How to Trash a Sales Hire in Five Easy Lessons


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Blowing up a new sales recruit isn’t hard to do, if you know how. From what I hear from my professional sales buddies, there’s a lot of it going around! Here’s the formula:

  1. Hire the right person and then put them in the wrong job. This will work best if your job posting bears little or no relationship to the human interaction the recruit will actually encounter on the job.
  2. Be careful to assign new hires to rigid sales managers who have a knack for crushing any excitement or enthusiasm that may have lingered on after the onboarding pep-talk. This tactic will firmly establish low employee engagement before it ever impacts your retention metrics.
  3. If, by chance, you have managed to hire people who actually get along well with each other, install a convoluted compensation scheme that will set people at odds with each other. Remember, it’s much easier for you to rule your domain if the environment is ‘everyone for him/herself’.
  4. If you observe sales support people who appear to be providing a ‘home base’ for the sales team, and making their lives easier, take corrective action immediately! Experience has shown that it’s highly motivating for sales people to obsess about minor details every sleepless night. Why, what would happen if the whole department were suddenly to start expecting other people to ‘cover’ for their weaker points?
  5. Select your performance assessment system carefully. It should address every possible detail of every position, thereby providing numerous points of information that can be used, as needed, for blaming, shaming, or defaming.

If anything above this line sounded like a good idea to you, stop reading now. You’re all set. However, if you really want to implement change for the better, and you are a sales manager (or business owner), read on.

Here are four ways to start building a sales team that really WILL team.

First, think through what you expect the successful sales person to do every day, but instead of thinking only about what they do, also think about HOW they will go about doing it. Ask someone who really enjoys the job:

  • In what ways do you have to ‘team’ with the prospect to get their attention? To advance the opportunity? To get the sale closed?
  • What is there about your work that makes you feel valued and respected? What does the opposite?
  • If someone else could do some portion of your current ‘task list’, which tasks would you give to them, and how would the change enable (or motivate) you to focus more on winning new business?

Second, work this information into the job description. You’ll be surprised to find that it attracts people who are more likely to be successful in that job.

Third, start thinking ‘team’ instead of ‘individual’. Even a heroic individual achievement cannot equal the results of sustained team success. Every team has a range of ‘survival’ needs, and when these needs are met collectively, amazing things can happen. Instead of having eight salespeople wasting time filling out reports and pretending to be organized, consider the value of having seven people selling every moment of every day, plus one person who actually enjoys the work of keeping them all organized, and filling out well-documented reports.

And last, while sales turnover may always be higher than you would like, it doesn’t need to be as high as it is. Get some inside information on how sales managers are treating their staff. Are they saying ‘no’ too often? Do they take delight in terrorizing people the way Alec Baldwin did in “Glengarry Glen Ross?” (Note: Your best sales folks probably know that speech by heart.) If so, you will have to decide whether you want to continue down that road, or instead, to create a culture where the marching orders include positive, supportive sales teamwork, respect, and trust.

Dr. Janice Presser
Dr. Janice Presser is a behavioral scientist, CEO of The Gabriel Institute, thought leader in talent science, author of six books on teams, and architect of Teamability® , the completely new 'technology of teaming'. Launched in 2012, the technology caps a quarter-century of behavioral science R&D, including nine years of software development. Engineered to identify and organize the foundational elements of team activity and team management, Teamability produces true analytics of team chemistry, and delives practical, repeatable business benefits.


  1. Janice: great outline. Many sales executives bemoan sales force under-performance, and the churn and missed opportunities that accompany it. Yet, many hiring managers doggedly believe that ‘hiring mistakes’ are the root cause. “We just can’t seem to find the right salespeople.” I hear it often.

    But many symptoms of sales under-performance are caused by multiple risks that have come home to roost–poor hiring decisions are among them. One root cause that I have observed is that many senior managers aren’t solid about what, exactly, their sales force needs to provide to their organization. (It’s more than just ‘Revenue!’) If they did, they might be more encouraging of the teamwork you describe.

    Interestingly, some sales organizations are challenged to hide their dysfunctional internal sales cultures. A candidate who is considering taking a position can quickly identify red flags, as I wrote in a blog, How to Spot Sales Job Quicksand Before You’re Knee Deep.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Andrew, and for a good read reminiscent of so many bad sales environments. Those are excellent red flags in your article for everyone to keep in mind before jumping from the frying pan into the… quicksand.

    Another way to sink-proof yourself is to make sure you really are a good match for the way in which you think you’ll be working, and then confirm that with the manager. Any manager who can’t give you your ‘marching orders to success’ is not capable of turning the organization’s strategy into a directed plan. Or this just might be an organization without a strategy.

    For those who want to hire better, this just appeared on Forbes:


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