This One Reason is Why 46% of Sales Hires Fail

Written by
Lucas Price
April 26, 2023
A woman holding up a sticky note with an X on it that blocks her face, designating a failed hire.

No one wants to get a sales hire wrong.

Your sales team drives the business and growth, and when sales is hitting quotas, it means the business is doing well. And if you look beyond just the number it could cost to replace a current employee or search for a new hire, sales roles have the additional weight of lost revenue and reduced quotas that are impacted for months.

So it’s not great to hear that 46% of new sales hires fail, and that sales roles have the highest failure rate. Sales is complex and good reps have a unique set of skills that may not always be easy to find with traditional hiring methods. For that reason, sales roles tend to have a high turnover rate.

But does that always have to be the case? Do you need to be content with the idea that sales hires are hard and there’s nothing to be done about that? Do you need to settle for the concept that high-performing sales professionals are few and far between and that there is no way to know how a new hire will do until after you’ve hired them?

The answer is no. So let’s look at the problem, why it exists, and why traditional ways of approaching it don’t always work.

Why Traditional Sales Hiring Processes Miss the Mark

What do you do when your sales hiring process isn’t achieving the results your company needs? There are two traditional ways companies have approached it.

1. Make Hiring Standards High

Sure, you may spend more time looking for the right candidate, but you’ll only be interviewing rockstars, and your interview process will be so rigorous the theory is an eventual hire will be able to ramp up much faster.

Maybe you put together a list of red flags to avoid when hiring salespeople and try to find questions that will tease out those warning signs. Perhaps you increase the duration of your hiring process and expand the number of people involved and the number of interviews so more people have a chance to get a feel for the candidate.

But, this approach means you’re more likely to extend your hiring process. You are likely to dismiss high-performing candidates because they don't meet an arbitrary standard that isn't actually predictive of performance.  Roles will be open longer, you'll lose productivity by pushing hiring dates and ramping further into the future, and you’ll miss hiring targets.

It will also make requirements more narrow, unintentionally introducing bias through unstructured interview processes that can force hiring managers to rely too heavily on their intuition and personal preferences. This approach excludes future sales stars and leads to homogeneity in the sales force.

2. Reduce Hiring Standards

If moving fast and breaking things worked for Zuckerberg, it could work in sales hiring, right? Reducing hiring standards may mean you get candidates with less experience and from outside traditional sales career paths. But you’ll have more people to interview and can fill positions more quickly, achieving your hiring plan.

This process comes with its own set of challenges. New reps will need more training, they’ll need more time to ramp up, and you’ll need to adjust onboarding processes to be extended or otherwise modified to meet their needs. Your sales efficiency will suffer, and your employee churn will increase. And you could miss out on hiring experienced reps who will not apply if they feel they’re overqualified for the position.

The Markers of a Bad Sales Hire Process

It’s clear that hiring good sales reps is a complex process that requires a thoughtful and nuanced approach. So why do so many companies find it hard to get the right fits consistently?

Here’s one real-world example that can be applicable to many different types of sales hires. A startup needed to hire a VP of Sales. They were growing fast and knew they needed to get the hire right. They set the bar high on experience and seemingly found the perfect candidate: someone with a proven track record leading a large sales team at an established company.

Why did this sales leader leave after less than a year in the role?

They had experience at a company with an established framework and processes. They were good at managing a large team but didn’t enjoy the building aspect at a startup. They didn’t have good processes in place for hiring or recruiting because those functions had already been established at their previous company, and they worked well within those processes.

The good news is that this startup got the next hire right. Instead of focusing on previous experience, they built their interview process around competency. Sales roles at startups change quickly, so they built their hiring process to find someone who was flexible and showed they could learn and grow. The next hire was a far better culture fit for the startup environment.

This company's first approach to hiring their sales position meant they missed a potential rockstar who eventually got the job. The hiring managers, like too many before them, felt sales had too many unquantifiable skills, and they ended up focusing on trying to clone themselves or focusing too narrowly on attributes that are generically successful in one role without considering what factors will be successful in the role they’re hiring for.

All of this introduces waste and rising hiring costs while turning the sales hiring process into a guessing game that may sometimes get it right but most often leads to high turnover and unending cycles of hiring.  

Getting the Right Hire for Sales

There is a far better way to approach the hiring process.

First, stop creating unpredictable and unrepeatable hiring processes that can cut out top performers. Your sales playbook has helped reps create efficient and repeatable processes to build pipeline and close sales. Why not build a playbook for hiring sales roles?

It starts by working through each component of the sales hiring process, doing the work upfront to build sustainable practices that help you identify the right candidates and avoid the wrong hires. You can create a process that helps hiring managers build on successful hiring techniques and creates a process candidates love.

Sales hiring doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. And it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming, resource-hogging process that will have to be repeated when a new hire washes out too early. Building a hiring process playbook that helps your team remove bias, utilize structured interviews and candidate scorecards, and train hiring managers as you go on the best hiring practices ensures your company will be able to find top-performing sales representatives.

Ready to get your sales hires right? Let Yardstick help you build a sales hiring process that will reduce the frustration and take the guesswork out of finding top performers.

Spot A-players early by building a systematic interview process today.

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