chad bronstein headshotby Chad Bronstein, CEO
Time To Hire



Being a small business owner can be tough and sales hiring mistakes can cost you, big time. You’re a Jack of all trades, master of nothing n’ all that. Before I became the Jedi Master of hiring, I made a lot of costly mistakes along the way. Even though you may be hiring for a 100% commission only position, the cost of hiring the wrong sales people can be astronomical. I’ve put together this simple guide to help you avoid a few of the lesser-known but damaging sales hiring mistakes I’ve made in the past 20-odd years.

Sales Hiring Mistake #1: Expecting Sales Reps to Create Your Sales Process For You

ugly shoe houseExpecting a salesperson to design your sales process is akin to hiring a general contractor to build your house without an architect. While it’s possible, your house might turn out looking pretty stupid. Yet this is a common mistake that I hear all the time and have made myself. Throughout the 90s, I owned a technology company called Innovative Data Systems. At its peak, we had twelve team members, but not a single sales rep. I performed that role, and was terrible at it. Most of our sales came from referrals. After many years I finally realized that I had to learn how to sell and create my own sales process.

Good salespeople know how to follow a process and they’re motivated. That’s it. If you want to hire a salesperson that will succeed, you must understand and define your own sales process.

Sales Hiring Mistake #2: Insistence on Hiring Within Your Own Industry

Many small business owners insist in hiring salespeople in their own industry because they believe their training time will be shorter. While there’s some truth to this, the downsides to hiring “experienced” reps are much greater. People with industry experience are often harder to train than a newbie. They are know-it-alls. Why should they use the sales method that you’ve proven and perfected when they can just do it like they’ve always done it? Hiring a salesperson from within your own industry also limits your pool of candidates.

But what if you have a technical software application that requires a ton of industry knowledge? No problem. While it might not seem logical, what you want to do is hire an intelligent, driven and motivated blank slate. That salesperson will learn your super-special product or service and be out slinging your wares in no time.

Sales Hiring Mistake #3: Requiring Applicants to Have Sales Experience

“Say what?” I hear you ask in bemusement. “Doesn’t your company help us find sales reps?” Before you stop reading, hear me out.

I find that companies that have a high turnover in the sales department often need to hire a salesperson more than once a month. Over time there may not be enough new resumes and the quality and quantity of available candidates goes down. We have many clients who are in an area of lower population which forces them to recruit non-sales people. Many successful sales reps are already employed. If you’re only looking at sales resumes, you may be scraping the bottom of the barrel for quality people.

If you’ve been hiring salespeople long enough, you’ll know that it’s impossible to predict success. I’ve seen successful reps who had backgrounds in engineering, computer programming and even accounting. You can never tell who will be successful because the single biggest indicator is motivation. Consider being open to other job titles and types of people during your search and your pool of candidates will be much larger.

Sales Hiring Mistake #4: Overselling the Opportunity

On the surface it seems like the right move. You want to show people how much money they can make. You even have a rep or two who’re making big money and you can speak to that, but what message is the candidate receiving? Jeff Posey of Genesis Capital Ventures says, “It’s about asking the right questions and not trying to sell them on your company or the job. It’ll be more of a fit for them if you ask the right questions and have the right answers. If you oversell the job they’ll think it’s too good to be true. They lose confidence and won’t show up for the interview.”

One way to instill trust with your prospective candidate is to use negative reverse selling (AKA reverse psychology). Be honest with people. Try phrases such as “this position isn’t for everyone.” or “most people don’t make it, although those that do often go on to make well into the six-figure range.” Candidates aren’t stupid and they see upwards of twenty sales opportunities per day, so some honesty will go a long way to building rapport.

There are many more sales hiring mistakes to discuss, and I’ll be adding more articles around this subject soon. If you enjoyed this post, please share on social media. If you’re looking to hire a salesperson, please check out our speedy hiring service at