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What to Do When You Make a Bad Sales Hire

Raise your hand if you’ve ever worked with a sales team member who exemplified any of the following traits:

  • Doesn’t take direction well

  • Thinks deadlines are negotiable

  • Gives up too quickly

  • Believes in the art of the “hard sell”

  • Has an ego that barely fits through the front door

These are unfortunate personal characteristics that make for a bad sales hire --and if they possess all of them, an epically terrible one. I’ve heard horror stories of people that appeared to have lots of potential, and ended up being lemons. Obviously, the quandary that we find ourselves in when it becomes apparent that a bad sales hire has been made is what to do about it. Luckily, you do have choices and the situation may not be the end of the world after all Keep reading to learn about your options when you’ve made a bad sales hire.

What went wrong? Evaluate your hiring process.

There is a slim chance that your bad sales hire was a fluke, but let’s be honest, it probably has something to do with your hiring process and procedures. It’s understandable that you want to put out the fire the right away and get rid of your bad sales hire, but reflection is a must or you’ll continue to make the same mistakes when it comes to acquiring human capital. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Did you fact check the resume? One thing I always suggest is to read off the job description or list of responsibilities that the candidate has on their resume to former employers to see if it matches the truth.

  • Did you go a step further and focus on the whole person? Job history doesn’t always tell the whole story, so design interview questions that help you get to know the potential candidate.

  • Were your expectations clear? This is one big reason for sales hire failure. When employers don’t communicate their expectations clearly from the outset they are setting everyone up for failure. That’s why you must be clear about the expectations of the role with every candidate you interview. It’s also a good idea to review your job postings to ensure they are crystal clear.

Coach the employee on how to improve.

Before you hand over a pink slip, remember that sales talent doesn’t come naturally unless you’re a used car salesman. With enterprise software, analytics, machine learning and data-driven solutions, sales is an art.

First, identify what the problem(s) is and discuss it openly with the employee. Holding back will only worsen the problem, so make sure you are prepared for the discussion with all of the facts. Next, sit down with the employee and work out a plan for improvement that includes clear, measurable goals, and set milestones for them. Make sure everything is well documented to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Hopefully, the sales team member will make improvements and it is important to reward or recognize those gains. Acknowledgement that they are on the right track is extremely motivating and will keep them moving in the right direction.

Know when it’s time to part ways.

There are times that no plan for improvement will work for a variety of reasons. When the sales hire isn’t making any progress and you’ve put your best foot forward to work with them, that’s when it’s time to say goodbye. This is perhaps the hardest option when dealing with a bad sales hire, so be sure to consult with your human resources department before taking any action. When you fire the employee it’s very important to be completely honest about why they didn’t make the cut. Don’t worry about hurt feelings. This person will need to find employment somewhere else and will continue to make the same mistakes if you aren’t honest.


Nation's Executive Search Group is sought out by leaders in Enterprise Risk Management, Marketing Services and Decision Analytics for mission critical sales and marketing leadership talent.

For more information, email or call Rob at (410) 827-0180,

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