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Why Is It So Difficult to Recruit Top Sales Talent?

By Dave Shannon on February 2, 2022
Est. Reading: 4 minutes

Recent research shows, 46% of new sales hires fail within 18 months! That’s a staggering figure, and a very costly one. Either they don’t fit with the team and culture, they give up on you, you give up on them, or they don’t reach the level expected by the business. How many other roles would you accept in having this level of hiring error in your business though?

Most business owners often believe that this is something that you can’t possibly avoid – something ‘inevitable’ in Sales Recruitment – unless you’re equipped with some sort of ‘crystal ball’ that tells who the good salespeople are.

This underperformance of salespeople is not just an inconvenience for your business though. It’s actually a very expensive hiring MISTAKE, one that could cost you between €100,000 and €150,000 – the conservative cost of a bad Sales hire.

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Issues directly related to bad sales recruitment tactics

These are some of the most common concerns and questions that CEOs, MDs, and sales business leaders ask me about when it comes to hiring salespeople:

  • “There aren’t enough (or we can’t find) quality candidates out there.”
  • “We recruited salespeople who looked great on paper, but who just didn’t perform.” (They talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk).
  • “The ramp up of new salespeople is far too long.”
  • “Recruitment agencies consistently poor at presenting ‘A team’ players.”
  • “How do we reduce our salesperson turnover?”

Each of these points can typically be directly correlated to an inability to consistently pick sales “winners”. Usually, these businesses are either trying to apply traditional HR hiring processes to recruitment of salespeople, and/or that they employ outdated hiring methods with no predictive screening for their candidates – often causing so-called “square pegs in round holes”.

Why do we get it so wrong when it comes to hiring salespeople?

Great account managers don’t always make great hunters, and vice versa – same with great farmers, those salespeople we expect to upsell and cross sell to our current customers. The skillsets required are very very different for each role. We need to clearly define the role, before we try and match the person, skillsets, competencies, behaviours, and experience required to be successful.

Despite the existence of both a science and a proven data process for hiring salespeople though, most efforts tend to be hit or miss - with the emphasis almost always leaning towards miss. Finding good salespeople doesn’t necessarily need to be like finding a needle in a haystack though - it’s not actually that difficult. Businesses tend to get it so wrong due to two fundamental flaws in the sales recruitment process; trying to apply the traditional recruitment model to salespeople, and ‘trusting your gut’ in choosing the person for the job.


Traditional processes just don’t work in sales. HR professionals often think that hiring salespeople is the same as hiring everyone else in the company. It isn't.

Recruiting ‘A team’ salespeople should always in itself be a standalone growth strategy. Very often though, recruiters simply present candidates, or we shortlist based solely on what’s written on their CV—suitable industry experience, years of experience, and very often take on face value, what are often bloated, overachievements claimed within.

Even if the candidate has the skillsets, do they have the right will to sell? Will they consistently perform the activities required to generate? Mindset is important, but not just for the salespeople, for the companies themselves too. We need to have and set very clear and measurable performance expectations from day 1.

Companies need to acknowledge that sales roles are vastly different from any other type of role and instead employ a customised sales recruitment process. Ensuring they consistently attract, identify, screen, interview, select, onboard, and retain top sales talent.

As recently pointed out by Sales thought leader, Dave Kurlan:

“Salespeople have additional challenges which no other employee has to face: constant competition, resistant and disinterested prospects, and self-limiting beliefs.”

Who else in the company, other than salespeople, have to overcome these kinds of daily challenges? Not very many. So, how can a HR recruiter with no sales screening tools pick a winner?


For some salespeople, the only thing they can sell is themselves – and they can be pretty good at it.
It’s only after hiring them, that you then find out that they lack the selling competencies making them the ‘sales star’ they initially made themselves out to be. Recently, an MD shared with me that every candidate they interviewed claimed to have hit 115% of targets in the last year!

You or your Sales Managers may have years of experience in hiring salespeople and may think that this validates your gut instinct. You may even think that because of your experience you’ll ultimately get it right. With only 50% of salespeople hitting target each year though, at the very most you’re only getting it right about 50% of the time. This is just ‘getting by’ and getting by is not a KPI for sales success. Meeting or exceeding target each year is.

Reduce the Risk with Grow Sales

In order to recruit sales ‘superstars’ you need to have an effective way to assess candidates, for the various sales role requirements in your business.

At Grow Sales, we screen your sales candidates to ensure you get the best person for every sales role, every time - consistently finding those needles in that sales haystack. We’ll help you develop and implement a world-class, customised sales recruitment process for your business.

Our screenings allow you to rely on science, not gut instinct, to predict ‘A team’ players - not just the best available candidate. With our tools and expertise, we can bring you the ‘crystal ball’ you need, one designed to ensure that you hire only top sales performers for your business.

Here are just some of the key points about our process:

92% of recommended candidates reach the top half of the sales force within one year.
If a recommended salesperson who you hire does not preform to expectations in the first 6 months, that hire won’t count against the number of salespeople your license provides!

Make recruiting sales superstars part of your overall sales growth strategy.

Contact us now to receive a free sample of our sales candidate assessment.

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