Regardless of how much experience you have when it comes to hiring sales people, every manager gets it wrong from time to time. Whether it’s hiring someone who has a history of job-hopping or passing over the candidate with great potential but less experience, there are plenty of mistakes hiring managers could make. And while there is no ‘perfect’ sales candidate, there are key things you should be looking out for when it comes to screening your next potential sales person.

Bear in mind that a sales person who exhibits one or two of these traits occasionally isn’t necessarily a bad fit for your business – but remain cautious and with eyes wide open to ensure you’re not overlooking warning signs. Here’s what to look out for:


While British workers have been said to suffer from confidence issues in the workplace, including the 35% of employees who don’t feel confident to ask for a pay rise, there is another issue sales managers need to look out for in their sales people: overconfidence.

The impacts of overconfidence can be disastrous, according to a 2016 research paper. Not only does overconfidence impede learning on an individual basis, but it can have broader consequences for those around them. An overconfident sales person can have a blinding effect on team members and customers, who place excessive trust in the person as their confidence is perceived as competence.

While confidence is an absolutely crucial trait of a good sales person, someone who has too much faith in themselves can overlook things, skip crucial elements of training and development processes, and ultimately overpromise and underdeliver. This will not only have a negative impact on clients who are affected by a sales person who doesn’t measure up to their own hype, but can also disrupt the wider team.

Look out for overconfidence during the hiring process by scrutinising a candidate’s CV – is there anything on there that looks questionable? Do their figures look over the top? Is that certificate or training programme legitimate? During the interview stage, watch out for candidates who overly brag or brush off any questions you have surrounding their experience and abilities – a good candidate will be able to meet your questions and identify exactly how they will positively impact your company.


It’s no secret that the world of sales can be tough, and sales people need to be even tougher. Rejections are inevitable and even the most exceptional sales star will encounter disappointments on the job. As a sales manager, it’s not necessarily the setbacks you need to worry about – it’s how your team handles them. A good sales person will be resilient and not take rejection personally. What’s more, they won’t dwell on it for longer than is necessary to adapt to new approaches. If a client has gone with another vendor, a good sales person will find out why – was it a price difference, a quality concern or something to do with the sales approach?

Your team needs to focus on opportunities and learnings they can take from every sales interaction. Avoid hiring sales people who become fixated on one deal that didn’t work out, or become negative about clients or prospects. This negativity can spread through your team and have a real impact on your team morale, not to mention your bottom line.


A narrow-minded sales person can be a nightmare for both clients and colleagues, particularly if you work in an environment where creativity and ingenuity are embraced. A team member who is stuck in their ways and not open to new situations or ways of selling can drag your team down and lead to stagnant sales.

With 81% of HR directors saying that by 2018, candidates will be recruited on their ability to deal with change and uncertainty, it’s clear that organisations across the board want workers who can think on their feet and adapt as required.

A good sales person can come up with new ideas to set themselves apart from the competition, and strategise different ways to secure a sale. Flexibility, adaptability and a willingness to learn are key in almost any industry, but particularly in sales. Without these skills, sales people will not only lose customers and deals, but also become difficult to manage.

Tailor interview questions to test candidate flexibility and adaptability. For example, you could ask how they’d approach a sudden change in sales territory or product, ask them about their experience with personal development and ongoing training, and get them to demonstrate a sales pitch for something completely outside their comfort zone.


Sales people need to be passionate – customers can spot a disinterested pitch a mile away, and it’s very hard to secure a sale if you don’t seem invested in the process or product. The UK economy loses £340bn every year due to employee disengagement, according to Hay Group’s What’s My Motivation? Report, with just 15% of UK workers calling themselves “highly motivated”. Your sales team should consist of people who are self-starters and keen to produce their best work daily – not employees who simply turn up and do the bare minimum.

While you can’t expect all sales people to be at the top of their game every minute of every day, you can ensure they are generally engaged, motivated and interested in their work. Check their CV – if they have a history of jumping from job to job, ask them why, and what it is about your company that makes them think they might stick around. Do they seem excited by your company, what you sell and what the role can offer them? Are they hungry for sales and eager to close deals? Do they bring suggestions to the table that can benefit your business? The more interested they are in the role and your business, the more likely they are to connect with it – and their efforts on the job will align accordingly.

Quick to blame

A sales person who is quick to blame a team member or customer is someone who will quickly fall out of favour in your market. Look out for candidates who seem to shirk responsibility and blame others for their downfalls, as this can lead to toxic team environments. Ask potential sales people about a mistake they’ve made in a previous role, or a time when their sales figures or targets weren’t as high as they’d liked. Listen carefully to the answer – if they place blame for this poor performance on other parties, they may well avoid taking responsibility for their mistakes, and indeed avoid fixing them.

Be wary of sales people who say they don’t need or value feedback, as studies show that most employees thrive when they have updates on how they’re performing. In fact, 51% of millennials want feedback very frequently or even continually in the workplace, with just 1% saying this is not important to them. And while it can be difficult to deliver negative feedback or criticism on someone’s performance, a good sales person will listen to your advice and work on the areas where they’ve gone wrong.

How we can help

If you’re looking for more advice on hiring sales people, contact us here. We can help you identify and recruit top talent, along with training your team to be the best they can be.