When is the last time you hired a sales rep who didn’t perform at the level they told you they could or you expected they would? If you’re like most of the managers I know, it happens too often.

You were convinced they could perform when you selected them to join your team. After all, they were successful in their last job—or, so they said.

Maybe I’m tainted from interviewing thousands of sales people in my career. I’ve seen and heard the promises, excuses, compliments, and sometimes outright lies from candidates. Confirming my personal observations, CreditDonkey.com estimates that up to 57% of resumes have false information regarding skill sets. It’s definitely “let the buyer beware” when hiring.

Whether those stats are correct or not, what I know for sure is this: when hiring, everything reported and said is suspect until proven different. These candidates may push the value, facts, and specifics to win your job. It’s one of the reasons why many sales leaders rush through or even sidestep this task.

Most managers I know admit to being duped by more than one new sales hire in their career. To compound the impact of the poor hire, they try to   save face, save their job, and avoid going through the hiring process yet again with these tactics:

  • Justifying why the hire was a good move for months (or quarters.)
  • Offering more training or coaching, requiring them to watch a successful rep, or investing more personal time with them.
  • Believing the excuses. How different selling your solution is from what they did before, “if only” you provided this tool, marketing did a better job, production didn’t screw up, or the price was lower, they would sell more.

None of these tactics help a mis-hire. How, then, do we select sales candidates that can and will really sell as needed? Use an effective and proof-based selection process as an aid.

“That’s it?” you may be thinking. This may seem too simplistic. Yet a multi-step selection process focused on what matters and proof of past performance increases your probability of making a good hire.

Just like a sales process moves the right opportunities through the pipeline, a hiring and selection process effectively moves the right candidates through to a successful hire.


What are the elements of a good selection process? The process includes multiple steps with the ability to make a go/no-go decision along the way. This allows you to spend time with the most viable candidates while removing misfits early in the process, which saves you time, headaches, and resources.

  The components of an effective selection process include:

  1. Benchmark. Determine the standards for success in the sales role (Read more about attracting candidates here) to benchmark what is needed to succeed in your role, company, and industry.
  2. Objective assessment. Remove biases to determine the reality of skill, commitment, and focus by adding objectivity to the process. There are many assessments available, and there are only two assessments we have found that provide objective and validated information to predict sales success.
  3. Subjective data gathering. Use all your senses to identify what, how, and why the candidate will perform. Gathering subjective data includes observing EVERY action, word, and behavior during the process and continues with behavior based interviews (more on this skill in the next post).


  • How they communicate throughout–listening skills, questions they ask
  • Writing ability. Require candidates to complete a 5-8 question questionnaire in advance of their 2nd interview which will provide a sample of their written communication style and ability to interpret questions
  • How well they follow directions
  • Their carry-through on commitments
  • How they treat others around you: admin, wait staff, team members
  • Reaction to questions and expectations given
  • Timeliness
  • Ability to clearly state their point, ask for next steps, and follow-up
  1. In addition to an objective online assessment, test skills and ability by seeing the candidate in action.
  • Situational test. Ask the candidate to prepare a plan and present it to you or a team. Make the situation relevant to your type of sales and audience. If they sell to groups, gather a group. Consider the type of product or service, situation, level of decision maker, etc. If the role is for inside sales, work through their sample via telephone so you can hear their approach.
  • On-the-spot test. To test in-the-moment reactions, ask the candidate to sell you something on the spot and then observe their approach to the entire “sale.”
  1. Ask for proof of results, background, and experience. Skipping the step to validate references, employment, education, training, and results is dangerous. Ask for specific types of references and data. If the candidate can’t prove past sales success in a quantifiable way, sound the alarm.

While using an effective selection process, skip the common traps:

  1. Comparing candidates to each other versus the benchmark.
  2. Shortcuts to save time and speed up a hire. It’s often toward the end where we uncover the deal breakers that were hidden. For example, one candidate hid the fact he had two DUIs and would not be able to use the company fleet and insurance until the final step. That would’ve been an expensive add-on.
  3. Biases and “just like me” errors. Remove your positive and negative biases when looking at candidates. Someone who graduated from the same university, goes to the same church, or lives in the same area does not mean they will be just like you.

Want to select top sales candidates? Identify and follow an effective selection process. Use a combination of subjective and objective data gathering points to make the best decision. Then don’t let time pressures, lack of focus, or shortcuts reduce the probability of selecting top performers who have the right skills and will to succeed.

4 Success Drivers You Need to Know...and Grow


How do you strengthen this "Will" among your sales associates? How does the lack of drive impact your daily life? I discussed this and so much more on a recent virtual training event you can access below. It's valuable information for any business leader who needs to maximize performance of their people to grow their company.

Click here to access the replay.