The good, the bad and the ugly of sales hiring and firing

Matt Garman
17 Feb, 2020

The good, the bad and the ugly of sales hiring and firing. 

Forbes Magazine (and other sources) suggest 1 in 3 sales hires will fail and they highlight poor sales enablement as one of the main reasons for this.  Sacking an employee is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks in the management canon. There are many answers to the question ‘when?’ and not one of them is clearly right or wrong.  Many factors enter into the decision. First is the impact on the rest of the team, because perception is vital to overall morale and making sure that the sales performance does not suffer. If the perception is the dismissal is unfair, then you might end up with more problems than those caused by the person staying in a role for which they are unsuited. The ideal is to look for the sweet spot in the process, right between ‘what took you so long?’ and ‘whoa – that was a bit quick!’

Did you make a good decision when you hired the person? 

Interviewing is stressful for all parties. It’s natural to want to hire someone you relate to. Someone on your wavelength who seems to understand what you want. However, in the desire to get the whole process over and get on with business, it’s easy to forget that a candidate is out to impress you. If they’re friendly and have all the right answers, they might simply be telling you what you want to hear.  You may warm to them, they may have a great CV, good recommendations and a good reputation or maybe they just ‘feel right’. A keen candidate who’s full of energy can skim over their lack of relevant experience or a shortfall in skill, and still present as the perfect hire.

Miscommunication at interview, what they say/don’t say and what you hear/are led to believe, will put everyone at a disadvantage from day one. You’re expecting them to hit the ground running and they’re expecting training before they start.

Having a good on-boarding process should pick up any shortfalls of training or experience and allow you to organise what they need. If you don’t have the time or budget for it, you might decide a quick dismissal, due to the mismatch of experience and skill, is the best way to go. The candidate and your sales team, should understand the decision, with little lasting damage to their morale. It’s also possible to discover shortfalls in your new starter, but feel strongly they are still the right fit, and give them the training they need to bring them up to speed.

It’s worthwhile remembering that a good reputation is not always a reliable indicator of performance. Experience, skills and reputation can be linked to a specific role or company and may not transfer to a new environment.

It’s impossible to predict how a new hire will turn out, but having a good job description to attract good candidates and hiring for attitude (providing they have the experience and skill you want), offers the best opportunity for success. No-one should be told or attempt to ‘hit the ground running’ you’ll likely end up with a poor fit who’s a disruptive influence on your whole team.  Expect to coach and train them, provide proper sales tools and give them time to settle in.  These steps are essential to set them up for success.

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