7 months and almost $30,000 to onboard and train a new salesperson.

Here at Janek Performance Group, we’re often tasked with talent assessment and evaluations for our clients. We’ve studied every aspect of sales talent acquisition, including sales roles and onboarding techniques to optimize the process. We research what works, and what doesn’t. Hiring new staff can invigorate a sales organization, but it can also turn into a costly mistake and stretched resources. As a result, we’ve had plenty of experience in this field, and we’d like to share it with you in these five mistakes to avoid when hiring new sales talent:

Mistake #1: Lack of Planning
Remember that Aberdeen group report? It can take up to seven months for a new salesperson to reach full productivity. Of course, this depends on your industry, customer demographic, and your products or services. In the B2B sales realm, it’s not unrealistic to expect 12 months to elapse before your new sales rep lands a deal. In the meantime, if you haven’t staggered your hiring cycle to ensure you’ll have talent ready to go at regular intervals, this will leave your sales reeling.

Solution: It’s simple: plan ahead. Allot more time for hiring than the bare minimum, so you don’t find your organization scrambling for talent in this tight labor market.

Mistake #2: Disorganized Onboarding Process
Another study from the Aberdeen Group surveyed business organizations, 90% of whom believe that employees make their decision to stay with a company within the first year of working there. This highlights the importance of the onboarding process, which presents the new employee with the goals, expectations, and culture of the organization.

Solution: In the past, we’ve written at length about how the onboarding process is a team effort that needs to be streamlined at every level of the organization. This means your company needs to keep the HR department engaged with everyone on the team, including the sales manager and the new sales rep’s colleagues. Keeping the onboarding process smooth and well thought out will keep your new hire motivated and inspired, leading to lower rates of turnover.

Mistake # 3: Unchecked References
It stands to reason that the sales people you interview will be, well, very good at selling themselves. At least, they should be. It can be tempting to take their charm and ingenuity at face value, and skim past a reference list in favor of an in-person impression. However, treating references like a mere formality deprives you of some powerful tools when it comes to hiring sales reps.

Solution: Ask the tough questions. Is the candidate a team player? Does she deal well with criticism? Is he easy to coach? A serious candidate will have compiled a solid list of references of which they’re proud. Don’t waste the opportunity to see another side of your potential rep.

Mistake #4: Lack of Diversity
Diversity matters. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, organizations in the top quarter for ethnic diversity are “35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

In your workplace, a homogenous blend of sales reps with similar life experiences will offer less in terms of creativity in the workplace. Think about it: if you have a team of sales reps who are all 20-something recent college grads, you may receive a one-sided approach to problem-solving. It offers a limited perspective.

Solution: Diversify. By actively diversifying your team to include individuals of various ages, ethnicities, and genders you are not only fostering a workplace of inclusivity, you are expanding the potential of your workplace to solve problems with creativity and ingenuity.

Mistake #5: Ignoring Red Flags of Job-Hoppers
Perhaps your prospective sales rep has an impressive resume, one which lists a series of excellent sales positions with an exciting range of duties, goals, and accomplishments. However, if that same resume indicates he or she only stayed at each job for only short stints, you might want to unearth those reasons during the interview. It’s a definite red flag in an employee’s profile if she or he “job hops” regularly.

Solution: Don’t ignore the signs. As we’ve discussed, it’s expensive and time-consuming to onboard a new employee. If they’re an amazing candidate in every other respect, at least take the time to uncover the reasons for the short-lived positions with other companies.

Our solutions are simple: Plan ahead, ask good questions, and get good people. It shouldn’t be a stressful hassle to hire new sales talent. And by avoiding these common mistakes in hiring, your team can prioritize the exciting, invigorating aspects of talent acquisition.