If everything seems under control, you are not going fast enough.
— Mario Andretti

Are You Still Trying to Recruit and Hire the "Perfect Salesperson"?

Hiring can bring out your worst fears. Especially if you’re a new manager or just starting with a new organization. When your first goal is to immediately staff up—your reputation hangs in the balance. Everyone’s watching...quietly rooting for your success or failure.

They wonder if you’ll be the person who hires and builds a well-oiled sales machine.  Will you cultivate the reputation as a top sales manager who helps the company double revenues year after year? Or will you be like the last person who continuously made poor hires and was eventually fired?

Sticking your neck out and pulling the hiring trigger forces you to come face-to- face with your fears.

How do you avoiding hiring mistakes? How can you prevent making embarrassing errors? If you haven’t hired before, or even if you have, the bad news is you’ll make mistakes, and plenty of them. You’ll need to learn quickly from your blunders and hedge against overcompensating for them the next go around.

If you’ve been burned in the past or if you’re intimidated by the whole process, you’ll have a tendency to fall into the perfection trap. You’ll spend weeks, sometimes months, interviewing candidates and untimely finding flaws that will be used to justify your lack of hiring.

You’ll waste hours of other employees’ time while you evaluate and over analyze candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. You’ll set up interview after interview, only to have an ongoing vacancy because no one is good enough to do the job.

You’ll convince yourself you’ve become obsessed with hiring the perfect candidate and if only you meet the right person, you’ll solve all your problems. But it’s just another form of hiring reluctance shape shifting into The Endless Recruitment Challenge-- recruiting and hiring the “perfect candidate.”

Signs of Hiring Reluctance

Do you have any of the following symptoms?

Most of the candidates you meet although experienced and qualified on paper seem to have glaring flaws. You find their weaknesses and instantly discredit their track record of success and core skills. Before you even sit down to discuss their background, you’ve mentally checked out and resumed your search for the “perfect candidate.”

You’ve become a professional interviewer. Week after week you meet potential applicants looking for your next star. But there’s never anyone good enough for your sales team.  Everyone is starting to wonder if you’re leading a sales team or if you’re joining the recruiting department.

You take a microscopic approach to evaluating LinkedIn profiles. Despite a solid resume with a track record of high-performance and a history of progressive employment you look for flaws in the LinkedIn profile. You don’t like the verbiage, the photo, the lack of photo, the hobbies and interests section of the profile, or something just doesn’t seem right, so you take a pass.

Although your applicants have managed to earn well above the average income of a typical salesperson, have been gainfully employed their entire career, and hired by some of the country’s most prestigious brands, you find flaws in their candidacy immediately without more than a passing superficial consideration.  

You’ve made the job requirements so specific and limiting that your potential candidate pool is extraordinarily small. Combine reluctance to hire with a small talent pool and you’ll find yourself with open vacancies for more than six months.  

Recovering from Sales Hiring Reluctance

The first step to resolving your obsession with recruiting the “perfect candidate” starts with your philosophy. Recruiting at its core is very messy work. It’s a human process that lends itself to the imperfections and errors of all its participants. There are a lot of variables, each expressing themselves in unique ways and in endless combinations. Humans are smart, savvy, and have unlimited potential. Yet they can also be unpredictable and even irrational. Mistakes and setbacks are part of sales, business, management, and the recruitment process.

The second realization may take a little longer to embrace and fully accept. Perfect candidates simply don’t exist. People aren’t perfect whether they’re salespeople, hiring managers, or even CEOs. I’ve seen wildly successful employees build long- lasting, winning, and exceptionally successful careers by being creative, resourceful, confident, persistent, and committed.  

They were far from perfect, some would even be considered self-destructive by most sane people, but they had an exceptionally honed core set of skills for the job at hand. These skills always superseded their deficits.

When it comes to hiring, you don’t have to “settle” for second rate employees. But you also don’t have to hire perfection to achieve your goals. The candidates you interview can and will say stupid things in interviews, meetings, and even on sales calls.

They’ll make blunders and miscalculations. But if you select talent carefully and keep your eye on what really matters...they’ll still win more than they lose. They’ll learn, and with your coaching, guidance, and mentorship, they’ll turn out to be high-performing new hires.

But you’ll never know if you pass them up because you’ve lost focus on the core skills that matter most. Great hires will walk across the street and find respite with your competitors when you let fear get in the way of reality based decision making. That reality is people aren’t perfect. Ideologies are.

Can You Keep Minor Mistakes Minor?

The best salespeople I ever worked with was almost passed over for a fashion faux pas. One of the top executives gave her a vote of “do not hire” in the fifth and final round of interviews.

Was it because he though she couldn’t do the job?

Nope.

Was it because she didn’t have a track record of success?

 Not hardly.

 It came down to one rather small paltry item.

She was declared a “NO” because she wore a light-pink suit.

The direct hiring manager responsible for the ultimate hiring decision didn’t like the suit either. But he didn’t let the suit or his boss’s nit-picking stop him.

He pulled the trigger regardless of the potential repercussions.

(By the way, he was a contrarian thinker and NEVER simply followed the crowd. He also made exceptional hiring decisions time and time again.)

His pink-suit hire made President’s Club multiple times over the next decade. He used to joke that he named a wing of his house after her since her sales numbers contributed so heavily to his financial success over the years.

If you’re looking to hire perfection, do yourself a favor and stop the insanity. Instead, focus on traits and skills that contribute to success in the role. Look for people who are flexible, adaptable, teachable, and committed. If you have a candidate who’s able to apply corrections and make changes, don’t let minor flaws become over exaggerated reasons for not hiring.

What minor imperfections have you let stop you from hiring a top salesperson? What are the skills you absolutely must have to ensure success? Have you overlooked viable candidates who are able to take feedback and quickly apply changes?

What characteristics can you shape, mold, and transform into more desirable or ideal attributes?

Turn your hiring goals into reality and avoid hiring reluctance by setting a deadline and getting some help. If you’d like assistance recruiting your next sales leader or individual contributor, take the first step. Contact me at sonja@optimalss.com and let’s set up a time to discuss your hiring situation.