25 January 2024 |

 the 4 horsemen of sales hiring

By Gabrielle "GB" Blackwell

If you ask some sales managers who’s to blame for hiring missteps, some might point the finger at the market, talent acquisition, or other things outside of a manager’s control.

But more often than not, the biggest things getting in the way of great sales hiring are these four things:

  1. Ill-thought-out interview processes 
  2. Conflicts of interest with Talent Acquisition team
  3. Setting unclear and/or unrealistic expectations with candidates
  4. Imbalance of power between hiring manager and senior leaders 

1. Ill-thought-out interview processes

The tl;dr: run your interview process like you’d run a sales process.

Managing a sales hiring process is similar to managing your sales funnel. You have top of funnel interest, you’re disqualifying prospects out, and at the end, you should have an ideal candidate making their way to the offer stage. 

Sounds simple in theory, but in practice, there’s a lot of room for error.

To make sure this horseman isn’t steering you and your team off track, make sure you take the time to:

  1. Define your ideal candidate attributes and competencies
  2. Plot out a process that effectively assesses for said attributes and competencies
  3. Identify the appropriate people to involve in the interview process and assign them a unique assessment objective
  4. Ensure everyone on the interview panel is enabled on what to assess for and how to assess the candidate per their stage
  5. Ensure you have the capabilities to track conversion rates from one stage to the next 

If you follow these steps, you’ll get a repeatable sales process where IF you’re not getting the talent you want and need, you’ll have better visibility into WHAT is getting in the way and WHERE you need to focus your efforts.

2. Conflicts of interest with Talent Acquisition

The tl;dr: everyone is on the same team…act like it.

There is really nothing worse than being on the same team as someone and having conflicting goals.

You just really hate to see it. 

But it happens all the time, especially with sales hiring…and especially if Talent Acquisition (TA) is incentivized to fill seats as quickly as possible without concern for the quality of that talent.

Knowing that there could be a conflict of interest, it’s super important for sales managers to:

  • Partner with TA early and often to align on the kinds of candidates you want brought into your interview process
  • Provide detailed feedback on why a candidate is or is not a fit for the role
  • Review conversion data to identify opportunities for improvement on a recurring basis

This helps big time in establishing and maintaining trust – TA knows what you want to see from them, and you want to have confidence that when TA puts an interview on your calendar, it’ll be worth your time.

3. Setting unclear and/or unrealistic expectations

The tl;dr: be honest. 

It feels silly saying this, but, for the love of all that is good and holy, plleeaasseee set clear and realistic expectations for the candidates coming through your interview process.

If you know your company has a 3-day in office policy for hybrid workers, that should be shared in the initial phone screen…not on someone’s first day on the job.

If you know you’re not going to be promoting anyone off the team until after a certain amount of time, be honest about that with candidates.

And if you have a team where 80% of reps aren’t hitting quota and you don’t know why, stop trying to use OTE as thee sticking point for why someone should join your organization.

If you’re afraid to tell someone the truth about your organization out of fear of them rejecting the opportunity, you’re afraid of the wrong thing.

Worry more about getting people onto your team who will eagerly approach the challenges of your organization! They’ll be the ones who’ll try and figure out what can work rather than focusing on what’s not working.

4. Imbalance of power 

The tl;dr: maybe your boss needs you to manage them.

This 4th horseman is the most nefarious of all IMHO. 

You can roll out the best process in the entire world, go above and beyond in partnership with your TA team, and set the clearest expectations with candidates.

But if you as the hiring manager aren’t empowered to bring on the folks you feel most comfortable and confident about – assuming bias doesn’t play a role – because your boss is vetoing your decisions, none of the above matters.

Here’s my take on this though – it’s your team, you’re going to be managing the rep, so you as the hiring manager should have the most valid opinion out of everyone involved. 

So if your boss is getting in the way of talent you feel really good about and their reasons aren’t making a goshdarn bit of sense, it is within your best interest to advocate for yourself and for what your team needs

If you haven’t already, definitely check out what I wrote on using data to get your boss on board.

I’d also recommend checking out this article on how to nail down which competencies to include in your hiring process so everyone in the interview process has a shared reality on what’s being assessed.

Closing question

I’ve shared the common challenges – aka The Four Horseman – of sales hiring.

What have you found to be the biggest challenge when it comes to sales hiring?